'The Church is dragging its heels on child safety'
The Catholic Church's revision of penalties and procedures for dealing with clerical sexual abusers is taking far too long, the former head of the national board for safeguarding children has warned.
Ian Elliott described himself as "shocked" that the revision of canon law's abuse penalties has been going on since 2008 and there is still no sign of it nearing completion.
In his blog, 'Keeping it Simple', the safeguarding consultant said "some matters require speedier responses".
He said that a picture is being presented by the Catholic Church that all that can be done to address the problem of clerical abuse is being done.
But he said the credibility of this was thrown into doubt by the six years the revision by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts has taken so far. No date has been given for its completion.
He rapped Vatican officials for arguing legal points before bringing forward the revision. "This is too slow. It fails to give any sense of urgency to the issue," Mr Elliott told the Irish Independent.
"I am sure that there is a complex legal debate taking place in the background but it needs to be sorted out sooner rather than later.
"The code needs to be clearer and the penalties need to be applied with greater consistency throughout the church," he said.
Calling for clear direction to be given to bishops, the former chief questioned why this could not be given now "on an interim basis with a commitment to review it in the light of experience in the future".
His comments came as Marie Kane, one of two Irish survivors of clerical abuse who met Pope Francis on July 7, and her daughter received letters from the pontiff acknowledging their letters to him.
Marie Kane handed two letters to the Pope at the end of her meeting outlining her position on what needs to change in the church's handling of clerical sexual abusers. Her daughter told Pope Francis that the membership of the church would continue to decline unless the church tackled the issue.
The Pope wrote to 14-year-old Nicole Kane, from Co Carlow, this week, thanking her "for being such a support to your Mother. I am remembering you both in my prayers. Sincerely, Francis".
Marie Kane was abused by a Dublin priest over a three-year period from the age of 15 until she was 18. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin invited her to meet the Pope.