By Sarah Knapton
The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse
has spent nine years looking into allegations from
thousands of former pupils of state schools and
orphanages, some which date back more than 60 years.
It is due on Wednesday while a second report looking into how sex abuse complaints were handled by the Catholic Church will be published by the commission in the summer.
It is thought some 500 priests have been implicated in the abuse allegations.
Many thousands of children suffered at the hands of religious orders such as the Christian Brothers and Sisters of Mercy at industrial schools and orphanages. Most of the children were born outside wedlock or came from large impoverished families that could not afford to feed them.
The commission was founded in 2000 following a documentary for Irish television which claimed there was widespread sexual, physical and emotional abuse within Catholic institutions.
Mary Raffety, who produced the programme said the abuse suffered was ‘way off the scale’ and ‘designed to break children.’
At Easter, the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, said the report would “shock us all”.
“It is likely that thousands of children or young people across Ireland were abused by priests in the period under investigation and the horror of that abuse was not recognised for what it is,” he said during his Holy Thursday homily.
In 2003 the Irish Government offered compensation to victims of institutionalised child abuse in a move expected to cost £725 million.
The Comptroller and Auditor General said the estimated bill was based on just 10,000 of the 150,000 victims coming forward.
If all survivors claimed, the Republic could face a bill about £10.8 billion.
In the second report, due for publication in July, the Catholic Church is likely to face heavy criticism for trying to cover up abuse when it emerged.
In some instances the church simply moved abusive priests from parish to parish to avoid scandal.
“The way the Church handled the scandals, as we now know, was not exemplary to put it mildly,” said Father Vincent Twomey, Professor Emeritus of Moral Theology at the National University of Ireland.
New guidelines are now in place for the protection of children. In 2006 the the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church was founded.
As late as 2008, a report revealed child protection practices in the Co Cork diocese were inadequate and dangerous, thereby potentially exposing vulnerable young people to further harm.
In January this year every Catholic bishop, missionary society and religious congregation in Ireland was asked to sign a written commitment to implement agreed child protection guidelines. But many of the victims still believe the church has too much power and influence to ever be fully regulated.
In 2006 it was discovered Fr Maurice Dillane, 73, had fathered a child with his 31-year-old girlfriend.
Bishop Pat Buckley said an extremely conservative estimate was that one in 10 of the 5,000 Catholic priests in Ireland enjoyed regular sex with women and some even referred to their clerical collar as the “bird catcher”.
When the statistics were widened to take in practising homosexuals, Bishop Buckley said up to 40 per cent of the Catholic clergy in Ireland were sexually active.
The scandals have caused a rapid decline in priest joining the Irish Catholic Church. Just three priests joined the diocese of Dublin last year.
A spokesman for the Commission said: “The Investigation Committee and Confidential Committee of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse have prepared their reports and presented them to the Commission.
“The work of the Commission has taken longer than expected.
“The Commissioners are very conscious of the importance and urgency of the report and they appreciate the patience shown by participants and by the public and their understanding of the difficulty and complexity of the Commission’s undertaking.”