McQuaid’s actions aimed at avoiding scandal – without concern for young
ABUSE COMPLAINTS: The Murphy report was clear in its assessment of the role of the former archbishop of Dublin
THE MURPHY report is unequivocal on Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, archbishop of Dublin from 1940 to 1972.
While the report, published in 2009, makes no reference to sex abuse complaints against the late archbishop himself, it pulls no punches when it comes to his handling of the issue in general.
“The claim that bishops and senior church officials were on ‘a learning curve’ about child sexual abuse rings hollow when it is clear that cases were dealt with by Archbishop McQuaid in the 1950s and 1960s and that, although the majority of complaints emerged from 1995 onwards, many of the complaints described in this report first came to the attention of the Archdiocese in the 1970s and 1980s.”
It said that: “For many years offenders were neither prosecuted nor made accountable within the Church. Archbishop McQuaid was well aware of the canon law requirements and even set the processes in motion, but did not complete them.”
Of the archbishops of Dublin it said “not one of them reported his knowledge of child sexual abuse to the gardaí throughout the 1960s, 1970s, or 1980s”.
Of Archbishop McQuaid it said: “It is clear that his dealings with Fr Edmondus in 1960 were aimed at the avoidance of scandal and showed no concern for the welfare of children.”
Fr Edmondus was the pseudonym used in the Murphy report for Fr Paul McGennis, who abused Marie Collins in 1960 when she was a patient at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin, in Dublin. He was a chaplain there. The archbishop was chairman of its board.
In June 1997 McGennis pleaded guilty to his abuse of Ms Collins and was sentenced to 18 months. Days later he received a nine-month concurrent sentence for his 1976 abuse of a girl aged nine in Wicklow.
The Murphy report found that Archbishop McQuaid “made a comprehensive handwritten record of his dealings with Fr Edmondus in 1960”. It stated: “The handing over of the Fr Edmondus case to Archbishop McQuaid by Commissioner Costigan was totally inappropriate.”
In August 1960, “Archbishop McQuaid was informed that a security officer at a photographic film company in the UK had referred colour film sent to them for developing by Fr Edmondus to Scotland Yard. Scotland Yard referred the matter to the Commissioner of the Gardaí,” who referred it to Archbishop McQuaid, who noted of his meeting with Costigan the latter indicated the film involved 26 explicit transparencies of “two small girls, aged 10 or 11 years”.
The archbishop met Fr McGennis the next day and the priest admitted taking the photographs, motivated by his curiosity about female anatomy, he said. Archbishop McQuaid noted: “I would get [a doctor] a good Catholic to instruct him and thus end his wonderment.” He concluded there was “not an objective and subjective crime of the type envisaged in the 1922 instruction and consequently that there was no need to refer the matter to the Holy Office in Rome”.
The Murphy report said Archbishop McQuaid’s conclusion that Fr Edmondus’s actions arose from a “wonderment” about the female anatomy was “risible”. It said: “The apparent cancellation by Archbishop McQuaid of his original plan to pursue the priest through the procedures of canon law was a disaster. It established a pattern of not holding abusers accountable which lasted for decades.”
On July 29th last, McGennis, now 81, was given a six-year sentence, with the final four years suspended, at the Circuit Criminal Court for the abuse of a young girl in Dublin between 1980 and 1984, beginning when she was 11.