|Cardinal Is Accused of Abuse Files Cover-Up
By Dearbhail McDonald and John Cooney
February 1, 2008
THE Catholic hierarchy was plunged into crisis last night as two of the country's senior prelates clashed over the publication of confidential Church files.
Archbishop of Dublin Cardinal Desmond Connell yesterday secured a temporary injunction preventing a State inquiry from examining files relating to his handling of complaints against paedophile priests.
The unprecedented move could undermine Archbishop Diarmuid Martin's policy of open access to Church files.
Cardinal Connell (81) has repeatedly promised victims gardai and a dedicated judicial inquiry would have full access to internal files.
Last night, he was in hospital in Rome after a fall, while a leading Canon lawyer accused him of a "cover-up".
The legal action by Cardinal Connell centres around files handed over by Archbishop Martin to the Dublin Diocesan Commission of Investigation.
On Wednesday night, Cardinal Connell, who was urged to resign when the Dublin abuse scandal broke six years ago, contacted Archbishop Martin.
It was only then he told him he was launching judicial review proceedings against the commission.
The cardinal, whose lawyers accused the commission of seeking "omnibus discovery" and acting outside its remit, has claimed documents handed to the inquiry by Archbishop Martin are legally privileged.
The files were due to be examined by the commission to ascertain whether they are legally privileged or bound by a duty of confidentiality.
Cardinal Connell insists the legal privilege attaching to the documents belongs to him and can only be waived by him.
The legal action has taken the Church hierarchy, many of whom privately support Cardinal Connell's stance on internal files, by surprise.
In a statement issued last night, Archbishop Martin said he hoped the legal matters would be dealt with expeditiously so that the commission can conclude its work.
"The overarching aim of all must be that of attaining a more accurate understanding of the truth concerning sexual abuse of children by clergy," said the former Vatican diplomat, in what is being regarded as support for a full examination of the files.
Cardinal Connell fell during a service in his Titular Church of San Silvestro in Capite.
Meanwhile, leading Canon lawyer Fr Tom Doyle accused the cardinal of "a cover-up".
Fr Doyle, a Dominican priest who drafted a report 28 years ago on clerical child sex abuse for America's Catholic bishops, said the assertion of legal privilege by the former Archbishop of Dublin was "wrong" in Canon law.
"The only reason why Cardinal Connell would seek to prevent access to the files is because they contain incriminating evidence," said Fr Doyle.
"He is attempting to hide behind a legal doctrine. This is not privileged information. Archbishop Martin is either pragmatic or convinced of the need to hand over the files so that the truth can be established."
Clerical sex abuse victims also rounded on the cardinal for reneging on his promise to grant unfettered access to diocesan files.
Marie Collins, who brokered an historic apology from Cardinal Connell six years ago, said she was stunned by the High Court injunction.
"I just can't believe it," said Ms Collins, who was abused by Fr Paul McGennis, a hospital chaplain, in 1960 when she was aged 13.
"How many times has the Church promised to co-operate? Cardinal Connell promised that he would hand over all the files. Archbishop Martin must be spitting feathers because he has tried to ensure full access."
Colm O'Gorman, the former director and founder of abuse support group One in Four, said the injunction begged the question as to what the cardinal was trying to conceal.
"One would have hoped at this late stage in the process that Cardinal Connell would be prepared to waive any legal privilege, if such privilege exists, in order to get to the truth," said the now-executive director of Amnesty International.
One in Four said it was "deeply disturbed but sadly not surprised" by the cardinal's move.
"The cardinal has previously stated that he would co-operate with an investigation," said advocacy director Deirdre Fitzpatrick.
"He is now attempting to use legal argument to prevent this statutory investigation."
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