Church set for showdown over Cloyne sexual abuse claims
Bishop and child protection director at odds over allegations

By Justine McCarthy
Sunday Tribune
April 20, 2008

THE Catholic church's new director of child protection and the Bishop of Cloyne are at serious odds over the handling of child sex abuse allegations against priests in the diocese, the Sunday Tribune has learned.

The Bishop of Cloyne, John Magee, a former private secretary to three popes, and Ian Elliott, the inaugural chief executive of the church's National Child Protection Office (NCPO) in Maynooth, are in dispute over a number of complaints involving two priests in the east and north Co Cork diocese.

Elliott, a Dublin-born Presbyterian whose appointment was trumpeted by the church last July, is "frustrated" with the level of cooperation he is getting from Cloyne, according to sources. His first report on the country's 26 dioceses and 166 religious orders is due to be published next month. It is expected to be highly critical of the Cloyne diocese.

The Sunday Tribune has learned that two separate complaints about Cloyne have been made to health minister Mary Harney. Under the terms of reference of the Dublin Archdiocese Commission of Investigation, chaired by Judge Yvonne Murphy, the minister has the power to request it to examine other dioceses where it is suspected that church officials have not responded appropriately to complaints of child sex abuse.

High-level negotiations are ongoing in the matter, which is set to erupt into another major controversy about clerical paedophilia. At least three civil actions have been initiated in relation to alleged child sex abuse by priests in the Cloyne diocese.

In a case concerning one of the priests, complaints by three females of sexual abuse and rape while they were schoolgirls in the late 1970s and mid-1980s were investigated by gardai. The DPP decided against a prosecution on each of the three files. One of the girls, accompanied by her parents, personally informed Bishop Magee of her complaint in 1995 but gardai were only notified, by another source, 10 years later in 2005.

The priest was placed on "restrictive ministry", a term without definition in canon law but which appears to mean that, while he had no parish, he was free to officiate at church services and ceremonies.

A spokesman for the bishop has confirmed that Dr Magee is "aware that an allegation of child sex abuse against one priest of the diocese of Cloyne has been passed on to the Minister for Health with the possibility of having it examined by the Dublin Archdiocese Commission of Investigation."






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