|Archbishop Rounds on HSE and Government
By John Cooney and Ralph Riegel
December 24 2008
The national system of child protection was close to collapse last night after the country's most senior churchman openly questioned the ability of the Government, the HSE and his fellow Catholic bishops to implement a single policy that safeguards children from clerical sexual abuse.
In his first public comment on the consequences arising from a church report into the failure of the Bishop of Cloyne John Magee to apply proper standards, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said he was "extremely concerned" at the fact that, within a purported "one-Church-policy", a wide diversity existed in the interpretation and application of agreed procedures.
The archbishop revealed he had already warned the Irish Bishops' Conference and the Church's National Board for Safeguarding Children that if serious doubts persisted concerning the coherence and consistency of approach, he would implement his own system of accountable child protection.
Archbishop Martin also rounded on the Government and the HSE for failing to publish a national audit of the extent of clerical rape of children in each diocese that was conducted after the State inquiry into the diocese of Ferns three years ago.
The archbishop also expressed his personal dismay that he did not know the audit's findings when he was approached by other bishops to take in religious orders and priests from other dioceses. He said he needed to know if other dioceses applied equally rigorous standards as he has in place.
The extraordinary broadside from the Primate of Ireland and former Vatican diplomat immediately escalated the crisis engulfing the beleaguered Bishop Magee, almost a week after the church's board indicted him of operating inadequate procedures that endangered children, especially in the national schools in the diocese of Cloyne.
Meanwhile, as Bishop Magee continued to refuse to meet the national media, the pressure on him to resign reached a new level of intensity last night.
The bishop now faces the grim prospect that at its first cabinet meeting in the new year, the Government will instruct the Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin Archdiocese to initiate a State probe into his management practices in Cloyne.
Children's Minister Barry Andrews announced last night that he intends to publish the findings of a separate but related study into Cloyne conducted by the HSE that is also expected to be critical of the diocesan handling of allegations of abuse against two clerics.
Speaking on RTE television last night, Archbishop Martin said that this report's findings could be crucial for Bishop Magee's future. It was up to him to decide whether or not to resign, but he should make a decision based on the best interests of child protection, advised Archbishop Martin.
Mr Andrews also disclosed that he had received the HSE diocesan audit and its findings would be ready for publication early in the new year.
Last night Bishop Magee was urged to resign sooner rather than later by Geoffrey Shannon, the Oireachtas reporter on child abuse.
Meanwhile, the Cloyne diocese would not confirm if Bishop Magee will follow his traditional practice of saying Christmas Mass in his Cathedral of St Colman, in Cobh.
The bishop's first public appearance since the scandal broke last Friday will be a major media event and could draw public protest. Earlier yesterday, Bishop Magee received a little Christmas cheer when some parishioners rallied to his defence and accused the media of waging a campaign against him.
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