THE Diocese of Limerick has confirmed that it has paid out €220,000 this year to two people who made allegations of child sexual abuse against priests.
Once legal fees were factored in, the total bill came to around €320,000 - but the diocese stressed that the cost of the settlements did not come from mass collections.
It has also emerged that there are currently five priests living in Limerick who have been removed from ministry after being the subject of abuse complaints.
Although all five cases were investigated by gardai - including one priest who was the subject of complaints from seven people - none of the men has ever been prosecuted. The five are being housed by and have their living expenses met by the Diocese of Limerick.
The details emerged upon the publication yesterday of an audit of abuse complaints and child protection procedures in Limerick by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI) - a watchdog that is funded by, but independent of, the Catholic Church.
The report is largely positive about the Diocese of Limerick’s approach to child protection, although it highlighted “very poor” and in one case “potentially dangerous” practice during Dr Jeremiah Newman’s time as bishop.
His successor Dr Donal Murray is generally praised for improving child protection standards in Limerick and his engagement of the HSE and gardai in formal structures managing abuse cases was one of the best examples the NBSCCCI had seen.
The Diocese said it “fully accepted” the report and noted its finding that 44 of the 48 criteria for safeguarding children were being met in full, with the remaining four being worked on.
The lay director of safeguarding children in the diocese, Ger Crowley, said that the diocese had “in the interests of providing the full picture” this week released figures that go “over and above” the examination by the NBSCCCI of diocesan files from 1975 to 2012. These figures include complaints of child abuse made against not only priests ordained for the Limerick diocese but those who may have lived here briefly or moved to Limerick upon retirement.
They detail that there were 45 complaints of abuse made against 26 priests who had some connection with the Diocese of Limerick, all of which were notified to the gardai and HSE. Fourteen of the clergymen are dead.
Of the 12 living, five have been restricted from ministry and are being monitored by the diocese. Four were temporarily stood down from ministry while the complaints were being investigated but subsequently cleared.
One of the four has retired while the remaining three have returned to ministry. And the remaining three are no longer in the Diocese of Limerick but are out of ministry elsewhere.
Most of the complaints relate to child abuse alleged to have occurred between the 1960s and the 1980s but some date back to the 1940s.
The most recent incident of alleged abuse dates from 1994 and in this instance the priest concerned is still alive but out of ministry.
For more, see this weekend’s Limerick Leader, print edition