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But the next round of reports will not be published until next May or June at the earliest, and they will only focus on four dioceses and two congregations.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