A judicial inquiry into how the Diocese of Cloyne in Ireland mishandled alleged incidents of clerical sex abuse since 1996 severely criticizes the diocese for not reporting all cases to the authorities.
The Commission of Investigation Report into the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne - published July 13 - identified nine cases between 1996 and 2005 which “very clearly” should have been reported by the authorities but were not. Six other cases were forwarded to the police. This was the “greatest failure” of the diocese, says the report.
“The findings of this report confirm that grave errors of judgment were made and serious failures of leadership occurred,” said Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh, the Primate of Ireland, in a July 13 statement.
“This is deplorable and totally unacceptable,” he said, describing today as another “dark day in the history of the response of church leaders to the cry of children abused by church personnel.”
The commission – led by Judge Yvonne Murphy - looked at complaints made against 19 priests between 1996 and 2009. All but two came from people who are now adults. The report expresses alarm that the two cases involving minors went unreported to police.
The report also criticizes Bishop John Magee of Cloyne for taking little interest in the issue of child protection. “Bishop Magee had, to a certain extent, detached himself from the day to day management of child sexual abuse cases,” it says.
Bishop Magee resigned in 2010 due to continuing criticism of his handling of abuse allegations.
“This report confirms that a toxic culture of clericalism has almost destroyed the Church in Ireland and badly damaged it elsewhere - basically priests put the welfare of priests ahead of the welfare of alleged victims,”said David Quinn, the director of the Dublin-based Iona Institute, in remarks to CNA July 13.
The Iona Institute works to promote the place of religious freedom and marriage in society.
The Murphy Commission looked specifically at cases from 1996 onwards since that was the when the Catholic Church in Ireland introduced its first ever “framework document” for dealing with allegations of clerical abuse.
“Basically today’s report says that Bishop Magee handed over all responsibility for the issue to his Vicar General, Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan, who didn’t like the framework document,” Quinn said.
“He saw it as ‘too led by rules’ and ‘not pastoral enough’ towards accused priests. So allegations were not passed to the police.”
Today’s report also suggests that those who wanted to downgrade the importance of the 1996 guidelines cited the decision by the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops to brand them as “not an official document.” The effect of this, says the report, was “to strengthen the position of those who dissented from the officially stated Irish Church policy.”
Archbishop Emly Dermot Clifford, the current Apostolic Administrator of the Cloyne diocese, said in a July 13 statement that he was shocked by the report's findings. “It appalls me that, up to 2008, 13 years after these procedures were put in place, they were still not being implemented in the Diocese of Cloyne.”
The Murphy Inquiry was established by the Irish government in January 2009. Its creation was triggered by a report from the body responsible for child protection in the Catholic Church. The National Board for Safeguarding Children found child protection practices in Cloyne to be “inadequate and in some respects dangerous.” The National Board is now conducting an audit of all dioceses across Ireland.
“Overall this report will cause further disillusionment and anger amongst Irish Catholics,” Quinn predicted.
“And it will completely overshadow the fact that the vast majority of these accusations happened in the 1970s and 80s. In fact, none happened after the year 2000.”
The Cloyne case has made headlines around the world, not least because 74-year-old Bishop Magee was previously a private secretary for Popes Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II.
The report said Bishop Magee told the Irish government he was reporting all abuse allegations to authorities.
“I am sorry that this happened and I unreservedly apologize to all those who suffered additional hurt because of the flawed implementation of the Church procedures, for which I take full responsibility,” said Bishop Magee in a July 13 statement published on the Diocese of Cloyne’s website.
“I can only hope that the detailed work of the Commission and the National Board can now provide the new beginning that we all had hoped for in 1996.”
In response to the report, the Diocese of Cloyne announced a series of training and reporting steps at both the diocesan and parish levels, some of which are already in place.