DUBLIN, Ireland – Two leading Irish Catholic churchmen welcomed news that a government commission will investigate the child-protection policy and practices in the Diocese of Cloyne.
Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh, Northern Ireland, and Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin welcomed the decision to extend to Cloyne a judicial inquiry already under way in the Archdiocese of Dublin.
“I welcome the measures announced today” by Irish Children’s Minister Barry Andrews “aimed at restoring full confidence in the church’s work to safeguard children,” Cardinal Brady said Jan. 7.
“I am conscious that current events concerning the handling of allegations by the Diocese of Cloyne have brought further anxiety to victims of abuse,” he said. “These events have also brought into question the efforts of thousands of volunteers and trained personnel who are fully committed to implementing best practice in safeguarding children within the church. I realize the extent to which many people feel let down and angry.”
Cardinal Brady said he was heartened by Mr. Andrews’ recognition that the Cloyne Diocese had improved “the manner in which child-protection matters are handled.”
A statement from the Dublin Archdiocese said Archbishop Martin “wishes to state that he fully endorses the statement made by Cardinal Sean Brady.”
The decision to extend the judicial investigation was made by Mr. Andrews despite the fact that a national audit by the Health and Safety Executive, a government agency, had recommended that there was no need to take such an action because the Cloyne Diocese, headed by Bishop John Magee, had made improvements in its procedures.
Speaking at the publication of the agency’s audit findings, Mr. Andrews said: “I am not satisfied that Cloyne is operating procedures to the highest standards; I believe that there is evidence that points to the fact that Bishop Magee, as the responsible person, did not faithfully report actual compliance with child-protection procedures and the manner in which clerical sexual abuse allegations have been dealt with.”
An internal but independent church body, the National Safeguarding Board for Children in the Catholic Church, found that the Diocese of Cloyne had not adhered to the church’s own guidelines on dealing with allegations of child abuse. The board found that the welfare of accused priests was put before the welfare of victims and, as a result, children were placed in further danger of abuse.
In particular, the board found that police were not notified about five allegations of clerical child abuse reported to the diocese.
Since the board’s findings were made public in December, there have been repeated calls for Bishop Magee to resign. The bishop, who was a personal secretary to three popes, has indicated that he wishes to remain in office.
The commission investigating how child abuse allegations were handled by the Dublin Archdiocese between 1940 and April 2004 is expected to release its report by the end of January. Andrews said he expects the commission to be able to report on child-protection measures in Cloyne by July.