Concern about retired priests from UK in Cork
“There is no place in the church for those who would harm the young.”
That was the message from Bishop of Cork and Ross, Dr John Buckley, at the launch of the Audit and Review of Safeguarding Practice in the diocese of Cork and Ross.
Twenty six priests were the subject of allegations of abuse from 1975 to the present day, with 50 allegations in total being made in that period. The majority of the abuse allegations happened between 1989 and 2011 with the abuse itself occurring in the 60s and 70s. Church authorities could not give the date of the most recent case of abuse.
Of the 26 priests accused of abuse, eight are now dead. Three have returned to ministry and 15 are either out of ministry and under supervision or have left the priesthood.
The diocese met 42 out of the 47 criteria set down in the report with the five criteria outstanding in relation to "technical matters currently in progress", according to the Director of Safeguarding Children in the diocese, Cleo Yates.
However, one abuse survivors group has described the steps taken by the Catholic Church as “tokenism.”
“Anybody that is self-governing and self-investigating matters of abuse simply doesn’t work,” said Tom Cronin of the Irish Survivors of Abuse International, based in Cork.
"Just because there hasn’t been any allegations made in the last 20 years doesn’t mean to say that it hasn’t gone on. You cannot put enough checks and balances when you come to child protection. This is a PR exercise.”
Tom called for an independent board to be established and described the church as “still in denial.”
“How can you progress to the future without facing the past? They still self-investigate under canon law instead of recognizing the legal laws of this State. We need an board independent of the church who have the powers to investigate and monitor so that we can bring actual clarity to protecting children.”
The report expressed concern about a number of priests who have retired into the diocese from the United Kingdom, three of whom have convictions of abuse of children outside of Ireland. While they are not under the supervision of Bishop Buckley, Gardaí and the Health Service Executive are aware of these priests and their movements are under supervision.
Church authorities insisted that no priest with convictions serves within any parish in the diocese as they do not have a card celebret, which is a letter of good standing from the Bishop in their original diocese, no matter what the country or religious order.
“Three priests were restored to ministry after the Gardaí, the HSE and the safeguarding board conducted a full investigation,” said Bishop Buckley.
“If Gardai don’t press charges, we also carry out our own investigation under canon law. We have our own recourse to sanction and to the Congregation of the Faith in Rome and these procedures have been invoked in this diocese.”
The Congregation of the Faith is effectively the Church’s own court that deals with matter of morals and faith.
Seven recommendations were made by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, which conducted the report.
Of the seven, two have already been met and the others are due to be completed by the end of this year, with a pastoral letter on the matter of safeguarding children, specifically inviting victims of clerical child abuse and other complainants to come forward to be read this coming weekend at masses in the diocese.
"These structures of review and accountability have served the Church well in recent years,” said Bishop Buckley
“I offer my apologies to all who have suffered abuse in the diocese. No gesture of apology or repentance will make up for what they suffered. They were let down by the people who professed the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
One allegation has been made about a priest originally from Ireland but now living outside Irish jurisdiction. The allegations have referred to holiday visits to Cork. The allegations have been made known to the leader of the religious order he belongs to but the diocese has no role regarding priests originally from Cork but now living overseas.
The audit can be read in full at the diocese website. Further information on counselling and support is also available from www.irishabusesurvivors.com.
Recommendations from the report and diocese response
1. Bishop Buckley needs to ensure that the Cork and Ross Diocesan Child Safeguarding Committee reviews and, if necessary, revises the current Safeguarding Children in the Diocese of Cork and Ross to satisfy himself that it is consistent with Children First 2011 and with the HSE guidance document, Child Protection Welfare Practice Handbook 2011
Diocese response: In progress. Date for completion: March 2013
2. That Bishop Buckley extend the employment period of the second Designated Person post to three years, to be reviewed at that time.
Diocese response: Done
3. That the Diocesan Safeguarding Committee develop a Child Safeguarding Training Strategy for the approval and implementation of Bishop Buckley.
Diocese response: Date for completion: November 2012.
4. That the Diocese of Cork and Ross website home page have a specific Safeguarding Children icon for ease of access.
Diocese response : Done
5. That Bishop Buckley directs the Diocesan Safeguarding Committee to develop a Safeguarding Children Communications policy with the assistance of appropriate professional communications personnel, for his endorsement and implementation.
Diocese response: In progress, date for completion November 2012
6. That Bishop Buckley, as a next step towards establishing a best practice regime in the Diocese of Cork and Ross, would issue a Pastoral Letter on the matter of Safeguarding Children, in which he would specifically invite victims of clerical child abuse and other complainants to come forward.
Diocese response: Ready for issue, to be read at all masses in the diocese on the weekend 8/9 September
7. That Bishop Buckley direct the Diocese of Cork and Ross Safeguarding Committee to develop an action plan that indicates what steps will be taken to keep children safe, who is responsible for implementing these measures and when these will be completed for his endorsement and implementation.
Diocese response: Partially prepared. Completion date December 2012