Yesterday saw the publication of the “Murphy Report”, or the Commission of Investigation Report into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin. The report deals with cases of clerical child abuse within the Dublin Archdiocese, ranging from 1975-2004. Specifically, it differs from the Ryan Report in that it deals with the way claims of abuse were handled by the church, the health boards, the Gardaí, and other authority figures at the time. It deals with 46 priests as a representative sample (of almost 200 priests named in complaints), and most of them have been given pseudonyms.

From the report – “Of the 46 priests in the representative sample, 11 are or were
members of religious orders. Four of these are dead; four are living within
their orders with restrictions on their ministry and activities; two are living
within their orders without restrictions and one has become estranged from
his order and is living without restriction in another diocese. One priest
belongs to a UK diocese and his whereabouts are unknown. Of the 34
priests from the Dublin Archdiocese, ten are dead, 20 are out of ministry and
four are in ministry. Of the 20 who are out of ministry, 11 are being financially
supported by the Archdiocese and are living under restrictions imposed by
Archbishop Martin; nine are laicised.

The report confirms, among other things, that the diocese were very aware that abuse was going on, and made active attempts to cover it up. As early as 1987, they arranged insurance against compensation claims from victims of such abuse. Many high ranking officials in the diocese were aware of the abuse. Despite a knowledge of both civil and canon law, the Archbishops in charge either chose to turn a blind eye (Archbishops Ryan and McNamara) or make token efforts to setting processes in motion, but not following through (Archbishop McQuaid). A total of two canonical trials took place over the 30 year period, initiated by Archbishop Connell (against strong opposition), which resulted in the defrocking of two priests.

In general, there was a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with regard to the abuse. Complainants were told as little as possible, and the issues were never openly discussed by the Archbishop and his auxilliaries. The church failed to inform the Gardaí of reports of abuse, and it was against strong opposition (and breaking of canon law of secrecy) that Archbishop Connell allowed the Gardaí access to the files kept by the diocese. As problems emerged within the diocese, Archbishop Ryan assigned different people to deal with them, leading to a breakdown in coordination and communication.

Senior members of Gardaí dealt inappropriately with cases – handing them back to the diocese to be dealt with, for example. Many senior Gardaí felt that the priests were outside their remit, and so when people complained about abuse, instead of investigating, they reported it to the diocese and took no further action.

The second half of the report deals individually with the sample selection of priests, detailing (for each one) the allegations made, and the response (or lack thereof) of the church and the Gardaí. Regrettably, the response in most cases seems to have simply been to move the priest on, occasionally to send him to counselling, and to cover it up. The greatest concern, at all times, appears to have been that people would find out that the abuse had gone on, and not that lives would be crushed by the abuse.

You can read the report here, it’s in two parts:

Murphy Report part 1

Murphy Report part 2

I recommend that you do read it, and encourage others to. Not because it is easy, or interesting, as I can assure you, it is neither. It is as grim as the Ryan report, and as difficult to read. People were ignored in the most arrogant and disgusting way possible. Their trust was violated. And, for the most part, there still has been no apology.

I encourage you to read it because it is important that we stop ignoring what went on. It is important that we know what went on so that we can make sure it doesn’t happen again. And mostly, it is important because these people have been crying out for their whole lives, and it’s about time that we listened.