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Archbishop of Cashel and Emly praised for speedy reaction to abuse claims

However, the tone used to some complainants was “inconsistent” – some responses were compassionate and others were “sharp in tone”.

Image: Rock of Cashel via Shutterstock

THE ARCHDIOCESE OF Cashel and Emly was given a largely clean bill of health in the latest review of its child safeguarding measures.

The report from the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCCI) found that the archdiocese had received a “relatively small number” of allegations/suspicions/concerns regarding clerics in its area and that those that were received were generally dealt with quickly.

“Archbishop (Dermot) Clifford promptly removed priests from public ministry, usually within days of the allegations being brought to his attention,” reads the report.

There was a delay in bringing allegations to the gardai in four cases but of three of these, the complainants had not wanted the gardai involved – the fourth concerned a priest who was out of ministry and had no access to children. However, this fourth case took nine years to be reported to gardai.

The tone used towards complainants in responses from the archdiocese also came under some scrutiny. It was “inconsistent”, the Board said:

The reviewers read excellent examples of compassionate caring responses which were clearly appreciated by the complainants. In contrast there were other examples of notes and letters which were sharp in tone and approach towards victims.

The review recommended the appointment of a support person for complainants – and a stronger victim response protocol – to tackle this weakness in the archdiocese’s safeguarding process.

Poignant: the “compassion of victims”

In an interesting and poignant aside, the reviewers note “the compassion of victims towards their abuser was striking in two cases”. However: “The same compassion was not shown by one of the respondent priest, who often continued to deny the allegations.”

Overall, the Board found the cases of abuse reports in the archdiocese of Cashel and Emly to be “well managed” and that the above recommendation regarding support and process should address the inconsistencies noted.

Polish translations praised

The archdiocese received praise for its written policy on keeping children safe. Noted in particular was the fact that the child protection policy was published on posters and translated to Polish to target the “significant Polish community” in the archdiocese. These posters – in both English and Polish – were hung in churches in the archdiocese.

Archbishop Dermot Clifford of Cashel and Emly was found by the review team to be “direct in his communication” and had shown “leadership as well as giving support for all matters relevant to safeguarding children”. The reviewers also found that the team under the Archbishop were dedicated and could be relied upon to “make things happen” both at archdiocesan and local level.

For his part, Archbishop Clifford said that he recognised the great harm and trauma that had been caused by clerical abuse in the archdiocese. Since 1 January 1975, allegations of abuse, including physical abuse claims, have been made against 13 priests from the Cashel and Emly archdiocese.

Clifford said of the victims of abuse:

What happened to them was an outrageous betrayal of the priests’ calling and deserves our complete condemnation. Their suffering continues and we once again offer them not only our prayers but assistance in any way we can.

He said there was “no room for complacency” and that many volunteers, as well as archdiocesan staff, were involved in making sure the work of safeguarding children was ongoing.

A new development in Cashel and Emly since last year was the reconstitution of the safeguarding committee there – they also launched a new policy document this year that is seen as “clear and detailed” and showed that the committee was enthusiastic and serious about their role in safeguarding children.

One point which the Board wants the archdiocese to continue working on is outreach to children currently in the parish, to make sure that they are made aware of their right to be safe from abuse – and who they can speak to should they have some concerns.

In the archdiocese, when children become altar servers, both they and their parents are invited to a meeting to learn of the safeguards in place to prevent abuse.

One area where Cashel and Emly still have work to do is in offering advice and support to victims. The role of a new victim support person, as mentioned above, would be an initial step (this person has since been appointed to the archdiocese).

In summary?

The four key findings for the archdiocese of Cashel and Emly:

  1. There is strong leadership shown by Archbishop Clifford who is very well supported by his designated person, safeguarding co-ordinator and safeguarding committee.
  2. There needs to be greater formality of Church processes.
  3. The engagement and participation of children is to be applauded and should be developed further.
  4. Support for and profile of victims in the work needs to be developed and formalised.

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