Archbishop Concerned by Child Protection Policy

By Paddy Agnew, Patsy McGarry and Harry McGee
Irish Times
December 24, 2008

EXTREME CONCERN at a possible diversity in child protection procedures in Irish Catholic dioceses has been expressed by the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin.

The archbishop yesterday made the only public intervention to date of any senior Irish Catholic Church figure in the ongoing controversy over child protection practices in Cloyne diocese.

He said he was "extremely concerned at the fact that within a purported 'one-Church-policy' there may in fact be a wide diversity in the interpretation and application of agreed procedures".

He said this was of particular concern for the archdiocese of Dublin, as hundreds of priests from other dioceses and religious congregations played an active role in many aspects of Church life in Dublin.

He was awaiting "reasonable written assurance" from the National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC) in the Catholic Church "that all dioceses and religious congregations have committed themselves to a common system and are applying it in a uniform way".

If serious doubts were to persist "as to the coherence and consistency of child protection procedures in other dioceses" he "would find it necessary to implement his own system of accountable child protection," he said. He has made this known to the Irish Bishops Conference and the NBSC, he said.

The NBSC is an independent body set up by the Church. In a report published last week it found that child protection practices in the Cloyne diocese to be "inadequate and in some respects dangerous".

Last night, when pressed as to whether the Bishop of Cloyne, John Magee, should resign, Archbishop Martin said on RTÉ that it was a matter for Bishop Magee, but the issue was bigger than one man.

In his statement yesterday the archbishop queried the status of an audit, commissioned by the Health Service Executive two years ago, in the aftermath of the Ferns Report, of all dioceses and religious congregations in the Republic of Ireland.

Last night it was disclosed by the office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Barry Andrews that the completed audit was presented to him on December 4th and would be before the Government on January 7th.

A HSE report on its review of all religious orders is expected in early 2009.

Yesterday at the Vatican the controversy surrounding Bishop Magee was described as "clearly a local matter to be dealt with in Ireland by the Irish Church."

Senior Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi told The Irish Times that "matters like this are clearly very confidential and come to us only if the Bishop himself were to offer his resignation to the Pope".

However Vatican sources yesterday confirmed that Holy See observers had noted the mounting criticism of Bishop Magee.

Mr Andrews yesterday said he followed the correct procedures in passing on the NBSC report to the HSE without reading it. Fine Gael spokesman on children Alan Shatter accused the Minister of hypocrisy. Cork East Labour TD Seán Sherlock said "the Department and the Diocese passed the buck between them over who should publish it."


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