The Salvatorians have offered their “deepest apology” for failing to stop a priest who sexually abused children in Ireland until his 2004 arrest.
“The Salvatorians express their deep sorrow for the prolific abuse carried on by a particular member of our Order in Ireland and elsewhere over a long number of years,” Father Alex McAllister S.D.S., provincial superior of the Salvatorians’ British Pro-Province, said May 3.
“We acknowledge that the response of the provincial superior at the time was completely inadequate and that it was a clear failure of the duty of our order to protect children.”
The case of a priest, called only “Father A,” was described in a child safety audit of religious congregations by Ireland’s National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church.
He was ordained in the 1950s. His supervisors were warned about him in 2002, but he continued to abuse children up until 2004, when he was arrested.
The unnamed priest later admitted that he sexually abused more than 100 children between the ages of six and nine, most of them girls. The priest was convicted in 2007 for child abuse over a 25-year period, the Belfast Telegraph reports. He was released from prison in 2009 and died later that year in the U.K.
He had served as a teacher in the U.K., a parish priest in Australia and Dublin, and as a hospital chaplain in Rome. There are not now any complaints against him concerning his roles outside of Ireland.
The Salvatorian order, formally known as the Society of the Divine Saviour, no longer ministers in Ireland.
“We express our deepest apology to anyone who was harmed by Father A and urge those who have not yet come forward to do so,” Fr. McAllister said. “We undertake to give anyone who was harmed a sympathetic hearing and to provide as much support as possible.” The national safeguarding board said the order still has a significant responsibility “to ensure that the devastation perpetrated on his victims by Fr. A is conscientiously, compassionately and effectively addressed.”
Fr. McAllister said the Salvatorians were “extremely regretful” that the then-provincial superior did not place the priest under supervision when he learned of the abuse. Rather, the superior transferred him to a desk job and then permitted him limited ministry.
A Salvatorian provincial concealed the true reason for the transfer from Cardinal Desmond Connell, the then-Archbishop of Dublin, RTE News reports.
The offending priest’s arrest in 2004 caused the order’s safeguarding procedures to begin. The province said it then closely cooperated with the Archdiocese of Dublin to ensure the priest received “the necessary treatment and the appropriate supervision” until his death.
Fr. McAllister said the province began an inquiry into its “extremely poor decisions” and has made changes “to ensure that nothing like this can happen again.”
“As an order we assure the public that we have an extremely high commitment to the safeguarding of children and intend to do everything possible to meet our responsibilities in this area,” the current provincial superior said.