The Holy Ghost Order Abuse
RTE Radio 1 aired a documentary on the 7th of November 2022 entitled “Blackrock Boys”. The documentary was a harrowing account of the sustained abuse suffered by two brothers on the grounds of Blackrock College in the 1970s and 1980s at the hands of a member of The Holy Ghost Order (now called The Spiritans). The brothers were the first people to speak openly about abuse at Blackrock College.
The Holy Ghost Order Abuse (now known as the Spiritan)
The perpetrators were members of the Holy Ghost Order, now known as the Spiritans. The Spiritan Order, formerly the Holy Ghost Fathers, ran several prestigious private boys’ schools in Ireland, including:
- Blackrock College, Co. Dublin
- St Michael’s College, Dublin 4
- St Mary’s College, Dublin 6.
- Rockwell College, Co. Tipperary
- Templeogue College, Dublin 6.
Irish Spiritans have also ministered overseas in countries such as Sierra Leone, Kenya, Zambia, Vietnam, Angola, Brazil, Canada, and South Sudan. The Spiritans report that they have received 233 complaints of abuse by members of the order since 2004, involving 77 alleged perpetrators.
The Order has confirmed that they have received reports of the abuse of 57 people at Blackrock College. The victims were abused regularly during the 1970s and the early 1980s in a number of places at Blackrock College, including the college library, swimming pools, and other buildings. They report having paid more than €5m to survivors of abuse, including 12 people abused at Blackrock College.
Review of the Irish Province of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (2012)
In June 2012, an audit of known and alleged sexual abuse by members of the Holy Ghost order (Now known as the Spiritans) and its child-safeguarding procedures commenced. This review was conducted by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI). It covered the period from 1975 to 2012.
The report outlined the failure of the Order to detect abusers operating within the schools. There was a chronic lack of monitoring to protect children in their care and a total lack of awareness of the serious impact that their abuse had.
The report stated
“The case files make very sad reading. There is evidence that there were serial abusers who worked in school communities in Ireland. They went undetected and unchecked, giving them unmonitored access to children during the 1960‟s, 70‟s and 80‟s.
It is clear that there was no awareness of the impact of child sexual abuse on the part of the congregation’s leadership during that time. There was a failure on the part of the congregation in these instances to create safe environments for children.” The report gave alarming examples of three serial abusers and the impact that their abuse had, and more concerning the effect that the failure of the Order to appropriately deal with allegations had:
“One prolific abuser – Father A – abused 28 children between 1968 and 1993. He was not removed from the ministry until 1996. The records suggest that there may have been other children abused in the USA and in Ireland who have not yet come forward. Father A is now deceased.
“Another prolific abuser – Father B had an abusive career that lasted thirteen years. Concerns were raised, but he continued in ministry and abused children for ten years.
He was removed from the ministry in April 1995. This priest has recently been brought under the management of the monitoring panel. However, as recently as November 2011, he appears to have had a public profile by participating in an internet forum. The reviewers would hold grave concern with regard to his involvement in this activity.”
“A third priest- Father C- was, until recently, unknown to the Provincial Leadership Team, temporarily carrying out ministry elsewhere.
This raises two issues – one relates to the effectiveness of the monitoring arrangements within the Congregation itself, and the second concerns the practice of asking all visiting priests to produce a current “celebret” prior to being engaged in public ministry. This priest was not in possession of a “celebret”. As a consequence, it calls into question how he was able to engage in public ministry even on a temporary basis elsewhere.”
The report also found that prior to 1994, allegations of child sexual abuse against members of the Order were not reported immediately to civil authorities (The HSE and the Gardai) in many cases. This often leads to repeat offending.
The report stated
“In 1994, a new Provincial took up post who had a greater awareness of child abuse than those who went before him. There is written evidence in the case files that he removed men from ministry (who were thought to have caused harm to children) and from contact with children.
However, previous Provincials maintained men in ministry after being informed of abuse, and it is distressing to report that some of these men went on to abuse again. In some instances, priests/brothers were moved either out of the country or to other ministries, where they continued to abuse children. In some instances, this abuse could have been prevented if the congregation had responded to the information that was available at the time to them regarding risk to children.”
Following the publication of the report, Fr. Brian Starken, outgoing provincial of the Order, stated
“What happened to these victims and their families is inexcusable. As a religious Congregation, we are filled with shame, but our shame cannot compare with the immense suffering and hurt experienced by victims and their loved ones.”
Fr Starken continued
“We acknowledge the failure of the Congregation to protect and safeguard at all times those who were confided to our care or who put their trust in us. Even at this late stage, we urge anyone who has suffered abuse by any Spiritan, living or dead, who has been unable, for whatever reason, to make that known to us to please contact us. Our congregation is committed to finding ways of reaching out to victims and participating in the healing process with all those whose lives have been traumatised by abuse.’
“We apologise unreservedly to those abused, hurt or damaged by any Spiritan and we seek to participate fully in the process of justice and healing.”
In March 2009, Fr. Henry Maloney was convicted of the sexual abuse of two former students at another prestigious school run by the Holy Ghost Order, St. Mary’s in Rathmines, between 1969 and 1973.
Fr. Maloney taught at St. Mary’s from 1968 to 1973, when he was transferred to Sierra Leone. Fr. Maloney was also convicted at Clonmel Circuit Court of indecent assault in 2015, relating to the abuse of students at Rockwell College in the 1980s. He had also been convicted in 2000 for sexual assault of victims between 1970 and 1972, also in St. Mary’s College. Mr. Moloney was laicised in 2014.
The Holy Ghost Order
The Congregation of the Holy Spirit was founded in 1703 by Claude Poullart des Places in France. The order was committed to the alleviation of poverty and evangelization. The Order now serves 62 countries on five continents.
The first Spiritan house in Ireland was opened in 1859.
Blackrock College was founded in 1860 by the Holy Ghost Fathers. Rockwell College in Tipperary was founded in 1864, St. Mary’s College, Rathmines in 1892, and Terenure College in 1966. Blackrock College bought St. Michael’s College in 1944 as a feeder school along with Willow Park. St. Michael’s College became independent of Blackrock College in 1970.
This firm acts on behalf of victims who wish to take civil proceedings against the perpetrator of the holy ghost order abuse / Blackrock college abuse or those who failed victims by failing in their duty to protect or safeguard them. Remedies include compensation from a Court for personal injuries, loss, and damage suffered as a result of the wrongful assault, sexual assault, battery, and trespass, as well as a breach of their constitutional right to bodily integrity.
We act on behalf of people who have been raped, molested, sexually harassed (, or forced to engage in and perform sexual acts against their will. We act on behalf of both adults and children who are victims and survivors of sexual abuse, as well as those who were sexually abused as children but are now adults seeking to vindicate their rights following abuse perpetrated upon them as a minor.
Coleman Legal LLP
84 Talbot Street, Dublin 1
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