© Getty ImagesArchbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin apologises to the victims of child sex abuse during a press conference yesterday.
Thirty years of sex abuse by paedophile priests was covered up by the Roman Catholic Church on an 'astonishing scale', a damning report has found.

Four archbishops were among those condemned for allowing hundreds of vulnerable children to suffer so they could protect the Church's reputation.

The Catholic hierarchy was granted police immunity and Church leaders protected abusers in some cases with the blessing of senior law enforcers.

Hundreds of crimes were not reported while police treated clergy as above the law, investigators said.

The report examined the handling of only a 'representative sample' of allegations of child abuse by 320 children against 46 priests in Dublin between 1975 and 2004.

Fear of the public anger that would have followed high-profile prosecutions of priests was seen as more important than preventing the sex offenders from repeating their crimes, it concluded.

Instead of reporting the allegations, Church leaders shifted the accused from parish to parish, allowing them to prey on new victims.

The report, by the Commission of Investigation, said:
"The Dublin archdiocese's preoccupations in dealing with cases of child sexual abuse, at least until the mid 1990s, were the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church, and the preservation of its assets."
The archdiocese 'did its best to avoid any application of the law of the state', it added.

Irish Justice Minister Dermot Ahern pledged to bring the offenders to court regardless of the time that has passed.

'On a human level - as a father and as a member of this community - I felt a growing sense of revulsion and anger,' he said.

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Generation betrayed by priests, bishops and police

'Revulsion at the horrible evil acts committed against children. Anger at how those children were then dealt with and how often abusers were left free to abuse.

'But the white heat of our anger should not for one moment deflect us from what needs to be done.

'The persons who committed these dreadful crimes - no matter when they happened - will continue to be pursued. They must come to know that there is no hiding place.'

He added: 'There is no escaping the cruel irony that the Church, partly motivated by a desire to avoid scandal, in fact created a scandal on an astonishing scale.

© PAAbuse victim Marie Collins, who received no reply to her complaint to the Catholic Church in 1995.
'In many cases, the welfare of children counted for nothing and abusers were left free to abuse - to visit evil on the innocent.'

Diarmuid Martin, the current Archbishop of Dublin, last night offered 'to each and every survivor my apology, sorrow and shame'.

The report said four archbishops did not hand over information on abusers.

They were John Charles McQuaid, who died in 1973, Dermot Ryan, who died in 1984, Kevin McNamara, who died in 1987, and retired Cardinal Desmond Connell.

Authorities in the Dublin archdiocese-who were dealing with the complaints 'were all very well-educated people' whose claims of ignorance were 'very difficult to accept' given that many had qualifications in law.

There were immediate and angry calls for Archbishop Connell to be prosecuted.

Maeve Lewis, of abuse support group One In Four, hit out: 'People, like Archbishop Connell, are as guilty as the priest who actually sexually abused the children.'

Civic authorities in Ireland, especially the police, were also criticised for their relationship with the Church.

Senior police officers viewed priests as being outside their remit and some reported complaints of abuse to Church authorities instead of carrying out their own investigation, the report stated.

One section of the report details how officers stifled one complaint, failed to investigate another and allowed an unnamed priest to leave Ireland.

© PARetired Archbishop Cardinal Desmond Connell did not hand information over on abusers.
It notes a memo detailing the Director of Public Prosecution's stance and states: 'The office commented on the incomplete nature of the investigation, for example, the failure to take statements from other children and the parents but the ultimate conclusion was: "Even if one could, I wouldn't bother extraditing him".'

Fachtna Murphy, the Irish police commissioner, described the report as 'difficult and disturbing reading'.

He added: 'The commission has found that in some cases, because of acts or omissions, individuals who sought assistance did not always receive the level of response or protection which any citizen in trouble is entitled to expect from An Garda SÌoch·na (the Irish police).'

He said he was 'deeply sorry' for the failures. The number of complaints made by boys was more than double those submitted by girls.

The Commission said it was satisfied that 'effective structures and procedures are currently in operation' and that all complaints of clerical child sexual abuse are now reported to police.

Yesterday's report came six months after one that found that Church leaders knew sexual abuse was 'endemic' in boys' institutions. It drew on evidence from 2,000 people who said they had been physically or sexually abused while in the care of Catholic-run institutions.

The Police

The police colluded with the Church to cover up and stifle certain child abuse cases involving priests.

© PAPolice Commissioner Fachtna Murphy described the report as 'difficult and disturbing reading.'
Many paedophile priests escaped investigation because senior officers believed priests were untouchable.

A former commissioner and other senior policemen were also found to have had improper communications with a Dublin archbishop.

The report found that the relations between police and the Church held up one complaint, saw there was no investigation into another and allowed a priest to leave Ireland.

The commission said it would not have been aware of allegations made to police had they not seen information in Church files.

Police commissioner Daniel Costigan, who resigned in 1965, was particularly criticized

The report found he breached his duty by handing over details on one priest to Archbishop McQuaid without investigating it.

The priest, who worked in the Crumlin children's hospital had taken pictures of young patients naked and sent them to England for development.

Scotland Yard informed Irish police of the pictures and Commissioner Costigan passed on the information to the Archbishop without carrying out an investigation.

The report said: 'A number of very senior members of the police, including the Commissioner in 1960, clearly regarded priests as being outside their remit.

'It is fortunate that some junior members of the force did not take the same view.'

Four archbishops did not report their knowledge of abuse to police between the 1960s and 1980s and very few were brought to their attention until the mid-1990s.

The report also criticised a 20-year delay in taking charges against a priest who is now facing trial. 'The police investigation into various complaints was sometimes very comprehensive and, in other cases, was cursory,' the report said.

He added that it made for 'difficult and disturbing reading, said the report was an 'important chronicle of events within the Dublin Archdiocese over a 40-year period'.

He added that it made for 'difficult and disturbing reading, detailing as it does many instances of sexual abuse and failure on the part of both Church and State authorities to protect victims'.

Commissioner Murphy also apologized to victims who did not receive the level of response and protection that they should have.

Referring to the inappropriate contacts and relationships between police and the archdiocese, he said: 'These contacts occurred at a time when a misguided or undue deference was often shown to religious institutions and figures by many in our society. Such deference can have no place in a criminal investigation.'

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