By Ian Elliott
This report presents the findings of a review of two child protection
cases which arose within the Diocese of Cloyne. The review was primarily
records based but was supplemented by interviews with Bishop Magee, his
delegate Monsignor O'Callaghan, and Dean Goold. Each case involved members
of the clergy as the alleged perpetrators. Child protection practice was
examined through the case records provided by the Diocese of Cloyne and
found to be inadequate and in some respects dangerous. There was no evidence
that risk had been appropriately identified or managed, thereby potentially
exposing vulnerable young people to further harm. Deficits in practice
are identified and recommendations listed to address these.
The Identification of the Two Cases
1. On the 15 February 2008, the Chief Executive Officer of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSC) met with two senior officials within the Department of Health and Children. The purpose of the meeting was to update the Department on the ongoing initiatives that the NBSC had embarked upon in order to embed best practice in the field of safeguarding children within the Church.
2. At the conclusion of that meeting, the CEO was informed that a complaint had been made to the Minister regarding the practice of the Diocese of Cloyne in a particular case. A copy of the correspondence was given to the CEO and he was asked to investigate the circumstances outlined in the complaint, and to report back his findings.
3. The complaint came from an adult man who alleged that he had been abused when a young boy by a priest, whom will referred to as Father A, and that this matter had not been properly dealt with by the Diocese, and particularly by the Bishop. The victim had grown up and had joined the priesthood.
4. Contact was made with the Bishop and the CEO travelled to the Diocese on 20 February 2008, to establish directly from those involved in the case of Father A, as to whether the complaint was justified or ill founded.
5. The visit failed to provide sufficient information to enable the CEO to make a fair assessment of what had happened. A selection of case papers were provided for review, but these were incomplete and insufficient for the purpose of forming a fair judgement as to what had happened in this case.
6. Correspondence was sent to the Bishop requesting access to the full case records and expressing concern at the fact that the complete documentation had not been made available for review by the NBSC.
7. On 7 April, the NBSC were contacted by Faoiseamh, the child protection helpline for the Congregations of the Religious of Ireland, (CORI). They were seeking help in responding to a distressed client, a woman, who they were uncertain of how to best meet her needs. The CEO spoke by phone to the lady who lived within the Diocese of Cloyne, and arranged to interview her.
8. The following day the CEO and Sister Colette Stephenson visited the lady in her own home. She described an alleged serious sexual abuse that she said she had been subject to from a priest within the Diocese of Cloyne, Father B. This was alleged to have gone on for approximately five and a half years. It was alleged that she was raped by a priest at the age of thirteen. We took a chronology from her of the abuse and of the contacts that she had had with the Bishop, and Monsignor O'Callaghan, in which she had detailed to them the alleged abusive behaviour of Father B.
9. As a consequence of these circumstances and within a relatively short period of time, two serious cases of sexual abuse had been reported to the NBSC on a completely unsolicited basis. Each complaint, alleged a lack of any adequate response being taken by the Diocese. They reported a perceived lack of willingness to follow any appropriate child protection procedures. In the case of the lady whom we visited, we formed the view that significant additional trauma had been generated for her through this perceived lack of acceptance and support.
10. Given the remit of the NBSC, it was decided that both cases should be fully investigated and that the Diocese should be asked to make all the relevant documents available for review, as a matter of priority.
11. On 21 April 2008, a meeting took place in the Columba Centre, St Patrick's College, Maynooth. The meeting was attended by Bishop Magee, Monsignor O'Callaghan, and Dean Goold, from the Diocese of Cloyne. Mr Aidan Canavan, the chair of the NBSC and the CEO were also present. Ms Ann Doyle took the minutes of the meeting. The case papers for the Father A and Father B complaints were handed over to the NBSC for review.
1. The case papers furnished for Father A amount to eight folders into which relevant papers are placed. Although not required, there is no narrative recording of actions taken or decisions made. This makes it difficult to follow clearly the development of the case. The eight folders have the following headings:- Report to Civil Authorities, Fr. G and his contacts with XY, One in Four letter to the Minister, Relevant Minutes of Case Management Committee, Interview with XY, Correspondence with support person NT, Correspondence setting out implications of withdrawal from ministry for A, Interview with A.
2. In the correspondence supplied by the Department, the complainant had listed an alleged chronology of the case. This proved to be very useful as a template against which the case papers could be reviewed.
3. The complainant XY, a priest of the Diocese, first reported that he had been abused in December 2004. He spoke to the Bishop but he did not at that time identify who the alleged perpetrator was. Support for him was organised by the Bishop and he entered into counselling early in February of the following year.
4. In May of 2005, XY met with Dean Goold and disclosed to him that A was the priest who he alleged had abused him when he had been a young boy. In September of the same year and four months after XY had revealed who had allegedly abused him, Bishop Magee met with A on the foot of these allegations and following this meeting A decided to resign from his post as parish priest.
5. On 19 November 2005, six months after the identity of the accused was disclosed to the diocesan authority by the complainant, a letter was sent by Monsignor O'Callaghan to Superintendent McPollin of the Gardai, informing him that a complaint has been received against a priest in the Diocese. It names only the victim but does not identify the alleged perpetrator. It does state that he is another priest of the Diocese.
6. Two important points should be noted. Firstly, the delay in reporting was supposedly justified in the view of the Diocese, by the unwillingness of the complainant to talk to the Gardai. In short, the attitude of the complainant was seen as the determining factor as to whether a complaint was reported or not. This is an obvious and concerning misunderstanding of what good child protection practice dictates.
7. Secondly, the failure to name the alleged perpetrator to the Gardai was not exceptional. Indeed, it is described as "their normal practice" by the Bishop in a signed minute of a meeting which took place on 25 May 2006 involving the Bishop, XY and his parents. (The minute was produced by the Bishop himself.)
8. Throughout the case papers for priest A, references are made to the pastoral care policy of the Diocese and the need for reconciliation. It is not clear as to what is meant by these references. However, what are glaringly absent are any references to the need to protect vulnerable young people and to act in a timely and effective way to achieve this end. This is illustrated by the minutes of the Case Management Committee that met on 21 September 2005 to discuss the A case. Current risk to young people is not referred to at all. The suggestion is noted that the option of retirement to the accused might be offered if appropriate. (This is, in fact, what happened when the Bishop met the accused later in the month, when he decided to offer to retire from his post.)
9. What is also significant about the Case Management Committee that met to discuss this case was its composition. There was only one person who was not a member of the clergy present. It is not clear as to whether this is unusual or not. However it does raise issues about the objectivity of the advice that this group offered.
10. It should be noted that A held a role in the Diocese which would afford him opportunity for contact with young people. Through this he would have had frequent contact with young people of a similar age to that of XY. There is no evidence in the case papers that any attempt was made to identify any other possible victims amongst those young people.
11. A was sent for assessment to the Granada Institute where it was determined that he had no erotic interest in young people and represented a low risk for further abuse. It is not clear, nor is it stated anywhere in the file, as to whether A ever admitted to the alleged abuse. However, his legal representative has raised as an issue with the Diocese their failure to caution A about making an immediate response to the allegations when these were put to him by the Bishop.
1. The case papers for B comprise eight folders into which different items of correspondence and notes are placed. They have been given the following headings:- Further Complaints, NM. law case, NM. notes, Complaint PSP, DB Complaint, Concern re ZW. and her son V, B House, Withdrawal from Ministry.
2. There is no narrative recording in the file which makes it very difficult to sequence accurately the many significant events that took place in this complex case. Correspondence is combined with notes of telephone calls, meetings, and observations. Some are undated which adds further to the difficulty of interpreting accurately what happened.
3. The first noted complaint against B was received in early 1995. PSP and her father, informed the Bishop that B had sexually abused her. On 30th March , Bishop Magee directed Monsignor O'Callaghan to conduct an investigation. It is stated in the files reviewed that the papers on completion of the investigation were to be placed in the secret archive maintained by the Diocese. (The reference to this is dated 7/10/00).
5. A further complaint was received by the Diocese on 4th September 1996. ZW, who is an adult woman, expressed her concern about the relationship that B had with her fourteen year old son, V. Father B was described as overly affectionate to him and would give him expensive gifts. He was observed kissing him on one occasion. Also, V and B would kiss each other goodnight. ZW. also reports that she had a sexual relationship with B for about a year which gave B frequent access to her house.
6. On 9th December 1997, DB, a new complainant, wrote to the Bishop and alleged that B sexually abused her during a young people's retreat at St. Dominic's in Ennismore. She alleged that the abuse took place during the hearing of her confession which was conducted in a bedroom at the retreat house. She was instructed to lie on the bed for her confession to be heard. B then abused her.
7. On 14th February 1998, Bishop Magee directed a letter to B in which he states that "pending the pastoral decision which I may eventually take in your regard, I require you do not engage in the visitation of schools or have young people under the age of eighteen alone in your house." B was a careers guidance teacher in a local convent school.
8. B was placed on restricted ministry following the letter from the Bishop in early 1998. He was able to continue to wear priest's clothing. On 16th May 2002, Monsignor O'Callaghan sought advice with regard to B's future. He raised the possibility of a return to "full ministry" for B. This would involve an approach to complainants to secure their agreement.
9. A telephone conversation is noted in the file as taking place on 4th June 2002 between Monsignor O'Callaghan and B in which a number of alternatives are raised including retiring on sick leave, or taking action to clear his name. The option of transferring to a Diocese in America was considered not viable because of the allegations.
10. In January 2003, ZW and her son V, who was then twenty one years old, returned again to complain about B. Further detail is noted of the alleged abusive sexual relationship between B and V. The matter was referred to the Gardai for the first time for investigation. Consideration was given and noted in the file to the possible withdrawal from ministry of B.
11. On 17th November 2005 NM, a new complainant made contact with the Diocese and alleged serious sexual abuse by B. She alleged that the abuse began when she was thirteen years of age and involved full sexual intercourse. She also alleged that the abuse lasted until she was eighteen years of age and B was frequently seen by the victim in the community wearing priest's clothes. The matter .was reported to the Gardai for investigation.
12. On 13th January 2006, Monsignor O'Callaghan wrote to Bishop Magee regarding how he might respond to the request from the Gardai investigating the complaints against B. It is clear from the papers contained in the file that the policy of the Diocese in their contacts with the Gardai was to give "minimal" information. In particular, it is indicated that no information was to be volunteered in respect of any previous complaints involving this priest.
1. On 6th May 2008, the Chairman and CEO of the NBSC met with Bishop
Magee and Monsignor O'Callaghan to address questions to them arising from
the review of the case papers. Eight questions had been identified for
discussion. These comprised:-
2. The information given by the Bishop and the Monsignor in interview has been taken account of in the analysis and recommendations section of this report. To summarise their position, they accept fully that "lacunae" existed in their child protection policies and practice. They recognise the need to ensure that all information relating to an allegation of abuse is conveyed to the appropriate authorities fully and in a timely way. They accept also that this has not happened in these two cases.
3. Although it was confirmed to the NBSC at the meeting that a substantial and radical re-appraisal of child protection policies and practice in the Diocese had taken place, it had not yet resulted in any new approach being committed to paper. However, this was accepted by the Bishop as something that urgently needed to happen.
1. These two cases provide sufficient evidence to form an accurate judgement on the adequacy of child protection practice in this Diocese. It is significantly deficient in a number of respects. Most alarmingly, it fails to focus on the needs of the vulnerable child and the requirement to take preventative actions quickly and effectively to secure their wellbeing.
2. Good child protection practice involves working openly and in a collaborative manner with those agencies that hold the statutory powers to investigate child abuse and to intervene to protect children. The very essence of this relationship is a willingness to share information with those who hold the responsibility to take actions.
3. In these cases, information sharing was always limited and approached on a reluctant basis. The term "minimal" is used in the case papers to describe what is aimed for. This position appears to be endorsed by certain persons who provide advice for the Bishop which raises serious questions about the quality of that advice.
4. 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. There is no documentary evidence that the ongoing risk to vulnerable children was discussed or considered at any time by them. Again, this raises serious doubts about the ability of those groups to perform effectively in this role.
5. There appears to be no understanding or appreciation of the nature of the issues that they were dealing with. Individuals who sexually harm children do not reform easily. It is always dangerous and often irresponsible to assume that an individual who once harmed a child, has achieved a position of low risk, through this being asserted by someone who is seen as expert in the field. Behaviour of this nature is often deeply entrenched and is not easily eliminated.
6. The Bishop is the responsible person in these matters. He holds the authority and the responsibility to ensure that actions are taken and children are protected. In these cases, this did not happen in the way that it should have. Actions when taken, were inappropriately delayed and were minimal in content. The responsibility to take action and to make decisions can not be delegated from the Bishop to other bodies, regardless of what level of expertise it is assumed they hold. This appears not to have been properly understood in both of these cases. There is a very clear difference between an advisory role and a decision making one.
7. There is no appreciation evident from the records or from the interviews that it was realised that by allowing individuals against whom an allegation has been made, to continue to wear the vestments of a priest may facilitate further abuse of young people. Priests occupy a position of trust and respect in communities. This profile is useful for a predatory abuser who happens also to be a priest, who can then utilise his position as a means of securing new victims. The Diocese is vulnerable to be seen as complicit in this by not taking action to remove these people from the priesthood.
8. The issues that these two cases deal with are very serious. The potential for long lasting hurt as a result of mishandling a complaint is real. Given the serious nature of what is involved, it is surprising to find case papers that lack coherent content. A higher standard of recording practice is urgently required.
9. There is a failure evident in both cases, to distinguish between what is termed "historic abuse" and "current risk". The disclosure of child sexual abuse occurs most often after a significant passage of time has elapsed. Adults disclose, often incrementally, about the abuse that they endured as a child. This pattern of disclosure is not uncommon but appears to fail to lead to the assessment of current risk. This contributed to a failure to take appropriate preventative actions to protect children in both these cases.
1. The Board is satisfied that it received all relevant and available files from the Diocesan authority in relation to its investigation and that the relevant diocesan personnel did make themselves available to meet with the CEO.
2. Children have been placed at risk of harm 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 a credible complaint of child sexual abuse was made.
3. The competence of those involved in this area of work in the Diocese has to be questioned. Risk has not been recognised and responded to appropriately.
4. Put simply, the responses of the Diocese could be described as ill advised, and too little, too late. However, the events that these cases focus on are very significant to those involved.
5. In going forward, the Church as a whole seeks to demonstrate best practice in the field of safeguarding children. It aims to enhance the lives of those that it has contact with. It wants to eliminate preventable harm and suffering. In each of these cases, it has failed to do so. It is of vital importance that the learning from the review of these two cases is immediately and comprehensively addressed by the Diocese of Cloyne and anywhere else within the Church where it may be relevant.
1. The Diocese of Cloyne adopts immediately a safeguarding policy for children that meets the standards expected of it within the Church as a whole.
2. One of the essential elements of this safeguarding policy will be the sharing of all information held on any alleged abuser within the Diocese with the appropriate statutory authorities, in a timely way.
3. The development of an open and collaborative working relationship with the key statutory agencies in the area should be seen as a priority. This should be based on a sound understanding of the role and remit given to each body under the legislation that applies in this country.
4. The current child safeguarding structure within the Diocese is reviewed to confirm that it can provide high quality safeguarding advice that appropriately recognises the need for protecting the vulnerable child, rather that concentrating on the management of the accused.
5. Any other cases that have been identified within the Diocese should be urgently reviewed to establish if current risk has been adequately assessed. This should be progressed independent of the Diocese until confidence is restored in the ability of those involved to take required actions.
6. Preventative actions should be reviewed and implemented in all cases that are known to the Diocese to protect other children from potential further abuse. (These should include addressing the question as to whether a person should be placed on administrative leave or stood aside from active ministry and the strictures that should be imposed pending investigation and whether the priest remain in the priesthood at all. Such action must be taken at the earliest opportunity.)
7. Child protection training should be sourced and provided for those involved in child protection in the Diocese, to improve their ability to recognise risk and to record their practice appropriately.
8. All present and future safeguarding practice in the Diocese should be recorded in case files that allow for the easy retrieval of key information on actions taken and decisions made.
Chief Executive Officer
30th June 2008
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