Abuse groups query record of top clerics sent to Ireland


ABUSE GROUPS in the UK and US have questioned the inclusion of the two cardinals and one archbishop among the apostolic visitors to the Irish Catholic Church announced by Pope Benedict on Monday.

They believe the child protection records of the former primate of England and Wales and Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor; of the Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Séan O’Malley; and of the Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, disbar them.

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor has been appointed apostolic visitor to the Armagh archdiocese, Cardinal O’Malley to the Dublin archdiocese and Archbishop Dolan to the seminaries at Maynooth and the Irish College in Rome. The MACSAS (Minister & Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors) group in the UK have said they were “deeply amazed and concerned” at Cardinal Murphy O’Connor’s appointment.

MACSAS founder Dr Margaret Kennedy referred to the cardinal’s decision in 1985, when he was bishop of Arundel and Brighton, to move the priest Fr Michael Hill to a chaplaincy at Gatwick airport. Eighteen months previously the cardinal had removed Hill from ministry because of child abuse allegations but then allowed him back to work at the airport where Hill abused a child. Hill was jailed in 2002.

Dr Kennedy said yesterday that the cardinal’s handling of the case “has never been examined by independent inquiry”. Hill had “abused a very vulnerable, lost, learning-disabled boy. Hill also abused other disabled children.”

Many in the UK survivor movement “would wonder why a bishop with a record of mishandling his own cases could independently look at another bishop’s handling of cases”, she said. It was a “truly farcical and deeply insulting situation” which showed that “the Vatican does not yet fully grasp the notions of ‘justice, truth or accountability’,” she said. “The Armagh people should not accept Cormac Murphy-O’Connor. However, I guess Cardinal Brady is rather happy about it.”

In a statement the US group bishopsaccountability.org has said it was “dismayed by the Vatican’s selection of Boston’s Cardinal Seán O’Malley to advise and monitor the Dublin archdiocese’s handling of child sexual abuse allegations against clergy.”

The cardinal’s “career ascent has been fuelled by his ability to walk into dioceses racked by horrible revelations of child molestation and enshroud them again in silence”, they said. Since 2003 “he has released almost no information about new allegations against Boston priests”, they said.

They also claimed he had reinstated “at least three accused priests [Rev Jerome Gillespie, Rev Eugene Sullivan and Rev Charles Murphy] about whom troubling questions persist” and that in his diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts, the district attorney in 2002 was so disturbed at Cardinal O’Malley’s failure to inform the public of sexual offenders that he himself went public with a list of names of accused priests.

It concluded that “for an apostolic visitation to have any chance of success, the participating bishops cannot be guilty of the same offences they are investigating”.

Barbara Dorris, of the United States’ SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), said that both Cardinal O’Malley and Archbishop Dolan had “troubling track records on abuse”. She said “just a few years ago Boston’s [Cardinal] O’Malley was found in violation of the US bishops’ sex abuse policy for refusing to make sure that all parishes were offering abuse training. And [Archbishop] Dolan let a priest sue his accuser in St Louis and fought against reforming Wisconsin child sex abuse laws.”