Reporting allegations of child abuse


Madam, – Archbishop of Cashel and Emly Dermot Clifford said that the church procedures on child protection were now more rigorous than those applied by the State, adding, “The State doesn’t have mandatory reporting” (Home News, February 18th).

He suggests by this comment that the church does! He went on to say he felt “confidentiality, where a person’s good name is concerned, is going to remain a problem when it comes to informing statutory authorities about allegations of child sex abuse”. Bishop Martin Drennan of Galway on Wednesday in a radio interview claimed that full and proper child protection procedures had been followed since the introduction of the Framework Document (Green Book) in 1996 and so were in operation during his period as auxiliary bishop in Dublin.

I have heard the bishops of this country since 1996 make claims that all allegations are reported to the civil authorities, their child protection policies rigorously followed. Do they feel comfortable in making these claims as the majority of people in the country may never read the following section from the Murphy report covering this issue?

“7.13 Msgr [John] Dolan went on to say that the understanding behind the Framework Document, was that each diocese or religious institute would enact its own particular protocol for dealing with complaints. This in fact never took place because of the response of Rome to the Framework Document. According to Msgr [Alex] Stenson, Rome had reservations about its policy of reporting to the civil authorities. The basis of the reservation was that the making of a report put the reputation and good name of a priest at risk. Msgr Dolan told the Commission that the Congregation for the clergy in Rome had studied the document in detail and emphasised to the Irish bishops that it must conform to the canonical norms in force. The congregation indicated that “the text contains procedures and dispositions which are contrary to canonical discipline. In particular ‘mandatory reporting’ gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and canonical nature”. Msgr Dolan said that the congregation regarded the document as ‘merely a study document’.”

We have had two further Catholic Church child protection documents since the Framework Document in 1996, Our Children Our Church (2005-2008) and now Safeguarding Children. The Vatican has not to this day approved any of these documents or the mandatory reporting of every complaint of child abuse to the civil authorities.

Until the Pope gives his recognitio to this process each bishop can ignore the child protection policies and there will be no sanction from Rome.

Until this changes, nothing has changed. – Yours, etc,


Carriglea Estate,

Firhouse, Dublin 24.