THIS IS the full text of a letter from the chairman of the Interdiocesan
Case Management Advisory Committee, representing the diocese of
Cloyne, to Aidan Canavan, chairman of the National Board for Safeguarding
[Reprinted with Committee was Appointed
by Magee, by Jennifer Hough, Irish Examiner, January 7, 2009.
The letter concerns a report written by Ian Elliott, then Chief
Executive Officer, National Safeguarding Board for Children, Catholic
Church of Ireland, entitled Report on the
Management of Two Child Protection Cases in the Diocese of Cloyne.]
Dear Mr Canavan,
Bishop John Magee of Cloyne has repeatedly advised you that he
wishes to work in the closest collaboration with the National Safeguarding
Board for Children.
Bishop Magee made available to us a document entitled: Report on
the Management of Two Child Protection Cases in the Diocese of Cloyne,
signed by Ian Elliott, chief executive officer, National Safeguarding
Board for Children, Catholic Church of Ireland. The report was written
in the name of the members of the board. Bishop Magee made the report
available to us because it makes reference to the Interdiocesan
Case Management Advisory Committee of which we are members and in
which we therefore have an interest.
One of the tenets of your report is that: “Good child protection
practice involves working openly and in a collaborative manner with
those agencies who hold the statutory powers to investigate child
abuse and to protect children.”
The officials of the Diocese of Cloyne have for some time enjoyed
a very good working relationship with the senior officers of the
HSE and the gardaí in their area and appreciate greatly their
essential and important roles. However, it must be acknowledged
that because of the constraints of the Constitution and statute
and the principle of subsidiarity contained in them, these statutory
authorities are limited in the extent and quality of the response
available to them in the area of child protection.
Furthermore, the HSE is limited in resources especially in the
care of those involved in so-called historic cases. Any analysis
of the evil of child sexual abuse that does not recognise this reality
is seriously flawed. In the Diocese of Cloyne, a compassionate and
comprehensive pastoral response has been available for many years
to all affected by clerical child sexual abuse. It is important
to note that the fundamental function of the Church is to respond
The Church, and its essential pastoral role, is not an optional
participant in society but an integral part thereof as designed
and mandated by almighty God. Far from being in conflict with each
other, the roles of the Church and the statutory agencies of the
state are complementary.
Your report makes assertions and assumptions that are false and
it makes attributions that are defamatory of the members of the
Interdiocesan Case Management Advisory Committee. It also makes
very serious omissions which further distort the truth.
Most seriously, your report asserts that: “Children have
been placed at risk within the Diocese of Cloyne through the inability
of that diocese to respond appropriately to the information that
came to it regarding child protection concerns involving the clergy.
It failed to act effectively to limit the access to children by
individuals against whom credible allegations of child sexual abuse
had been made.” What is your evidence for these assertions?
What evidence does the board have to demonstrate that children have
been put at risk?
Your report also asserts: “The competence of those involved
in this area of work in the diocese has to be questioned.”
To whom does this refer and what questions need to be posed? Mr
Elliott, chief executive of your board, was twice (February 28 and
March 7, 2008) invited to meet with the Interdiocesan Case Management
Advisory Committee in order that he might be introduced to the members
and be given an explanation of how it functions. He did not avail
himself of the opportunity. His failure to attend occasioned his
failure to note the experience and qualifications of the members
of the committee and acquaint himself with the nature and extent
of their deliberations which extend far beyond issues of child protection.
Your report further asserts: “Any meetings that were convened
by the diocese, such as the Child Protection Management Committee,
are apparently focused on the needs of the accused priest.”
This is not true.
It goes on: “There is no documentary evidence that the risk
to vulnerable children was discussed or considered at any time by
them.” It was discussed repeatedly and was a primary concern.
The report continues: “Again, this raises serious doubts
about the ability of these groups to perform effectively in this
What evidence does the board have for this damning assertion?
All your board’s assumptions are based on the perusal of
two case files. The invitation to members of your board to peruse
a comprehensive review of the handling of all cases in the Diocese
of Cloyne, compiled by Dr Kevin McCoy, was not taken up.
Your report states that “two serious cases of sexual abuse
had been reported to the NSBC on a completely unsolicited basis”.
Unsolicited they may have been but they are not unconnected.
Both complainants are currently pursuing civil cases against the
Bishop of Cloyne. Both are represented by the same firm of solicitors.
That firm of solicitors appears to be connected with many of the
cases supported by the private organisation which made the complaint
“to the minister regarding the practice of the Diocese of
Cloyne in a particular case”.
Surely the board is not so naive as to expect the litigants in
these two cases to speak well of the pastoral initiatives undertaken
in their regard or even to advert to them. It could seem that the
board is being manipulated.
The board’s report makes a most serious omission in neglecting
to mention that in the case of Father A, the gardaí undertook
an investigation of the complaint made against him but no prosecution
An even more serious omission in the board’s report concerns
Father B. The report inexplicably omitted to state that in his case
he was investigated three times by the gardaí and on each
occasion the DPP failed to prosecute. Furthermore, he has at all
times vigorously denied any wrongdoing and has repeatedly threatened
the bishop and complainants personally and through his solicitors,
over a period of many years and is strenuously contesting the High
Court proceedings brought against him in which the bishop is caught
up. Both priests are relying on their constitutional right to their
good name and the presumption of innocence.
What does the board believe that the HSE can do in these circumstances
which the bishop has not done already? In its assertion that priests
against whom accusations are made can be stood down from ministry,
is the board asserting that the bishop can violate canon law and
act against a priest’s constitutional rights?
Under the heading of Recommendations, your report suggests that
the Diocese of Cloyne immediately adopt a safeguarding policy for
children. Enclosed for your information is a copy of the diocese’s
policy, of which you are evidently not aware.
Your report also recommends that child protection training should
be sourced and provided for those in the diocese who work in child
protection. It has already been sourced and provided and continues
to be provided.
We, members of the Interdiocesan Case Management Advisory Committee,
extend an invitation to all the members of your board to meet with
us urgently. If you choose not to do so we will have to consider
whether this is not a further expression of recklessness and indifference
and disregard for the truth which could be considered as malice
as it is known to the law. Your report seriously wrongs the Diocese
of Cloyne and our committee. Therefore, if you issue this report
in its present form or include its distortions in your forthcoming
annual report, we shall have no choice but to seek remedies in either
ecclesiastical or secular courts or both.
Very Reverend Gerard Garrett;
For and on behalf of:
Rt Reverend Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan;
Reverend James Moore;
Sister Frances Minahan;
Sister Anne McCarthy;
Ms Catherine Kelly;
Mr Brendan O’Brien;
Mr TD Hourihane;
Mr Diarmaid Ó Catháin;
Mr Padraig Hyde.