Almost a dozen historical abuse complaints to Cloyne Diocese since 2013, says report

Irish Examiner [Cork, Ireland]

November 24, 2022

By Conor Capplis

At least 11 people have made complaints to Cork’s Cloyne diocese since 2013 alleging abuse or inappropriate behaviour by priests, a new report has found.

Since the previous review in 2013, a further three priests have been removed from ministry due to concerns raised about them, bringing the total to five priests now suspended, some permanently.

The diocese, which is headquartered in Cobh, Co Cork, was at the centre of a child abuse scandal in 2009 and was heavily criticised in the 2011 Cloyne Report for its handling of child abuse allegations against 19 clerics, going back approximately 20 years.

The latest report, which was released last Friday by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland, reviewed allegations surrounding six Cloyne-based priests and three from other Church bodies.

Among the complaints made, Cleric 1 received a complaint about “his use of the internet some years ago”. Allegations against Cleric 2 “relate to a time prior to his studies for the priesthood”. Cleric 3 was accused of abuse retrospectively which was investigated by An Garda Síochána and assessed by Tusla.

An anonymous letter was received alleging “inappropriate behaviour” by Cleric 5, but “due to the priest’s ill health and the absence of a named complainant, little could be done about the matter”. The priest subsequently died.

Cleric 6 was long deceased when an allegation of retrospective abuse was made about him.

Clerics 7, 8, and 9 visited the diocese on different occasions from their base abroad, and complaints received were notified to the priests’ home Church body.

One complainant alleged they had been abused by one of the now deceased priests while they were a pupil in a local school.

Response to complaints

The report said complainants received a “compassionate response” from the diocese after disclosing abuse, and in some instances availed of funding for counselling from the diocese.

Three complainants had negative experiences at the time of disclosure where they “experienced an insensitive court process and spoke of the absence of personal supportive follow up from the diocese at that time” which “contributed to the deep hurt they described”. Subsequently they “all spoke positively” of support they later received from two religious sisters known to them.

The report “commended” the diocese for improvements made since the last report, when Bishop William Crean was in post for less than a year. All eight recommendations were implemented in the nine-year period.

“Clearly, he and his safeguarding team have been busy in the intervening years in implementing the recommendations of the 2013 Review Report, and Cloyne Diocese now has skilled personnel and effective systems in place to manage all aspects of safeguarding,” the report concluded.

Diocese letter

In a letter to the diocese, Bishop Crean urged those who have been abused to step forward and tell their stories with the diocese or statutory authorities.

One priest complained of “his sense of being without purpose since he was stepped aside” and was frustrated about the time it took for the investigation to complete.

The report also noted the importance of ensuring gender balance with designated liaison persons (DLP), who deal initially with complaints, and said “previous attempts to recruit and deploy both female and male laypersons as DLPs have not been successful”. The DLP in the Cloyne diocese is a priest, and his Deputy DLP is a “retired public service manager”.

The 2013 review found allegations were made against 30 priests since 1975, within 46 complainants. Nineteen of these priests were still alive at the time.