Email Us My Blog

[Report Published] Church 'Cannot Be Trusted' With the Safety of Children

The Irish Times - December 20, 2008 by PATSY McGARRY

THE CATHOLIC Church “cannot be trusted to consistently put the safety of children above all other considerations”, Maeve Lewis, executive director of the One in Four group, said last night.

She was speaking following publication yesterday of a report into alleged incidents of abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne.

Ms Lewis called for an audit of child-protection practices in all Catholic dioceses in Ireland. “The State must intervene and bring the church into line with the rest of society,” she said.

The contents of the report were “devastating” and chronicled “repeated failures by the Bishop of Cloyne to ensure the safety of children in the diocese from sexual abuse,” she continued.

That this happened “as recently as 2006, after the publication of the Ferns Report, must put in question the ability of the Catholic Church to monitor its own child-protection practices,” she said. “We must wonder if other scandals are to come.”

Welcoming publication of the report, Aidan Canavan, National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSC) chairman, said it validated the church’s decision to set up the independent board, which was “satisfied that the current positive working relationship with Cloyne ensures that the safety of children in the area is a top priority”.

NBSC chief executive Ian Elliott, who prepared the report,said yesterday it was “encouraging to note that so much progress has been made since the findings of the review report were accepted and the decision was made to work co-operatively with the national board. We look forward to achieving even more in the months ahead.”

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Barry Andrews “strongly” welcomed publication of the report which, he said, would “help allay concerns that information was being purposely withheld from victims of abuse and the wider public.’’ He intended publishing a HSE report on child protection in Cloyne diocese “at the earliest possible date”.

However, Fine Gael spokesman on children Alan Shatter described the report as “a damning indictment of the failure on the part of church authorities to implement essential child-protection procedures”. It was “incomprehensible that 10 years after publication of the Children First: Child Protection Guidelines and after two decades of revelations of clerical sexual abuse there remains at the highest levels a pervasive culture of cover-up and secrecy,” he said. He questioned the manner in which Mr Andrews dealt with the report. He asked “why did the Minister suppress the report when his department received it in July?” Did the Minister “meet with the CEO of the NBSC or seek a meeting with the church authorities in the diocese of Cloyne to discuss the report?” he asked.