The Irish Times |
Thursday, July 14, 2011
PAUL CULLEN, PATSY McGARRY and PADDY AGNEW
THE CLOYNE REPORT ON THE BISHOP AND THE VATICAN: TOUGH NEW laws to force the disclosure of information on child sexual abuse are to be introduced in response to another damning report on the failure of the Catholic Church to protect child abuse victims.
The withholding of information about serious offences against a child will be made a criminal offence, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter announced yesterday following the publication of the report on the handling of sex abuse claims in the diocese of Cloyne.
Further measures, including a statutory child protection code, are to be announced by Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald tomorrow.
The report found that the Bishop of Cloyne, John Magee, misled the minister for children by claiming the churchâs guidelines for handling abuse cases were being fully complied with. It also found he falsely told the Health Service Executive (HSE) that allegations of abuse were being reported to gardaÃ.
In fact, two-thirds of complaints made between 1996 and 2008 were not reported to the Garda and no complaint was passed to the HSE during this period.
The report accuses the Vatican, through its opposition to the Irish bishopsâ procedures for handling child sexual abuse, of giving comfort to dissenters within the church who did not want to implement them. In a secret letter to the bishops, Rome describes the 1996 rules as âmerely a study documentâ and not official.
Senior Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi issued an emphatic âno commentâ when asked about the Cloyne report. He did not rule out making a comment at a later date, by which time the Holy See would have had a chance to assess the report fully.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said last night he would be calling the papal nuncio to a meeting over the findings.
Bishop Magee and the Catholic primate Cardinal SeÃ¡n Brady apologised for the churchâs failures in relation to child protection in the diocese, while Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan apologised to the victims involved in three cases where the report was critical of the approach adopted his officers.
Mr Shatter expressed his âsorrow and profound apologyâ.
The âlearning curveâ used to excuse the poor handling of complaints in earlier reports does not apply in Cloyne, the report points out. All of the allegations were made after 1996, when new procedures were put in place to deal with complaints.
As Ms Fitzgerald pointed out: âThis is not a catalogue of failure from a different era. This is not about an Ireland of 50 years ago. This is about Ireland now.â
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