Diocese Failed to Act Properly on Sex Abuse Allegations

By Barry Roche
The Irish Times

December 20, 2008

Damning report: young people exposed to harm by church authorities

CHILD PROTECTION practices in the Diocese of Cloyne in Co Cork were inadequate and dangerous, thereby potentially exposing vulnerable young people to further harm, an agency set up by the Catholic Church to protect children has found.

The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, (NBSC) was highly critical of the way that the Diocese of Cloyne and Bishop John Magee handled a series of complaints of sexual abuse made by five people against two priests in the diocese.

The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church was highly critical of the way the Diocese of Cloyne and Bishop John Magee handled complaints of sexual abuse made by five people against two priests in the diocese.
Frank Miller

According to the report by the chief executive of the NBSC, Ian Elliott, which was published yesterday by the Diocese of Cloyne, child protection practice in the diocese was "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," said Mr Elliott, who carried out the inquiry following a meeting with officials from the Department of Health and Children.

"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," said Mr Elliott in his report.

"It failed to act effectively to limit the access to children by individuals against whom a credible complaint of child sex abuse was made . . . put simply, the responses of the diocese could be described as ill-advised and too little, too late."

Mr Elliott found that any meetings convened by the diocese, such as the Child Protection Management Committee, were "apparently focused on the needs of the accused priest" and there was no documentary evidence that the risk to vulnerable children was discussed. The NBSC report noted that Bishop Magee had the ultimate responsibility to ensure action was taken but in these cases, "actions, when taken, were inappropriately delayed and were minimal in content".

There also appeared to be no appreciation by the diocesan authorities that, through allowing the complained of priests to continue to wear their vestments and thus occupy a position of trust, they may have facilitated further abuse of young people, said Mr Elliott.

One case centres on a complaint by a now serving priest of the diocese that he was abused when a young boy by a priest, Fr A but that his complaint made in December 2004 was not properly investigated by the diocese and in particular by Bishop Magee.

The second case revolves around complaints from three women that they had been sexually abused by another priest, Fr B, as young girls and a complaint from another woman that Fr B had an overly affectionate relationship with her 14-year-old son.

One of the woman alleged that she had been sexually abused by Fr B for approximately 5½ years and that she was raped by a priest at the age of 13 and she said the diocese had failed to respond properly to her complaint about the priest.

Another women alleged that Fr B had sexually abused her while hearing her confession during a retreat, while a third woman alleged that Fr B began abusing her when she was 13, had full sexual intercourse with her and that the abuse lasted until she was 18.

The NBSC requested all relevant documents relating to both Fr A and Fr B and Mr Elliott interviewed both Bishop Magee and his delegate, Msgr Denis O'Callaghan and Dean Eamonn Goold who had met the priest XY, who complained he had been abused by Fr A. The NBSC noted that the complainant XY had disclosed Fr A's identity to Dean Goold in May 2005 and that Fr A later resigned his post as a parish priest after meeting with Bishop Magee but when Msgr O'Callaghan notified gardai six months later, he did not identify Fr A.

The NBSC said that the diocese justified the six-month delay in reporting the matter to the garda by the unwillingness of the complainant to talk to the gardai.

In relation to Fr B, the NBSC notes it was clear from papers in his file that it was diocesan policy to give "minimal" information to the garda and no information was to be volunteered about any previous complaints involving Fr B.


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