Page last updated at 10:59 GMT, Friday, 19 March 2010

Bishop - 'more abuse cases due'

Bishop Donal McKeown
Bishop Donal McKeown believes more abuse cases will emerge

A leading Catholic bishop in Ireland has said he believes more cases of clerical sex abuse will emerge.

The auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor Donal McKeown made his comments as Pope Benedict was due to sign a letter on how to address the issue on the island.

Bishop McKeown said the culture in the "1980s and early 1990s was very different from what it is now".

He said he was "sure" people had made "well-intentioned decisions" which later proved "disastrously wrong".

"I think whatever the truth is it has got to come out and the sooner it comes out the better," he said.

"We have got to handle the truth, because it is the only way for people to get any sort of healing."

Bishop McKeown made his comments as the Northern Ireland Health minister, Michael McGimpsey, gave a paper to the Executive setting out options for dealing with historical child abuse in the jurisdiction.

Talking about child sexual abuse is so difficult, so embarrassing, so cringeingly painful that I think many people tried to find some way of getting rid of the problem without actually reporting it to the civil authorities
Bishop Donal McKeown

Mr McGimpsey agreed to prepare the paper after the Assembly passed a motion expressing concern at the findings of the Ryan Commission into child abuse in the Irish Republic.

Bishop McKeown said it was his understanding that in Northern Ireland since the mid-1990s there had been obligatory reporting of "all suspicion of criminal activity to the civil authorities", but that in the Irish Republic there was still "no civil obligation".

Referring to the issue of sexual abuse, he said:"I am quite confident there were lots of places where it has been hidden.

"We know from high-profile cases here in our own jurisdiction, where schools sought to hide accusations of child abuse in earlier decades.

"But I am quite sure it was a prevalent element in the rest of our culture.

"Talking about child sexual abuse is so difficult, so embarrassing, so cringeingly painful that I think many people tried to find some way of getting rid of the problem without actually reporting it to the civil authorities."

On Thursday, it emerged a priest paid £45,000 compensation to a woman who made allegations of sexual abuse against him.

The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady said he suspended the priest, Father Joseph Quinn, from the Archdiocese of Armagh when the police became involved.

He said he took no part in the compensation agreement.


The allegations against Fr Quinn were made around nine years ago. They were of a sexual nature and made by two teenage girls.

Cardinal Brady said that Fr Quinn was tried on one of the allegations in court and was acquitted.

He said that he had suspended the priest and did not reinstate him to his former duties.

He said one of the alleged victims then sought compensation and this was settled between her and Fr Quinn.

The cardinal said he did not get involved in the discussions other than to say he would not be a party to any confidentiality agreement between the woman and the priest.

He said the priest still remained suspended from ministry and is forbidden to wear clerical attire.

The latest development comes as the head of Ireland's Catholics apologised for his role in mishandling a serial child abuser.

'Police told'

On Thursday, the Catholic Church in Londonderry also said police were told about sex abuse claims against another priest at the centre of an alleged compensation cover-up.

The Bishop of Derry, Dr Seamus Hegarty was one of three priests named in a confidential civil settlement after an eight-year-old girl was abused over a decade from 1979.

The civil action was settled out of court in December 2000 and was signed by lawyers on behalf of Dr Hegarty, Bishop Edward Daly and the alleged abuser without admission of liability.

Bishop Daly was named in the court papers, but at the time his duties were being carried out by another bishop due to illness.

Bishop Hegarty said the confidentiality clause was not proposed by him.

In a statement, he said:"A confidentiality agreement was not proposed by the diocese, but was proposed to the diocese by one of the other parties, and, to facilitate a settlement, the diocese agreed."

Cardinal Sean Brady
Cardinal Sean Brady is coming under pressure to resign

Bishop Hegarty said the family involved brought it to the attention of the diocese in January 1994 and the police and social services were notified in 1995.

He said the priest left parish ministry in 1995.

The Belfast Telegraph reported £12,000 was paid to the alleged victim, subject to a confidentiality agreement.

The statement released on behalf of Bishop Hegarty added: "After a protracted period of time, the priest paid £12,000 to (the victim).

"The diocese made no contribution to the money paid by the priest.

"The case against Bishop Daly and Bishop Hegarty was dismissed."

The girl's father said that they had not gone to the police because "it was not the culture" in Derry at the time to do so.

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