Saturday 23 September 2017

Report on clerical abuse to be published

The High Court has paved the way for the publication of a report into the handling of clerical child sex abuse allegations in the Diocese of Cloyne.

One chapter of the Murphy Report will be censored over fears it could prejudice the upcoming criminal trial of an alleged pedophile priest, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns ruled.

The report centres on allegations of child sexual abuse against 19 clerics operating in the diocese between 1996 and 2009.

Its publication follows a two-year investigation by Circuit Court judge Yvonne Murphy, who also probed the handling of abuse claims in the Dublin Archdiocese.

The state inquiry was ordered in January 2009 after a damning report by the Catholic Church's abuse watchdog found that the then Bishop of Cloyne, John Magee, took minimal action over a series of child abuse allegations against two of his priests.

Branding his child protection inadequate and dangerous, the National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC) in the Catholic Church said that what little action the senior churchman took was also inappropriately delayed.

The one-time Vatican aide, from Newry in Co Down, faced down repeated calls to quit his post in Cork until his resignation was finally accepted by Rome in March 2010.

Barristers for Justice Minister Alan Shatter appeared before Mr Justice Kearns, the President of the High Court, to seek directions on the publication of the Cloyne report.

The court heard chapters nine to 26 deal with allegations, complaints and concerns relating to 19 clerics in the diocese. None are named but are given pseudonyms.

However legal arguments over the contents of chapter nine, which focuses on one priest who is due to stand trial in the Circuit Court, were held in camera.

The judge said he was anxious to ensure the pending prosecution would not be prejudiced or run the risk of "being derailed" by the publication of the report in full.

"There is a pending criminal trial and I take the view... that there is a risk that the trial due to take place very shortly might be prejudiced if that particular portion of the report, largely contained in chapter nine, were to be published at this stage," added Mr Justice Kearns.

The judge ordered issues surrounding the publication of chapter nine be brought back before the court on July 15.

Bishop Magee, who served as private secretary to three different popes, apologised to victims when the watchdog's scathing report was first published on the internet the week before Christmas 2008 - but he refused to resign. It detailed how he failed to inform authorities about abuse allegations.

The accusations centred on two priests in Co Cork. The first revelation, made by a serving priest in December 2004, claimed he had been abused by another priest when he was a young boy.

In a separate accusation, a second unnamed priest was accused of molesting two teenage girls over a five-year period, of abusing a 14-year-old boy and of having a year-long sexual relationship with the boy's mother.

A second audit by health chiefs, published in January 2009, found the bishop failed to tell authorities one of his priests was under investigation for abuse. At the same time, he claimed he was fully compliant with child protection guidelines.

His daily duties were later taken over by Dermot Clifford, Archbishop of neighbouring Cashel and Emly, before his long-awaited resignation was accepted.

A spokeswoman for Justice Minister Alan Shatter said counsel for the parties have to agree what deletions are necessary to the report to give effect to the judge's order.

"Once that process has been completed, the minister, together with his colleague the Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald, will have the necessary arrangements made for the publication of the report as soon as practicable," she said.

Vicim support groups said men and women sexually abused by paedophile priests have been waiting years to learn how so many allegations were mishandled.

Maeve Lewis, executive director at One in Four, said the court's decision will come as a relief to the people who were sexually abused as children in the diocese of Cloyne.

She said the postponement of the publication of one chapter was regrettable, but stressed it was necessary to ensure criminal proceedings are not prejudiced.

"Very few survivors of child sexual abuse engage with the criminal justice system," said Ms Lewis.

"It is important that the cases which come before the courts are not jeopardised in any way.

"However, we are concerned that the omission of certain sections may undermine the integrity of the report and may also mean that the full picture of how children were endangered in the Cloyne diocese will not emerge."

Connect counselling service will open its helplines this evening and over the weekend for anyone distressed by reports the Cloyne report.

Survivors of abuse can call 1800 477 477 from the Republic of Ireland and 00800 477 477 77 from the North.

A spokesman said Connect received a large volume of calls at the time of the launch of the Ryan and Murphy reports.

"Connect was established at the request of survivor groups to provide a phone counselling and support service to people who have suffered abuse," he said.

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