Page last updated at 00:45 GMT, Friday, 27 November 2009

Irish Catholic Church apologises for abuse by priests

Cardinal Sean Brady
Cardinal Brady said children's welfare was now a priority

The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland has said he is deeply sorry and ashamed about the widespread sexual abuse of children by priests.

Cardinal Sean Brady also apologised for the way the Church covered up the abuse, which happened in Dublin.

He spoke after an Irish government report revealed abuse over decades, a systematic cover-up by the Church, and a lack of action by the Irish police.

The Church put its own reputation ahead of the welfare of children, it found.

The Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin covered a period from 1975 to 2004.

No-one is above the law in this country
Cardinal Sean Brady

Some offending priests were shifted from parish to parish, leaving them free to abuse again.

Cardinal Brady apologised to the victims and their families.

"I am deeply sorry and I am ashamed," he said.

The report also said that state authorities facilitated the cover-up by allowing the Church to operate outside the law.

Cardinal Brady extended his apology to all the people of Ireland for the lack of action by the Church.

"No-one is above the law in this country.

"Every Catholic should comply fully with their obligations to the civil law and co-operate with the Gardai in the reporting and investigation of any crime."

He said children's welfare was now a priority for the Church.

'Sorrow and shame'

The Irish government also immediately apologised.

Victim Marie Collins: "This is the end of a very long road"

"Whatever the historical and societal reasons for this, the government... apologises, without reservation or equivocation, for failures by the agencies of the state in dealing with this issue," a government statement said.

The report investigated how Church and state authorities handled allegations of child abuse against 46 priests made by 320 children. Eleven priests were convicted of sexual assaults on children.

Irish Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern vowed to bring those who had carried out the abuse to justice, regardless of the amount of time that had passed.

Cardinal Brady's words were echoed by the current Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, who said he offered "to each and every survivor, my apology, my sorrow and my shame for what happened to them".

Archbishops of Dublin, clockwise from top left: John Charles McQuaid, Dermot Ryan, Desmond Connell and Kevin McNamara
Four archbishops turned a blind eye to child abuse

The report found that four archbishops - John Charles McQuaid who died in 1973, Dermot Ryan who died in 1984, Kevin McNamara who died in 1987, and retired Cardinal Desmond Connell - did not hand over information on abusers.

The report states that senior members of the police regarded priests as being outside their remit and it claims some police officers reported abuse complaints to Church authorities instead of carrying out their own investigation.

The commissioner of the Irish police, Fachtna Murphy, apologised for the police failure to protect victims.

The Commission said all complaints of clerical child sexual abuse are now reported to police.

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