News & Commentary

Head of Ireland’s Jesuits ‘ashamed’ of order’s failure to act on abuse

A huge cross is seen overlooking the Eastern Irish coastline of Counties Wicklow and Dublin in Bray, Ireland, Aug. 19, 2018. In response to the Feb. 8, 2024, release of a report on abuse claims, the head of Ireland's Jesuits is "ashamed" of order's failure to act on clergy sex abuse. The report documents abuse claims received by the society between 1965 and 2023 that were reported to have occurred between 1940 and 1991. (OSV News photo/Clodagh Kilcoyne, Reuters)

DUBLIN (OSV News) — The head of the Jesuits in Ireland has said he is “ashamed” at the order’s failure to confront abuse after the release of a new report revealing 93 complaints of sexual, physical and emotional abuse against a now deceased priest.

The order also revealed the names of two other members of its Irish province against whom it says it has received credible allegations of abuse, and admitted that it was slow to prioritize safeguards even when the church in Ireland adopted binding norms in 1996.

According to the provincial, Jesuit Father Shane Daly, the order has received 93 complaints against now-deceased priest and teacher Father Joseph Marmion, who was named as a child abuser three years ago. It has so far paid out over $7.55 million in compensation and set aside more resources for future claims.

In March 2021, the Society of Jesus invited complainants against Father Marmion to engage with the order and a restorative justice program was established.

The congregation Feb. 8 published what it described as a narrative record of Father Marmion’s abuse, saying that 45 of the 93 complaints received from 1977 related to child sexual abuse.

These complaints were received by the society between 1965 and 2023 and were reported to have occurred between 1940 and 1991.

Father Daly said the narrative was being made public now to demonstrate transparency both to complainants and former students who wished for the truth to be in the open.

“As Jesuits we are ashamed of our own failures — failure to allow the truth to be told, failure to admit to the wrong that had occurred, and failure to create earlier opportunities for you to receive the vindication you sought, deserved and needed, as a result of your experiences of Fr Marmion S.J.,” he said.

“I apologize for our delay in creating a context in which you could receive the acknowledgment that was justly yours, and the care to which we, as a Christian community aspire in our lives and mission,” the provincial wrote.

Father Daly also invited “any person who was harmed by any Jesuit to consider speaking with us. We really want to hear from you.”

The Jesuits also named for the first time two other priests who were the subject of numerous complaints of child sexual abuse — but who were allowed to carry on ministry with children.

The narrative record noted that concerns had been raised about Father Marmion going back to the 1940s, but that he may have benefited from undue deference to his family.

He was a grandnephew of Dublin-born monk Blessed Joseph Columba Marmion, a Benedictine, who died in 1923 and was one of the most popular and influential Catholic writers of the 20th century. He was beatified by St John Paul II in 2000.

Father Daly said that past students had been “horrifically abused” and praised their contribution to the report, which was compiled on behalf of a group of former students and the Jesuits’ own steering group. A key objective of their work was to have the experiences of past pupils who were abused by Father Marmion “heard, acknowledged and validated,” the report said.

The order also has formed a three-member working group, involving a child psychologist, a social worker and retired Supreme Court Justice John McMenamin, who will work with the Jesuits on the future naming of alleged abusers.

Speaking to national broadcaster RTÉ, Father Daly appealed for people who had been abused to come forward and avail of a new restitution scheme.

“We have had for a long time, a very non-adversarial approach to paying compensation. This restitution scheme formalizes that, and it’s an option for people coming forward,” he said.

When asked if he expected future compensation could be in the millions, he said, “it could be very substantial.”

By Michael Kelly | OSV News