Residents raise €50k for priest convicted of sex abuse

Tribune News
November 23, 2008

Exhaustive enquiries to the Department of Health and the HSE have failed to identify who has explosive report on the diocese of Cloyne, writes Justine McCarthy

As a priest convicted of sexually abusing 26 boys in Co Donegal prepares for his release from the Midlands Prison, a survivors' organisation has said there is reason to suspect that the church and state are colluding in a cover-up in another diocese.

Fr Eugene Greene (81) was sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment eight years ago for raping and sexually assaulting boys as young as seven from 1962 to 1985 in the west Donegal Gaeltacht.

Fr Eugene Greene: to return to the Donegal village where he sexually abused young boys

A garda investigation began after Greene complained to his local station that a man, who turned out to be one of his victims, had attempted to blackmail him.

The priest is due for release on 4 December and is expected to return for Christmas to the village where he committed many of his crimes. A collection organised by some of his supporters while he was in jail is estimated to exceed €50,000.

His release comes at a time when the church's key bishops are grappling with the ramifications of an explosive report on how the diocese of Cloyne, Co Cork mishandled complaints of child sexual abuse by some of its priests.

Mystery about the report deepens. It was written by Ian Elliott, chief executive of the church's National Board for Safeguarding Children, at the prompting of the Department of Health. Its sharp criticism of Cloyne's response to complaints of child sexual abuse includes findings that the allegations were credible and that complainants would make excellent witnesses in any criminal prosecution. The report makes stern recommendations.

It was delivered to children's minister Barry Andrews last July but, bizarrely, he confirmed to the Sunday Tribune in October that he has not read it.

Exhaustive enquiries to the Department of Health and the HSE have failed to identify who precisely is in possession of the report and if anybody at all has read it.

"I want to know where it is," said a distraught victim of a Cloyne priest. She was interviewed for the report and has sought a copy in vain. "If there was nothing to hide, there would be no need for this lying and bullshit."

However, there has been at least one senior personnel switch made in Bishop John Magee's Cloyne diocese since Elliott's report landed.

In reply to a Dáil question from Labour TD Seán Sherlock, Andrews said he was awaiting advice from the HSE "as to whether the current child protection policies and practices of the Catholic Church are being implemented and operated satisfactorily in the context of the terms of reference of the Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin Archdiocese."

As minister, he has the power to refer any diocese to the Commission for investigation but it is in winding-up mode. Judge Yvonne Murphy's final report, originally due last September, is expected in January.

When asked what had become of his report, Elliott said: "The National Office is currently engaged with the diocese of Cloyne in progressing the implementation of its recommendations, which have been fully accepted by the bishop.

"We cannot comment as to whether the matters reviewed in the report will be considered by the Dublin Archdiocese Commission of Investigation as it is not a matter for us to decide upon. Our concern remains the confirmation of the safety of children within the church as a whole, and we are actively working with all the various parts of the church to achieve this, including the diocese of Cloyne."

Meanwhile, there is still no indication that Elliott's inaugural annual report on the church's wider child protection procedures is imminent. It was supposed to be issued to the public last August.

The ducking and obfuscation by both the church and the state is ringing alarm bells among survivors' groups.

"If there are still politicians who are in some way under the influence of a paternalistic church, that's very worrying," said Seán O'Conaill of Voice of the Faithful (VOTF).

"We wrote to the minister for health last March asking about the audit of all dioceses that was promised when the Ferns report came out three years ago. All we got was an acknowledgement of receipt of our letter.

"Given that silence, the burying of the Cloyne report, the silence of the tánaiste on abuse in her own diocese of Raphoe and the delay in the report of an audit by the church's child protection body in Maynooth, we fear the lessons learned in 1994 and 2002 about the need for transparency are being forgotten. We even fear the possibility of a new collusion between church and state leaders to hide the true dimensions of the cover-up of clerical child abuse in Ireland."

After the acclaimed Ferns report was published in October 2005, the episcopal conference launched its child protection policy, 'Our Children, Our Church'.

At the time, the present cardinal, Dr Seán Brady, said: "In all decisions made and actions taken in response to allegations and suspicions of child abuse, the welfare of the child is paramount."

Yet there is evidence that the guidelines are not being consistently interpreted and implemented across all dioceses.

"It's almost three years since 'Our Children, Our Church' was published and we don't know if every diocese in the country has implemented these guidelines," said Deirdre Fitzpatrick of One in Four.

"A national audit was promised of each diocese and it's never happened. What we do know from our work is that each diocese is handling the guidelines differently and that has a very negative impact on our clients."


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