Bishop Eamonn Walsh – Letter to Dublin Priests of 3 Deaneries
17 December 2009
I have worked closely with you, the priests and the parish teams in the area, and hope that the following may assist you to assess the comments, both printed and broadcast, following the publication of the Murphy Report, in what has been a very disturbing time for all and most especially for victims/survivors of abuse and their families, those who have been able to come forward, and those who have as yet been unable to break their silence.
At the outset I express once again my disgust and horror at the appalling child sexual abuse by priests serving in the Dublin Archdiocese. The Report is full of heartbreaking accounts of children being brutally and sexually abused, robbed of
their innocence, their ability to trust and in some cases of their faith. My deepest sympathy rests with those who suffered such unspeakable abuse and I will continue my commitment to give of my experience gained both in Dublin and in the Diocese of Ferns in any way that might help them in their ongoing suffering.
The following is an outline of my work in the Archdiocese since 1985:
Secretary: 1985 - 1990
From 1985-1987 I was secretary to Archbishop McNamara. The duties were basically administrative and secretarial, with no involvement in any personnel issues involving child sexual abuse.
Following the death of Archbishop McNamara, I became secretary to Bishop Carroll, when he was Administrator during the interregnum, and, subsequently to Archbishop Connell in 1988. As the Report points out, I had no direct role in dealing with child sexual abuse cases. When I was given information, following a meeting of a priest with the Archbishop, it was only in the context of follow-up action e.g. medical/pastoral needs/accommodation. As secretary I was not party to discussions between either of the Archbishops and individual priests, regarding allegations of clerical child sexual abuse. The confidential nature of the relationship between priest and Archbishop precluded that from happening.
Auxiliary Bishop: 1990
Regarding my role as Auxiliary Bishop, the Report states in 1.56: “There was no clear job description for the auxiliary bishops”. In my appointment I was given pastoral responsibility for the deaneries of Blessington, South Dublin and
In the course of my work with you, if I was approached on a matter of a confidential nature, or if I had a concern which had been expressed to me, I brought this to the attention of the Archbishop. Archbishop Connell took a very conscientious line in respecting a person’s reputation, and on any other matter he deemed confidential. Information given in this way was not shared at meetings with others present. The result was that discussions were often held where the full facts of the subject under discussion, were not known to all participants. Sometimes the Archbishop himself would not have full information. It is very regrettable that clear pathways of communication were not effected until after the introduction of the Framework
Document in 1996. Poor communication led to long-term disastrous consequences. This resulted in some offending priests being given appointments on the basis of medical assessment, and other professional advice, which indicated that they were fit for ministry and/or fit to remain in existing appointments. All of this was done in good faith but with appalling consequences.
The Report covers the years 1976 – 2004. Within that period there have been major advances in the understanding of the nature of paedophilia, and the impact of child sexual abuse. The absence, particularly during the early years, of the range and level of expertise now available meant that bad decisions were made. This does not excuse them, but puts them into the context of a different time.
While there is no mandatory reporting of complaints for child sexual abuse in Irish law, the Archdiocese committed to mandatory reporting since 1996. I am on record as advocating this approach since 1990.
When I was appointed Apostolic Administrator in Ferns I piloted, with the Diocesan Team, the inter-agency meetings whereby the diocese, HSE and Gardai met to share information so as to inform best practice in dealing with child sexual abuse. The Ferns Report commended this pilot scheme and recommended that it be replicated throughout the country. Legislation has yet to be passed to give support to this. It is the practice at present in the Dublin Archdiocese. My actions as Auxiliary Bishop and as Apostolic Administrator could not be described as those of ‘cover-up’.
Irish Bishops’ Conference
At National level in 1999 I was appointed Chairperson of the Irish Bishops’ Liaison Committee on Child Abuse, which later became known as the Irish Bishops’ Committee on Child Protection. Through that Committee, the Irish Bishops’
Conference established the National Child Protection Office in 2001. The Committee, under my Chairmanship, commissioned the College of Surgeons to produce a comprehensive research study on clerical sexual abuse. The result ‘Time to Listen’ - is commended in the Murphy Report. “In this Commission’s view this was a very
valuable contribution to the debate on child sexual abuse by clergy “(7.47)
My work in child protection since 1996 assisted me in my appointment and work as Apostolic Administrator in the Diocese of Ferns from April 2002 – April 2006. My work there is outlined in the Ferns Report where both Mr. George Birmingham, S.C., and Mr. Justice Frank Murphy commended the co-operation they received from the Diocese of Ferns and myself. Comment has been made concerning the late discovery of documents submitted to the Inquiry, Mr. Justice Murphy “accepted that the omission of the documents identified in the course of this further investigation was
due to a regrettable error on the part of the diocese and did not constitute the withholding of co-operation on its part”.
References in the Report
I would like to draw your attention to the references to me as outlined in the Report by Judge Yvonne Murphy and her Team, and I would ask you to read them for yourself: 4.50; 7.22; 7.45- 47; 10.11; 11.13; 24.27; 35.32; 41.34; 43.5.
The question of resignation has been raised on the grounds of ‘guilt by association’. However, guilt by association only arises where someone is complicit in a decision or action, or is silent when to speak would have made a difference. Present in a room or proximity to a decision-maker of itself is not guilt by association. If anyone attributes such guilt to me, he or she does so without foundation, and against the findings of the Dublin Report.
In order for me to minister within the area and to support the priests and people, I must enjoy your confidence. One can only work with people where there is mutual trust. At a meeting with priests in Citywest, on Saturday, 12th December, Archbishop Martin confirmed publicly that he had confidence in his Dublin Auxiliary Bishops.
I hope that the above information will help you to reach your own conclusion in relation to my role and posts held in the diocese. Since my ordination to the priesthood I have always tried to carry out all my duties to the very best of my ability
in an open and caring manner. Ultimately God will be my judge.
Whatever may happen in the future, I ask for the continued support of your prayers for the survivors and their families, and I wish you every blessing during this Advent Season as we prepare for Christmas.
Bishop Eamonn Walsh – Letter to Dublin Priests of 3 Deaneries, 17 December 2009