Response to clerical child abuse report


Madam, – Martin Long, Director of the Catholic Communication Office (December 10th), in response to my letter on clerical sex abuse, accused me of making a statement that “was both wrong in fact and a seriously damaging assertion.”

He added, “the rules, referred to by Fr McDonagh are those contained in Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela – (The safeguarding of the Sanctity of the Sacraments) and they were issued in 2001”. In fact, the document I was referring to begins with the words “Ad exsequendam ecclesiasticam legem – (In order to fulfill the ecclesiastical law.) It came from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and was published on May 18th, 2001.

I am not the only person to have expressed concern about these two Roman documents. Garret FitzGerald (Opinion, December 19th) praised Rome for recognising the seriousness of the abuse of children, but went on to write, “the accompanying requirement that secrecy be maintained about these crimes showed an equally horrific disregard for the interests of the children. Our bishops clearly saw this secrecy provision as precluding them from reporting to the Garda.”

The solicitor Pearse Mehigan also argued convincingly in your paper (December 7th “Jail is penalty for concealing child sex abuse”) that failure to report to the police is a crime under the Criminal Law Act 1997. The penalty is up to 10 years in jail.

The point of my original letter was to challenge those who are calling for the resignation of bishops who served as auxiliary bishops in the archdiocese of Dublin. If these men are forced to resign, then many other bishops who have served since the early 1990s should also be called on to resign, because I am sure a tribunal would criticise how these bishops handled some abuse cases historically. But calls for resignations should not stop at the Irish Sea. The Murphy report makes it clear that complaints about child sexual abuse were handled very badly by the ecclesiastical authorities in Ireland. But Rome’s record is not great either. Cardinal Bernard Law was the Ordinary of the Archdiocese of Boston during the time when a number of priests sexually assaulted children.

He moved these priests from parish to parish and they continued to abuse. Rather than being censured by Rome for his neglect and forced to resign, he was promoted and made archpriest of one of the most important churches in Rome, the Basilica of Mary Major. He is still in this position today.

It is generally believed that the late Pope John Paul II was so impressed by the ostensible loyalty and piety of the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Fr Marcial Marciel that he refused to believe that he was a serial abuser and protected him.

Should this now derail his beatification next year? In 1999, an inquiry into the accusations against Father Maciel was shelved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of which Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was Prefect. I am sure that, had the case come before a competent inquiry such as the one carried out by Judge Yvonne Murphy, serious questions would have been asked about the role of everyone, including that of Cardinal Ratzinger. Should he now resign as well?– Yours, etc,


St Columban’s,

Dalgan Park,


Co Meath.

Madam, – Why is the deliberate, repeated cover-up of child sex crimes by clergy continually called a “failure?” . One can only fail if one sincerely tries. Catholic bishops then haven’t “failed to protect children”. They weren’t trying to protect children.

As the Murphy report, and other independent investigations elsewhere have found, the church hierarchy has consistently tried only to save its reputation and assets, not youngsters. – Yours, etc,


National Director,

Survivors Network of those

Abused by Priests,

Arsenal Street,

St Louis,

Missouri, US.

A chara, – The Pope’s response to the cover-up of clerical child sexual abuse: the pastoral letter in one hand and the Vatican’s diplomatic immunity in the other hand!  (World View, December 19th). – Is mise,


Avoca Avenue,


Co Dublin.