Catholic dioceses child practices review to take five years

THE ONGOING review into the Catholic Church’s safeguarding practices could take another five years.

Given the amount of work needed to review child protection practices at all the country’s dioceses, the review is ‘unlikely’ to be completed before 2016.

On Wednesday, when the first set of reviews were published, the National Board of Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church boss Ian Elliott said it would take ‘at least two years’.

But it emerged last night that many of those facing review do not even know when their review is set to start.

Others are simply refusing to say publicly whether or not a review of their child protection policies and practices was either under way or has a date set for when it is due to start.

So far just five dioceses – Ardagh, Dromore, Kilmore, Derry and Raphoe, and the Tuam Archdiocese – have had their reviews completed.

Those reports, which were all critical of the way allegations of abuse had been handled in the past but complimentary of how they are handled now, were published on Tuesday.

They revealed that 164 abuse allegations had been lodged with Gardaí in the past 36 years against 85 priests, but that there were just eight convictions.

But the next round of reports will not be published until next May or June at the earliest, and they will only focus on four dioceses and two congregations.

One diocese to be reviewed is Limerick, where 23 priests have had abuse allegations made against them since 1940, but none have been convicted.

Until 2009, Limerick shared a case management committee with the Diocese of Cloyne.

The committee was heavily criticised in the Cloyne Report for putting the interests of abusers above those of their victims.

Last night, a spokesman for the Limerick diocese said: ‘We can confirm that the Limerick diocese wrote to the NBSCCC in November and requested that it be the next diocese audited by them. We expect this to take place in the Spring.’

Of the 17 dioceses contacted yesterday and asked a range of questions about their priests and the current state of any

NBSCCC review, just two – Down & Connor and Limerick – answered them.

It also emerged last night that the report into Tuam contained a significant error.

In the audit, both the HSE and the gardaí were accused of a series of failures in how they had historically handled allegations of clerical abuse.

But it also made a categorical statement about the current handling of allegation.

It stated: ‘It is often the case that once an allegation is forwarded to (civil authorities), there is a significant delay in establishing if a crime has been committed and if there is any risk to children.’

However, each ‘is’ in the statement should have read ‘was’.

Last night a spokesman for the NBSCCC admitted: ‘This should have referred to matters in a historical sense. It is a mistake.’

A spokeswoman for Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said last night: ‘We are so far only looking at a very small part of the bigger picture here and the Minister wants to see all the information.

‘She is particularly interested in the outcome of the ongoing HSE audit.’

The release of that report is due in the coming weeks.

And the minister has said she is waiting on the report’s publication before making her mind up about whether or not to hold a full statutory inquiry into clerical abuse.

Bishop John McGee decision ‘doesn’t go far enough’

BISHOP John Magee’s decision to step down as Bishop of Cloyne does not go far enough, his critics said last night.

Sex abuse victims’ charities continued to insist he resign over the way he handled allegations of abuse against members of his clergy.

The Vatican announced early yesterday that Bishop Magee will relinquish his diocesan powers to an apostolic administrator, Thurles-based Archbishop Dermot Clifford. Dr Magee will retain the title of Bishop of Cloyne.

Organisations such as One in Four and the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre have called for his resignation since severe criticisms against his diocese appeared in a Catholic Church-commissioned report last June.

The National Board for Safeguarding Children concluded his child-protection practices were ‘inadequate and in some respects dangerous’.

Despite calls in recent months by Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and Government ministers that he ‘review’ his position, Bishop Magee had steadfastly refused to resign.

The move announced yesterday, claimed the bishop, was at his own instigation so that he could dedicate his time to a Government commission of inquiry into child protection practices at Cloyne.

But last night, One in Four executive director Maeve Lewis said: ‘He should resign fully.’

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre chief executive Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop agreed, adding: ‘I don’t know why the Pope didn’t go the whole hog and remove him entirely.

‘We have consistently called for his resignation.’

As well as retaining his title, Bishop Magee will also hang onto his car, his staff and his bishop’s palace residence at St Coleman’s Cathedral in Cobh, Co. Cork, ‘for the foreseeable future’.

In a statement issued on his behalf, he said Archbishop Clifford’s appointment will enable Bishop Magee to ‘devote the necessary time and energy to cooperating fully with the Government Commission of Inquiry into child protection practices and procedures in the Diocese of Cloyne, as he has already committed himself to do’.

And at 6pm Mass at St Coleman’s yesterday, he insisted that everything was being done to ensure proper childprotection practices were fully in place.

And Bishop Magee added: ‘I am conscious of the fact that, as I have to give so much of my time and energy to the task ahead, conducting the normal administration of the diocese, in all its aspects, would prove to be very difficult.

‘ The Cloyne diocese is currently dealing with complaints by six alleged victims of abuse against three priests and a member of a teaching order.

Catholic Church receives new group writ over abuse claims

THE Catholic church is being sued by victims of a former priest who they claim abused them when they were residents of a home for the deaf.

Eight men in their 40s who claim Neil Gallanagh abused them are taking part in a group action against him. If successful, they could be awarded up to £50,000 each – bringing the total payout to more than £500,000.

A writ has been delivered to the Catholic Diocese of Leeds in England, where the former priest is based, and the case is expected to come to court by next summer, 2007.

It’s the latest of a number of writs lodged against the Catholic Church.

This latest case follows Gallanagh’s conviction in 2005 when he pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting two pupils of St John’s Catholic School for the Deaf, in Boston Spa, between 1975 and 1980.

Instead of receiving the jail sentence his victims had hoped for, the 76-year-old – who was a resident chaplain at the home where he moved after serving at a parish in Ireland – walked free and was given a six-month suspended at Leeds Crown Court.

It was agreed that a further 12 charges against Gallanagh of indecent assault dating back to the 1970s and 1980s, involving five other under-16 boys – including an 11-year-old – would be “left on the file”.

The case is being brought by the same legal firm that is representing 140 victims of abuse by Catholic priests at another UK care home.

David Greenwood, of Jordan’s Solicitors, in West Yorkshire, England, said: “Our firm was approached after the court case against Neil Gallanagh.

“His victims were not happy with the outcome and still believe there is a need for further justice.

“It is our information that Gallanagh had committed sex offences before he worked at St John’s and the Catholic Church were aware about his activities.

“We know he has other victims out there but many are just too frightened or intimidated by the Catholic Church to want to take the matter further.

“Their lives and those of the eight men who are taking this action have been ruined and the fact that Gallanagh was able to walk free despite being convicted of abuse just added insult to injury.”

John Grady, spokesman for the Diocese of Leeds, confirmed the writ had been received.

But he said last night: “The matter is in the hands of our solicitors and we have no comment to make.”

ENDS

140 sex abuse victims sue Catholic Church

THE Christian Brothers are being sued by 140 men who claim they were sexually abused by staff at one of the De La Salle order’s former care homes.
The group action is one of the biggest of its kind ever brought and could – if successful – cost the Catholic Church more than £1 million.
It involves abuse carried out between the 1968 and 1992 at the UK home when the men were all aged between 13 and 16.
More than 18 months has been spent planning the action, which follows the successful prosecution of the care home’s “evil” former principle, Brother James Carragher in 2004.
Once hailed as an internationally respected child welfare champion, the 68-year-old was jailed for 14 years after he was convicted of five counts of buggery and 11 counts of indecent assault against boys at St William’s Roman Catholic Community Home in Middlesborough between 1968 and 1992.
When he was convicted, Detective Superintendent Richard Kerman – the officer in charge of the police investigation into abuse allegations at St William’s – described Carragher as the “most evil man he had ever met”.
The ten-week trail heard evidence from 43 witnesses and Carragher’s conviction came seven years after he finished five years of seven-year sentence for more sexual offences – one count of buggery, one of attempted buggery and 12 counts of indecent assualt – involving nine boys at the school.
Solicitor David Greenwood, of Jordan’s Solicitors, said last night: “The victims’ lives have been irreparably damaged because of the abuse they suffered at the hands of certain staff at St William’s.
“It’s difficult to put a price on any one act of abuse but a single rape generally gets around £60,000 in compensation, so the figures will vary according to the nature of the abuse.
“I am confident that the amount could total more than £1 million.”
Fr Derek Turnham, a spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Middlesborough, said: “This is a very complex case and our insurance company has instructed us to take this matter to court.
“Although we owned the building in which the school was housed, we did not run it and in any case, it was approved by the local education authority.
“It should be worth bearing in mind that only one man has ever been found guilty of abusing pupils there and he is currently in jail.
“The church deeply regrets that these things happened and the school was closed in 1992.”
Greenwood, from West Yorkshire, said the first of a series of writs have already been delivered to the Catholic Church offices in Middlesborough and that he expects the case to finally get to court by December 2007.
ENDS

Casey admits confusion in first interview for six years.

EAMON Casey’s name may be cleared of recent abuse allegations against him and a plane ticket booked for his long-awaited return home to Ireland.
But the last person to know about it yesterday was . . . the man himself.
As far as the 78-year-old former Bishop of Galway is concerned he’s staying in the UK and has yet to be told if his name has actually been cleared.
The decision is believed to have been made over the past week after a Catholic church enquiry into sex abuse claims against him by a UK-based woman with a history of mental problems.
As a result of the allegations – about an alleged incident that his accuser claimed took place more than 30 years ago – Dr Casey had to step down from his post as a parish priest while they were investigated.
That investigation is now over.
But last night, in his first interview in more than six years, he said: “The whole situation is very, very bizarre.”
Speaking from the small west Sussex parish church of Our Lady of Fatima in Staplefield – where he has been based for the past six years – he said: “That I have been cleared may be a headline in all the papers but I still have not been told myself.
“I can’t tell you how I feel or say anything about being cleared because I simply haven’t been told by anybody that the accusations against me are false, or that they have been withdrawn.
“The police haven’t spoken to me at all about this, and nobody has written or phoned to tell me I have been cleared. So I just don’t don’t know.
“That’s the gospel truth and to be honest – not that I was ever particularly good with them – I’m just lost for words on the subject.”
He added: “I am genuinely not avoiding anything here or running away from anything, I’m just telling you the facts.
“It’s bizarre and I feel very, very frustrated by this..”
And as far as returning to Ireland was concerned, he said: “I’m making no decision about it whatsoever until I hear formally that my name has been cleared.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m sticking and staying where I am until then. And I’ll only decide whether or not to go back to Ireland when I’m told.”
Asked how he’s coped over the past weeks, Dr Casey – who was trying to get hold of his lawyer last night in a bid to find out what was going on – said: “As the man says, ‘I’m surviving, thanks be to God.’
“My full ‘release’ won’t come to me until I get formal confirmation and I’ve absolutely no idea when that is likely to come or where it’s likely to come from.
“I’m currently in the process of writing letters to 56 people who wrote to me and have been very supportive to me throughout all this yet I’m writing these letters without actually knowing what’s going on.”
Pressed again on the issue of whether or not he will return to Ireland when he does get confirmation – as predicted by Ireland on Sunday last year – that his name has been cleared, he laughed as he repeated: “I’ll make that decision when I’m told.”
Earlier this week, reports claimed Dr Casey was to be cleared of all the allegations against him and that an announcement was due to be made about preparations for his home-coming.
Gardai – who, like the UK police, haven’t interviewed Dr Casey – are said to believe that there is no substance to the claims made against him.
The allegations last December were a massive blow to someone who has not only struggled with ill health because of a series of “mini strokes” in recent years but also someone who has worked tirelessly for charity and among parishioners of his remote country parish.
As well as holding church services, he was also a regular visitor to nearby Princess Royal Hospital local hospital in Haywards Heath, offering pastoral care to up to 150 patients-a-day virtually all year round.
His work and the years that have passed since he resigned as Bishop of Galway in 1992 over his relationship with Annie Murphy have done much to rehabilitate the colourful cleric.
His affair with the American divorcee, which started in 1973, resulted in the birth of a son – who is now 30 – and for whom Dr Casey is believed to have paid out around €100,000 in maintenance.
Just before the allegations against him came to light, Dr Casey had told friends: “There is nothing on my conscience whatsoever about this claim and I am very much at peace and ease with myself.
“I have done nothing wrong.
Friends told Ireland on Sunday last year how bitterly upset he had been not to have been able to thank all the parishioners he had grown close to over the years as he was effectively forced into hiding while the investigation was carried out.
He had been due to retire last this year anyway.
The woman behind the Dr Casey allegation could now herself face either a police investigation or a civil action for damages.
Her recollection of the alleged assault when she was a young girl growing up in Limerick is believed to have came about as a result of Recovered Memory Syndrome (RMS).
While attending intensive therapy sessions to help her find possible reasons behind behavioural problems she has been experiencing, she suddenly “remembered” the alleged assault.
Although mindful of the controversy associated with RMS in court cases, therapists immediately contacted Catholic Church authorities and Dr Casey volunteered to step down.
Last night a close friend said: “The past few weeks have been horrendous.
“He has known all along that he was innocent and yet even now, he is still having to put up with the weight of this whole business.
“It really is sad that nobody can just give the poor man a ring and put him out of his misery. Hasn’t he endured enough?”
Bishop of the Arundul and Brighton, Dr Kieran Conry said “We’d be happy to have him back.”
Rev Stuart Geary, the diocesan spokesperson, added of the news the claims against Dr Casey have been dismissed: “We recognised that that was going to be the likely outcome.”

ENDS

Eamon Casey tells friends “conscience is clear”

NOTHING will come of the recent abuse allegation made against Eamon Casey, the former Bishop assured close friends days before it was made public.
In a series of private meetings before he went into hiding, the 78-year-old told them: “I have done absolutely nothing wrong.
“My conscience is clear.”
The 78-year-old told them that while any investigation into the claim could attract the “wrong kind” of publicity to the church, he would welcome one.
Gardai have yet to interview the former Bishop of Galway about the allegation – which was made by a UK-based woman in her fifties with a history of mental problems and who has made similar and unsubstantiated claims against other priests in the past.
Her latest claim came to light two weeks ago, after Dr Casey’s parish priest informed parishioners during Sunday Mass.
He had just a few days to tell a small number of people himself before news of the allegation was made public.
This has come as a massive blow to someone who has not only struggled with ill health – because of what friends describe as a series of “mini strokes” – in recent years but also someone who has worked tirelessly for charity and among parishioners of a remote country parish.
His work and the years that have passed since he resigned as Bishop of Galway in 1992 over his relationship with Annie Murphy have done much to rehabilitate the colourful cleric.
His affair with the American divorcee, which started in 1973, resulted in the birth of a son – who is now 30 – and for whom Dr Casey is believed to have paid out around €100,000 in maintenance.
Reeling from this latest blow to his reputation, he told friends: “There is nothing on my conscience whatsoever about this claim and I am very much at peace and ease with myself.
“I have done nothing wrong.
“I sleep easy in my bed, I get up in the morning and say my prayers and I go about my daily business.”
When each of his friends – including his Bishop Kieran Conry and his close friend Fr Martin Jakabus – asked what he intended doing, he said: “Even though I know it won’t come to anything, I’ll step down straight away and let an investigation take place.
“It is deeply unfortunate both because the claim against me is just not true and because I have to stop working in a parish I have been so happy in.”
And he even apologized for “any inconvenience” the allegation caused the church.
Bishop Kieran Conly, the Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, said: “This is all very unfortunate.
“Eamon has been extremely popular here and he brought with him a wealth of experience.
“I met him on the Friday before news of the allegation was made public and he really was at peace with himself.
“He told me he had a clear conscience.
“I could tell however, that this has really knocked him back.”
For the past six years, he has served and lived at Our Lady of Fatima’s Church in Staplefield – a very small West Sussex church that is a far cry from his previous postings.
Most of his possessions remain in the small priest’s house attached to the church – his radio still sits on top of the fridge in the kitchen at the back of the house, his black jackets hang on the backs of two chairs and a pair of black suit trousers hangs from the back of the kitchen door.
A solitary coffee cup sits in the kitchen sink, while two plates, a saucer and a glass dry on the side.
Although he was nowhere to be seen, deliveries to the house carry on as normal – a DHL courier knocking at the chipped wooden front door with a small envelope of “Urgent Documents” one minute and an oil delivery the next.
Attached to the one-bedroom priest’s house, the small faded white church building is usually host to twice-weekly services for around 140 parishioners.
Those who would speak to us were shocked at news of any claim being made against Dr Casey.
One couple said: “We heard something but don’t believe a word of it.
“He is a thoroughly decent man who has always struck us as utterly devoted to his work both in the parish and at the hospital where he was a chaplain.”
A local pub landlord said he used to see Dr Casey regularly strolling around in the village’s vast green early most mornings.
He said: “I haven’t seen him around for about two weeks but I used to bump into him when I’d walk my dogs.
“He generally seemed to be preoccupied in thought but he was always very friendly and would always say hello.”
Builders at a next door property said they regularly saw him walking around in circles at the front of his church, his head bowed in prayer and clutching an open bible in his hands.
Another neighbour added: “I don’t know anything about what has happened but what I will say about Dr Casey is that he has always ever been a very pleasant and decent person.
“His church services are very popular locally and he is very well respected and liked.”
Dr Casey lost his driving license following a recent drink-drive conviction and has had to rely on a friend to drive him around the parish and to a nearby hospital, where he served as chaplain.
For virtually every day of the past six years, he has visited up to 150 patients-a-day at The Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath.
There he consoled relatives of people who had died or counseling the sick in the wards.
According to a close friend, he never once missed a visit and regardless of what he was doing – would always be prepared to visit someone at home or in hospital.
Not wanting to be named because they had been told not to talk to the press, the friend said: “He is not bothered about the claim as such because he knows it’s absolute nonsense.
“He believes it all stems back to the unfortunate notoriety he acquired years ago because of his relationship with Annie Murphy.
“But the one thing that upsets him most about all this is that he hasn’t had a chance to say thank-you and goodbye to all the people he has worked with and met over the last six years.”
Fr Martin Jakabus, head of St Paul’s Haywards Heath Parish, said: “Given the standards under which we now operate it is enough that an allegation has been made to remove a priest from public ministry whether the allegation is true or false.
“The particular and peculiar circumstances surrounding the said allegation make it very unlikely that it is in any way true.
“Fr Eamon is very saddened to end his time with us under these circumstances.
“He is also saddened that he has been unable to say goodbye properly.”