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Dublin: 4 °C Friday 25 April, 2014

Cloyne report findings ‘could not be starker or more disturbing’ – Shatter

The Minister for Justice has offered a “profound apology” at the launch of the report into clerical child sex abuse in the Catholic diocese of Cloyne, which heavily criticises the diocese and the Vatican.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

THE FINDINGS OF the Cloyne report, published today, “could not be starker or more disturbing”, according to the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter.

The long-awaited Cloyne Report has been published this afternoon, detailing how the Catholic Church and the state authorities dealt will allegations of abuse in the Co Cork diocese between the years 1996  to early 2000.

Shatter said that a “private agenda of concealment” was undertaken by some church figures that had flouted their requirement to comply with child protection guidelines. The report was, in particular, highly critical of the response of former bishop John Magee in relation to allegations of child sexual abuse in the diocese. Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan, who assisted Bishop Magee, was similarly criticised.

The report also strongly condemned of the Vatican’s response to child abuse allegations in Cloyne, saying that it had been “entirely unhelpful”. The Vatican had actively supported those who flouted the guidelines by describing the child protection guidelines as a mere “study document”, it concluded.

The inquiry was ordered in 2009 by Judge Yvonne Murphy after concerns were raised about child protection practices in the diocese.

Shatter said that, among the findings of the report, the church authorities in Cloyne had failed to:

  • Report cases of abuse to the civil authorities as required
  • Put a system of support for victims in place
  • Appoint an independent advisory panel
  • Properly record cases of sex abuse

The report’s main points:

  • The “greatest failure” of the diocese was the failure to report cases of abuse to the civil authorities: the diocese failed to alert the gardaí about nine out of 15 cases that “very clearly” should have been reported
  • The primary responsibility for the failure of the child sexual abuse procedures being adhered to lies with the bishop of Cloyne at the time – John Magee – who “took little or no active interest” in implementing procedures until 2008 (12 years after the guidlines had been agreed upon)
  • The Vatican was “entirely unhelpful” in assisting clerics wishing to implement procedures – describing the guidelines as “a study document”
  • While the response of the health authorities was “adequate”, the state is in need of stronger guidelines regarding child protection
  • Although the report is generally complimentary about the gardaí’s response, the handling of three cases have caused concern

Read the full report >

Describing the revelations of the report as “truly scandalous”, Shatter said that “words are not enough nor is condemnation sufficient”. As such, he said, the government was putting the motions in place to make it a criminal offence to withhold information relating to the sexual abuse of children or vulnerable adults from the civil authorities; such an offence would carry the threat of five years in jail under new legislation, he said.

Promising that there will be “no legal grey area that inhibit such prosecutions”, Shatter said that the bill’s preparation would be a priority and that he hoped the legislation would be enacted by the autumn.

Shatter said that the Assistant Garda Commissioner Derek Byrne was investigating whether any additional action could be taken against clerics who were accused of abuse.

Although the response of the gardaí was “generally adequate and appropriate,” the Commission was concerned about the approach adopted by some gardaí in a small number of cases, Shatter added.

Report welcomed

The Archbishop of Cashel and Emly Dermot Clifford, has said he accepts the findings of the report and has “humbly” apologised” on his own behalf as Administrator of the Diocese, and on behalf of its clergy, “to all who suffered and their families.”

He said: “I am appalled by the depth of damage and suffering caused by a minority of clergy in the diocese, as outlined in this report. Great pain was also caused to the families of those abused, whose strong relationship with the Catholic Church was, in a number of cases, damaged or destroyed.”

“It appalls me that, up to 2008, 13 years after these procedures were put in place, they were still not being implemented in the Diocese of Cloyne. This means that the Church authorities in Cloyne failed some of those who were abused by not adhering to their commitments when dealing with complaints,” he continued.

“I note that in their statements issued today both the now retired Bishop John Magee and Mgr Denis O’Callaghan have accepted full responsibility and apologised for their failures in the implementation of the Church procedures, as outlined in the Report,” he added.

Cardinal Sean Brad has also welcomed the report, saying “I apologise and express my shame and sorrow at what has happened… The findings of this report confirm that grave errors of judgement were made and serious failures of leadership occurred.  This is deplorable and totally unacceptable.”

The Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan, acknowledged the considerable investigative work carried out by the Commission of Investigation and said that the report “details another difficult and sorry chapter in the story of how both church and state authorities inIreland responded to the sexual abuse of young people in our community.”

Callinan added: “While the Commission found that a number of complainants were highly complimentary about the way in which the Gardaí dealt with their complaints and that most of the gardaí who were involved in investigating the complaints outlined in the report carried out their tasks well and did so while treating the complainants with compassion and dignity, it did state that it was very concerned about the approach adopted by the gardaí in three cases.”

“It is a matter of regret to me that people did not receive the appropriate attention and action from the Garda Síochána to which they were entitled. The policies and structures now in place are very much victim-focused and designed to ensure that no one has a similar experience today.”

A culture of “astonishing non-compliance”

At the launch of the report, the Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald expressed “sincere sympathy with those who have suffered”; offered an apology “for the failings of the state”; and condemned the response of the Cloyne diocese for displaying a culture of “astonishing non-compliance”.

Fitzgerald also criticised the Vatican’s response to the crisis, saying that that it was evident its “sole concern was the protection of the institution – not the children”.

“The days of voluntarily compliance are over when it comes to child protection,” Fitzgerald said, adding that, on Friday, the new guidance document – Children First – would be published and would lay down “a robust child protection plan for the state”.

FitzGerald said that the Children First document will insist upon a consistent inter-agency approach to child protection, and will also propose to extend the remit of HIQA.

Helplines:

Cloyne diocese helpline: Freephone 1800-742800

Harbour Counselling Service (part of the HSE NCS, based in Cork and Kerry): Freephone 1800 235 234

Towards Healing: Freephone 1800 303 416 or 01 800 0963315 (U.K.)

Cork Sexual Violence Centre Freefone: 1800 496 496

The National 24 hour Helpline for Victims of Rape and Sexual Abuse: Freephone 1800 778 888

Connect: Freephone 1800 477 477

One in Four: 01 662 4070 from 9.30am to 5.30pm

The Samaritans helpline is available 24 hours a day everyday on 1850 60 90 90.


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