Sunday 25 February 2018

Cloyne cleric urges his fellow priests to defy 'culture of fear'

Ralph Riegel

A PRIEST in the scandal-hit diocese of Cloyne has urged his fellow clerics to speak out and defy the "culture of fear" that pervades the Catholic Church.

Fr Joseph McGuane has become the first ordinary cleric in Cloyne to comment on the child abuse controversies that have rocked the diocese and the entire church in Ireland.

Fr McGuane -- who is a chaplain in St Raphael's Centre, a community hospital in Youghal -- said that ordinary people were very angry that "justice has taken a back seat".

"The leadership has sailed us into a perfect storm and there must be a new way of thinking to get us out," he said.

"The church is in a bigger crisis now than it was back in 1994 when the Fr Brendan Smyth scandal brought down the government."

Fr McGuane argued that the church now needed to totally transform itself and guarantee greater transparency.

But he acknowledged that ordinary diocesan clerics faced the task of rolling back "a culture of cover-up and dictatorship".

"It would be a great help if my peers spoke out -- sadly, I am the only one. There is a culture of fear within the diocese. Good people are afraid of the repercussions if they do speak out -- it is hard to break ranks," he said.

The cleric said that the emphasis within the church has been on authority and control from the top down -- with desperately negative consequences.


Fr McGuane also hit out at former Bishop John Magee, who vanished weeks before the Cloyne report was published.

The whereabouts of the Newry-born bishop -- a former private secretary to three Popes -- is still a mystery.

In Dr Magee's absence, Archbishop Dermot Clifford of Cashel and Emly had to handle queries over the shocking revelations in the Cloyne Report last month.

Fr McGuane said it was now clear that Dr Magee should have resigned three years ago when Cloyne's problems over its handling of clerical abuse allegations were first highlighted by the church's own watchdog body, the National Board for the Safeguarding of Children (NBSC).

"I said back in 2009 that Bishop Magee should resign. The head of FAS, the Taoiseach, the Financial Regulator and the heads of the banks, they all fell on their swords. Why should it be any different in the church?"

Fr McGuane insisted that there was hope for the future, and he said men of "courage and conviction" like Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin have signalled the way forward.

"The church is finished if we do not learn lessons. It is an urgent situation -- let's speak out together now before it is too late," he added.

Another cleric, Augustinian Friar Fr Michael Mernagh, said there were still many questions raised by the Cloyne Report that needed answers.

Irish Independent

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