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Saturday 23 August 2014

Whistle-blowers needed for the church, says child protection watchdog

Ralph Riegel

Published 12/05/2014 | 10:57

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Bishop William Crean
Bishop William Crean

A CHURCH child protection watchdog body has recommended that an Irish diocese rocked by abuse allegations set up a special whistle-blowers policy.

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The National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC) issued a total of eight recommendations as it said that major progress has been made by the Diocese of Cloyne in enhancing child protection standards over the past three years.

The Bishop of Cloyne, Dr William Crean, said that work is already underway in implementing the eight recommendations by the NBSC.

Dr Crean, who was appointed bishop last year, repeated the apology to anyone "who suffered abuse at the hands of a minority of priests if Cloyne."

Central to the NBSC's proposed changes are a new whistle-blowers policy in the sprawling east Cork diocese to ensure anyone with fears about a child can raise those concerns in a speedy and safe manner.

"(The whistleblowers policy will) include procedures (so) a member of the Church can use (them) to express concern about a child," the NBSC recommended.

"It may be helpful to outline a number of reporting options which could be utilised by an individual who is considering making a report regardless of who their concern is about," the report added.

The NBSC also included recommendations about victim support, clerical and lay training, enhanced printed child protection The NBSC update on Cloyne was released at a special conference in east Cork hosted today (Monday) by the Bishop of Cloyne Dr William Crean.

Dr Crean, who was ordained bishop of the sprawling east Cork diocese in January 2013, vowed to make child protection measures his priority.

Earlier this year, the Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin hailed the role of the NBSC in bringing Irish child protection standards to amongst the highest levels in the world.

Dr Martin, who took up his archdiocese role in 2004, warned that there were a dozen clerical paedophiles active in the archdiocese in the 1970s.

He described the handling of the challenges posed by those abusers as “a tragedy” and warned that the Church’s initial approach to such abuse allegations from the 1970s as “inexcusable.”

Dr Martin removed two priests from ministry and said that, thanks to the work of the NBSC, “immense progress” has been achieved in Ireland in implementing world-leading child protection standards.

The NBSC report into the Diocese of Cloyne’s mishandling of child abuse allegations sparked one of the greatest crisis in the history of the Irish church when it was published in December 2008.

That NBSC report triggered Judge Yvonne Murphy, who was already examining the handling of clerical abuse allegations in Dublin, to add the Cork diocese to her remit.

Ordered in 2009, her report examined how Cloyne handled allegations levelled against a total of 19 clerics over almost 20 years.

Published in July 2011, only one chapter of the Cloyne Report was withheld – the 42-page Chapter 9 – which dealt entirely with allegations against one cleric, known by the pseudonym, Fr Ronat.

The overall 27 chapter Murphy report found that while Cloyne publicly supported child protection measures, it was never genuinely committed to their implementation.

It was highly critical of former Bishop Dr John Magee and his child protection delegate, Vicar-General Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan.

The report found that, as recently as 2009, Cloyne was effectively ignoring the Church’s own child protection guidelines.

Both men have since publicly apologised for their mistakes and asked forgiveness from both victims and their families.

Despite the fact that abuse allegations were made against a total of 19 clerics in Cloyne, only one has ever been successfully prosecuted.

In specific cases in Cloyne, gardai were not properly informed of abuse allegations levelled against members of the clergy.

The report publication sparked a diplomatic row between the Government and the Vatican.

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