Call for prosecutions after new abuse report

There has been another shocking report on the failure of the Catholic Church to protect child abuse victims in the 26 Counties.

The report found that the Bishop of Cloyne, John Magee, misled the government by claiming the church’s guidelines for handling abuse cases were being fully complied with. It also found he falsely told the Health Service Executive (HSE) that allegations of abuse were being reported to Gardaí police.

In fact, two-thirds of complaints made between 1996 and 2008 were not reported to the Garda and no complaint was passed to the HSE during this period.

The report describes the handling of “allegations, complaints, suspicions and concerns” about 19 clerics. The allegations include rape, sexual assault, groping and other violent or obscene acts direct towards youths and children. Most of the allegations were buried, the report finds.

The only person who is named is Bishop Magee. He is alleged to have embraced a 17-year-old youth and kissed him on the forehead, which was deemed to be inappropriate but not reportable behaviour.

Bishop Magee’s second-in-command in Cloyne admitted he sometimes had more concern for abusive priests than their victims. Retired Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan said that he did not support Church policy, adopted in 1996 in the wake of the Brendan Smyth scandal, that all child sex abuse complaints must be reported to health services and gardaí.

The report also accuses the Vatican, through its opposition to the Irish bishops’ procedures for handling child sexual abuse, of giving comfort to those within the church who did not want to implement them. In a secret letter to the bishops, Rome describes the 1996 rules as “merely a study document” and not official.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said last night he would be calling the Papal Nuncio [Ambassador] to a meeting over the findings.

Bishop Magee and the Catholic primate Cardinal Seán Brady apologised for the church’s failures, while Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan apologised to the victims involved in three cases where the police failed to intervene. Justice Minister Alan Shatter expressed his “sorrow and profound apology”.

Cardinal Brady apologised and expressed his “shame and sorrow” at what happened in Cloyne. He said he would not resign because he wanted to continue the work to safeguard children from abuse.

Labour TD for Cork East Seán Sherlock said the church had failed “every practicing Catholic” by not following its own guidelines in protecting children.

“The Bishop abdicated his responsibility and in so doing re-victimised and added further to the trauma endured by survivors and their families,” he said.

Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin called on the government to demand an “urgent and formal” response from the Papal Nuncio to account for the Vatican’s role.

“The report finds that the Vatican gave individual Irish bishops the freedom to ignore the procedures which they had agreed and gave comfort and support to those who, like Monsignor O’Callaghan, dissented from the stated official Irish Church policy,” he said.

“This is a damning indictment of the role of the Vatican. The Vatican is not just a Church bureaucracy – it is a sovereign state with which the Irish State has diplomatic relations.”

One of those who contributed to the report welcomed its publication but questioned its benefit unless criminal charges and prosecutions followed.

“Where are the criminal charges and what is the State doing about that?

“Where is the accountability from the DPP and the Minister for Justice to ensure perpetrators are being brought to justice?”

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© 2011 Irish Republican News