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Report Accuses Catholic Church Of Abuse Cover-Up

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A new report in Ireland — the second such report this year — says the Roman Catholic Church in the Dublin Archdiocese covered up decades of child abuse committed by priests. The inquiry accuses Catholic bishops of protecting the Church's reputation at the expense of the children in its care.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

In Ireland, a new report says Roman Catholic leaders in Dublin covered up decades of child abuse committed by priests. The report was commissioned by the Irish government. It is the second of its kind this year. It finds Catholic bishops were obsessed with, quote: the maintenance of secrecy, the protection of the reputation of the church, and the preservation of its assets.

We have more from NPR's Rob Gifford.

ROB GIFFORD: Six months after a damning report on child abuse in institutions run by Roman Catholic religious orders, today's 720-page report focuses on abuse by ordinary parish priests. It analyzes the cases of 46 priests within the archdiocese of Dublin from 1975 to 2004. The investigators, led by a judge and two lawyers, said they had no doubt that the 46 priests were responsible for abusing more than 320 children.

The commission said the phrase "don't ask, don't tell" was appropriate to describe the attitude of the Dublin Archdiocese's hierarchy. It also criticized the Irish government and the police force for effectively allowing the church to operate outside the law. Justice Secretary Dermot Ahern apologized on behalf of the Irish government, and pledged justice for the victims.

Mr. DERMOT AHERN (Minister of Justice, Ireland): The white heat of our anger should not for one minute deflect us from what needs to be done. Persons who committed these dreadful crimes, no matter when they happened, will continue to be pursued. They must come to know that there will be no hiding place.

GIFFORD: The report was not commissioned to investigate the full extent of the scandal but how the church authorities handled it in Dublin, where a quarter of Ireland's 4 million Roman Catholics live. It discovered that the church did not even start to report complaints of child sexual abuse in Dublin to the Irish police until late 1995.

Investigators spent three years pouring over 60,000 previously secret Dublin church files. They were handed over by Dublin Archbishop Dermot Martin, a veteran Vatican diplomat appointed to the Irish capital in 2004 with a brief to clear up the scandal. Archbishop Martin himself apologized today.

Archbishop DERMOT MARTIN (Dublin): As archbishop of Dublin and as Dermot Martin, a person, I offer to each and every survivor my apology, my sorrow and my shame for what happened.

GIFFORD: The report rejected claims that successive archbishops were ignorant of both the scale and criminality of priests' abuse of children. The commission found that four of Dermot Martin's predecessors, as archbishop of Dublin, did not tell police about clerical abuse cases, instead opting to avoid public scandals by shuttling offenders from parish to parish.

Abuse victims said they welcome publication of the report in all its horror, but said the Vatican still needs to do more to become accountable. Colm O'Gorman(ph) was abused as a teenager by his parish priests in Ireland and as part of his campaigning for restitution, he attempted to sue the Vatican.

Mr. COLM O'GORMAN: When I took my legal action against the Vatican, for instance, the Vatican claimed diplomatic immunity against suit, because the Vatican is a sovereign state. What we haven't yet seen is nations and governments using international mechanisms of law to force the Vatican to be appropriately accountable and to properly respect children across all of the ways in which it operates.

GIFFORD: O'Gorman says for the Vatican to be held more accountable, victims and ordinary citizens have to demand it on a national level. And he says in Ireland, after the scandals of recent years, people are just beginning to do exactly that.

Rob Gifford, NPR News.

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