Wednesday 29 March 2017

Stunning flood of claims held in secret diocesan archive

John Cooney and Ralph Riegel

A METICULOUSLY maintained secret archive on abuse allegations against clerics in the Diocese of Cloyne has shocked both victim representatives and church investigators.

The revelation came as the Irish Independent has learnt that the same archive will be used to support a flood of civil damages claims once a state-ordered probe into alleged clerical abuses in Dublin and Cloyne is published.

The archive contains stunning data -- recorded in meticulous detail -- on abuse allegations dating over several years, related correspondence, clerical responses and the diocesan handling of the individual complaints. Gardai were, at the time, unaware of significant data in the file.

The number of people alleging clerical abuse in the sprawling Cork diocese in the 1970s and 1980s has almost doubled since a shocking church child protection watchdog report was launched three years ago.

Gardai are investigating 10 separate abuse complaints against four clerics -- with the criminal probes now including material from the secret Cloyne archive.

However, the Cloyne archive does not contain any documentation indicating that the Vatican was ever aware of the alarming clerical abuse issues in the diocese.

Dr John Magee -- a private secretary to three pontiffs -- resigned last Wednesday as Bishop of Cloyne over the mishandling of abuse complaints.

He apologised to victims for the way their complaints were handled after confirming that Pope Benedict XVI had accepted the resignation offer he tabled on March 9.

It also emerged yesterday that Dr Magee was shocked at his appointment as Bishop of Cloyne in 1987 and would have preferred to stay in Rome. It is understood that relations between Pope John Paul II and Dr Magee had become "unhappy", according to sources.

Meanwhile, a key adviser to the Cork female abuse victims yesterday revealed that they were preparing a flood of civil claims once a special investigation report was published by Judge Yvonne Murphy.

The Murphy report -- triggered by the findings of the church's own National Board for the Safeguarding of Children (NBSC) -- is expected to be scathing of how Cloyne handled abuse complaints over the past two decades.

Danger

Judge Murphy is chairwoman of the Dublin Archdiocese Commission of Investigation, which has been further charged with examining the Cloyne controversy. The NBSC has warned that Cloyne, by its mishandling of abuse complaints, effectively left children in danger.

The Irish Independent has learnt that the civil damages claims will be based on:



  • The fact that, of six girls who alleged abuse by a named cleric in the 1970s and 1980s, at least one would likely have been spared abuse had the diocese acted properly as soon as the first complaints were received.
  • The diocese failed to volunteer information to gardai or alert detectives to the fact that previous abuse allegations had been levelled against a named cleric.
  • The diocese blatantly failed to ensure that one cleric, following the receipt of the first abuse allegation, was removed from all contact with children.


Six women -- all in their late 30s and early 40s -- were first to allege abuse against one Cloyne cleric over an eight-year period.

Three other women have since come forward with allegations against two other clerics.

The abuse victims held a strategy meeting three months ago -- with the majority taking legal advice on civil claims.

The cleric at the centre of six abuse claims was assigned to at least two different parishes in Cloyne -- with one of the transfers apparently occurring after the receipt of an abuse complaint.

"What is most astonishing is the level of detail the diocese kept in this (secret) archive. The records kept are very comprehensive and I know they have shocked a lot of the church child protection officials themselves now looking into this matter," the adviser added.

Civil claims against the diocese have been put on hold until the Murphy report is published -- but one north Cork solicitor, who asked to be unnamed, said the damages claims were likely to be "immeasurably strengthened" by the documents from the secret diocesan archive, the NBSC findings and the impending revelations of the Murphy report.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Cloyne last night stressed that no comment could be made on civil actions. The diocese repeated its assertion that Cloyne was in full compliance with all child protection guidelines and protocols.

Irish Independent

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