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Diocese Agrees to Give More Data on Clerical Child Sex Abuse Complaints

The Irish Times - April 22, 2008 by BARRY ROCHE, Southern Correspondent,

THE DIOCESE of Cloyne has reached agreement with the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSC) on advancing a review of child safeguarding practices, and on providing the board with documentation on a number of cases.

Bishop of Cloyne, Dr John Magee, met NBSC chairman, Aidan Canavan, and NBSC chief executive, Ian Elliott, yesterday for discussions arising out of concerns by the NBSC that it wasn't getting full co-operation from the diocese on a number of complaints of clerical sexual abuse.

However, following the meeting yesterday in Maynooth between Bishop Magee, representatives of the Diocese of Cloyne, Mr Canavan and Mr Elliott, Bishop Magee and Mr Canavan issued a joint statement confirming agreement had been reached.

"The meeting was frank and cordial. Agreement was reached on how the current review of child safeguarding practices should be progressed. Relevant documentation has been shared by the diocese with the board," said the statement. "We have mutually agreed to an ongoing working relationship with a shared commitment to the safeguarding of children within the church."

Mr Elliott had expressed concern about the diocese's response to queries about its handling of abuse allegations. The board "has been made aware of issues surrounding the handling of allegations of abuse within the Diocese of Cloyne", he said.

"The board has not received the full information and documentation requested of the diocese. We are trying hard to resolve these difficulties and have sought an urgent meeting with the diocese to progress these matters further," he told last weekend's Sunday Tribune.

A Diocese of Cloyne spokesman last night confirmed to The Irish Times that four priests from the diocese had been withdrawn from active ministry on foot of complaints of sexual abuse. One was withdrawn almost 10 years ago while the others are more recent.

Meanwhile One in Four, the group that supports people who have experienced sexual violence, yesterday called upon each bishop and leaders of religious orders to commit to publishing a national audit on child protection.

The group said it had assumed, following the publication of the Ferns report and child protection guidelines, Our Children, Our Church, in 2005 that the church had finally understood the need for a clear policy in responding to allegations of clerical sex abuse.

However the Cloyne controversy demonstrated that this may not be the case, said One in Four, adding that while some dioceses had taken "a robust approach" to dealing with allegations of clerical sex abuse by involving the Garda and the HSE, others had not.

"The difficulty lies in the fact that there remains a lack of transparency and accountability in how each individual diocese and religious order are responding to the issue of clerical sexual abuse," said One in Four executive director, Maeve Lewis.