Sexual abuse allegations against Spiritan schools rise to 80

Gardaí have received 80 reports of alleged sexual abuse at schools run by Spiritan priests in 21 days, with a spate of complaints over the past week.

Survivors, their relatives or friends and witnesses have reported abuse at six fee-paying schools run by religious orders in Dublin and Tipperary.

The extent of the complaints is surprising. Education Minister Norma Foley told the Dáil on Tuesday that Gardaí had received 32 contacts for sexual abuse. By Friday, however, the number of complaints had risen to 80.

The complaints are all of a sexual nature and, according to the Gardaí, are said to relate only to spiritual schools.

Detectives from the Sex Crime Management Division, which coordinates abuse cases by officers, have devoted significant resources to reviewing each of the 80 abuse reports to determine whether the named perpetrators are still alive.

A child sexual abuse criminal investigation is likely to proceed only in cases where alleged perpetrators are still alive. Two surviving Spiritan priests were already being examined before the recent spate of complaints began.

Gardaí said every single complaint is being looked into by the Sex Crime Management Unit and any person who has been contacted will be given full support.

The increase in allegations of child sexual abuse in Spiritan schools reflects survivors’ vocal calls for recognition and accountability, along with calls for an independent, victim-led investigation.

The spate of harrowing stories of abuse was triggered by a radio documentary by RTÉ, Blackrock boyson November 6, when Mark and David Ryan became the first alumni to speak publicly about sexual abuse by priests at Blackrock College and its Willow Park elementary school.

Separately, four former Blackrock students who were abused by Spiritan priests held a press conference to announce a restorative justice process – to encourage other former students who were abused to come forward and share their stories.

The Spiritan Provincial (or leader), Fr. Martin Kelly, offered a public apology at the press conference. The order has disclosed 300 complaints against 78 priests dating back to the 1980s. It has paid €5 million in abuse settlements and supports services since 2004.

The Spiritans said this weekend their restorative justice program will be led by independent expert Tim Chapman.

Education Secretary Norma Foley and her officials have met with survivors to discuss how the government should respond to clergy sex abuse at Spiritan schools.

She told the Dáil her priority is to listen to survivors.

“I recognize that the government owes it to the survivors to ensure that each investigative process is the right one and best delivers the results they consider most important.”

Activists and advocates are urging the government to extend all investigations to other religious orders and day schools.

Mark-Vincent Healy, activist and abuse survivor, spoke to Foley last week. He is now lobbying for a full independent investigation that will include day schools – and not just the Spiritan colleges.

“I want to see everyone included and no one excluded,” Mr Healy said.

Mr Healy is a former student of St Mary’s College, Rathmines – another fee-paying Spiritan school – and he reported his abuser, Fr Henry Moloney, to the Gardaí, who managed to have him arrested in 2009.

Two years later, Mr. Healy went public and successfully lobbied for a national scrutiny of clergy abuse, with the Spiritans being among the first religious orders to submit to scrutiny.

Louis Hoffman, who along with former classmates John Coulter, Philip Feddis and Corry McMahon initiated the system of restorative justice for those who were abused at Spiritan schools, said the investigation must include other orders.

“These guys have been given power – and not just in Spiritan schools, but in every school, in every church,” he said. “For me, it was never just about Blackrock, it was about society.”

Union leader Ivana Bacik said the scope of a survivor-led investigation should go beyond the six Spiritan schools at Willow Park, Blackrock College, St Mary’s College, St Michael’s College, Templeogue College and Rockwell College.

It could examine the extent of abuse perpetrated in each institution, the culture of “blinding the eye” and “institutional cover-up” within certain religious orders – and what the state could have done to prevent such abuse.

Bacik said an investigation must target those in key positions in Spiritan decision-making Sexual abuse allegations against Spiritan schools rise to 80

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