Thursday, September 6, 2012

Dr Jerimiah Newman, Bishop of Limerick was ‘no pushover’

The Safeguarding Board of the Catholic Church in Ireland has published the findings of its second audit of safeguarding practices and policies.  A summary of the findings for the first and second tranche reveals:


  First Tranche Review
(6 dioceses)
Second Tranche Review
(4 dioceses)
Three religious Authorities 

Number of individuals subject to an allegation




Number of allegations received




Convictions related to these allegations





The three religious authorities reported a higher incidence of abuse allegations than the dioceses and the reviews also found significant practice deficits, such as non-reporting or delayed reporting of allegations when these emerged.

The Diocese of Limerick was one of those included in the Second Tranche.  The audit dealt with complaints received from 1975 to the present.  Since 1940 some 500 priests ministered in Limerick and 26 of these were the subject of complaints.

The Bishop of Limerick from May 1974 to April 1995 was Limerick native, Dr Jerimiah Newman (31 March 1926-7 April 1995), former President of St Patrick’s seminary Maynooth.  His 21-year tenure compares with that of his predecessors – David Keane (1923-1945) – 32 years, Patrick O’Neill (1945-1958) – 13 years and Henry Murphy (1958-1974) – 16 years.

The report found that reporting practice was very poor and even potentially dangerous.  There was documentary evidence that Newman, while apparently having knowledge of a priest’s  abusive behaviour in England, allowed him to minister in Limerick where he abused again.

The Diocese of Limerick heritage web site contains a biography of Newman which reads

Dr Newman was by nature a student of philosophy, specialising in social philosophy and with particular emphasis on Church/State relations.  His research, lectures and many publications earned him international renown.  He as gifted with a clear, sharp logical mind allied with great mental powers of retention and recall and had a tremendous capacity for work.  He was a man who had the courage of his convictions and was outspoken on many of the social and political issues of the day .  It was not easy to score debating points against him.  Loyalty to the teaching of the Church and to the Holy See was a top priority for him.  As Bishop of Limerick, his presence and influence were felt, not only in Limerick, but nationally.  His statements on matters of Church and State made the headlines and got widespread attention.

Though he was kind and considerate in dealing with his priests, he was never what one might call ‘a pushover’.  His priests respected him for the way he treated them and for the confidence and trust he put in them.  He had a pleasant sense of humour, was quick witted and a good conversationalist.  These qualities enabled him to relate well with people.  He showed the common touch, as could be witnessed by the ease with which he mingled among young and old.  He was indeed much loved and appreciated.  He was concerned for the welfare of the people throughout County Limerick and displayed competent leadership on the relevant issues of the city and region.

As President of Maynooth College he got an insight into University organisation which enabled him, as Bishop of Limerick to make a positive contribution.

He left behind a well organised diocese where the faith of the people is very much alive and pastoral policy in its many and varied aspects is clearly outlined.

In any list of great Bishops of Limerick, the name of Dr Jerimiah Newman would have to be among the first’

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