Wednesday 21 February 2018

Children put in danger

Ralph Riegel

A Catholic diocese left vulnerable children at risk of sexual abuse and even had a policy of giving gardai minimal information about a priest suspected of abuse, a damning report has found.

The report, by a Catholic Church watchdog, slated childcare protection practices in the Diocese of Cloyne, warning that they "alarmingly" failed vulnerable youngsters and left them at risk.

The shocking National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC) report -- ordered into two separate complaints of clerical child sex abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne -- found that child protection policies were inadequate, overly focussed on the needs of the accused cleric and inappropriately delayed.

It also said the diocese adopted the policy of passing minimal information onto gardai about one of the clerics at the centre of the allegations.

In another finding, the NBSC report warned: "Children have been placed at risk of harm within the Diocese of Cloyne through the inability of that diocese to respond appropriately to the information that came to it regarding child protection concerns involving the clergy.

"It failed to act effectively to limit the access to children by individuals against whom a credible complaint of child sexual abuse was made."

The revelation came as the Bishop of Cloyne, John Magee, ordered the publication last night of the NBSC report.

The publication came after a week of controversy in which Children's Minister Barry Andrews insisted it was not a Government decision to release the report -- and then blamed "confusion" over the fact a second HSE report was in existence and yet also unpublished.

Last night, Dr Magee -- a former private secretary to Pope John Paul II -- apologised to the victims of clerical sexual abuse and insisted the safety of children was his priority as Bishop.

"Today I apologise to victims of clerical sexual abuse. There can be no place in the Church, or in wider society, for those who have perpetrated such vile acts and who have betrayed the sacred trust placed in them," he declared.

Dr Magee confirmed that the NBSC concluded their review in June -- and he has fully accepted the recommendations and ordered their implementation.

"Clearly, implementing these recommendations is important but so too is public confidence in the child-protection procedures in the diocese. For this reason I am today placing the NBSC report on the public record," he added.

Criticisms

But the NBSC report included scathing criticisms of Cloyne's childcare policies and how two specific clerical abuse allegations were dealt with.

The report focused on allegations against two clerics -- Priest A who was alleged to have sexually abused a young boy working as an altar server and Father B who was alleged to have abused two girls and two boys. One of the girls claimed she was abused during Confession on a youth retreat.

In the case of Priest A, gardai were only informed by the diocese of the alleged abuser's identity six months after the initial complaint.

In the case of Father B, the report found that the policy of the diocese in their subsequent contacts with gardai was to give "minimal information" and that "no information" was to be volunteered in respect of any previous complaints involving this priest.

The report also raised serious questions about those involved in the diocese's childcare area.

It warned: "The competence of those involved in this area of work has to be questioned. Risk has not been recognised and responded to appropriately."

"Put simply, the responses of the diocese could be described as ill-advised, and too little, too late," it added.

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