Bishop admits involvement in secrecy oath for abuse victims
Published 22/03/2010 | 05:00
ANOTHER Irish bishop has admitted being involved in an investigation into clerical abuse claims in which victims were made to sign oaths of secrecy.
The Bishop of Clogher, Joseph Duffy, said in a statement that he had been been party to at least one civil settlement involving a claim made against the diocese in which a non-disclosure agreement was signed between the diocese and the claimant.
He told a Sunday newspaper that it was to his "regret" he did not pass on the abuse claims to police when he first became aware of the allegations in 1989.
Bishop Duffy, who was unavailable for comment last night, told the 'Sunday Business Post' he was bound to secrecy by the victim's parents at the time of the offence, but that he would not now be restricted by such a condition.
Last week, a spokesman for Bishop Duffy said he had co-operated fully with the statutory authorities by sharing "all known records with them".
The development follows the revelation that Cardinal Sean Brady took part in a similar process in 1975 concerning the abuse of two boys by paedophile priest Fr Brendan Smith. They were asked to take a vow of silence as part of an internal investigation by clergy.
The Catholic Communications Office said that when he was a priest, Fr Brady was asked to conduct this canonical inquiry but he had no decision-making powers regarding its outcome.
The cardinal's admission followed another controversy in which the Bishop of Derry, Seamus Hegarty, was embroiled in a case in which an out-of-court settlement was agreed between a priest and a woman who claimed she was abused by him as a child over a 10-year period.
A statement from the bishop last week said that the diocese had made no contribution to the £12,000 paid by the priest as part of the settlement.
"A confidentiality agreement was not proposed by the diocese but was agreed. This agreement was in the year 2000, five years after the civil authorities were first aware of the matter," Bishop Hegarty said.
The bishop admitted Cardinal Brady had made an awful error in "judgment" in not reporting Smyth to police.
However, Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor Donal McKeown defended the embattled cardinal and insisted this did not make him a bad person.
Bishop McKeown said people had a right to feel sceptical if the current leadership of the church failed to address properly the clerical child abuse scandal.
He said the cardinal could have handled better the controversy over the church's 1975 investigation into Smyth, and he "recognises that himself".
"People must be accountable for their actions. And the cardinal has certainly done that, except that in the light of where we are now, he made an awful error of judgment and he's very, very ashamed of that," Bishop McKeown said.
The cleric added that even if people made bad decisions, that didn't make them a bad person.