Bishops agree to commitments on child protection


Irish Bishops said tonight they would sign a written commitment to implementing guidelines on safeguarding children within their dioceses, and they said they would ask the Church’s independent child-protection body to carry out a review of current practices and risks.

But in an apparent difference of opinion between senior church leaders, a statement issued following a special meeting of Irish Bishops’ Conference said: “Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, while in favour of the review initiative, said that he would only be able to accept a review if it contained specific protocols to verify that the superiors of priests other than those of the Archdiocese of Dublin working in Dublin subscribe to and sustain the same norms and guidelines as those of the Archdiocese.”

The emergency meeting was held in Maynooth today to discuss the fallout from the recent report of the Church’s independent body on safeguarding children, the National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSCCC) in the Catholic Church.

On December 19th last, that report by found practices in relation to the safeguarding of children in the Cloyne diocese to be “inadequate and in some respects dangerous”.

It also found Bishop John Magee of Cloyne had a written policy of supplying “minimal” information to the civil authorities on clerical child sex abuse allegations and that, in two instances, he did not report allegations immediately, as required by church and State guidelines.

In a statement this evening, the Bishops said they had discussed their pastoral responsibilities towards safeguarding children in the Church.

The Bishops said they acknowledged that victims of abuse who had come forward and those who had felt unable to do so, had “once again their wounds of abuse opened by Church failure”.

They said they had discussed issues arising from the NSBC report as well as reports of the HSE’s own audit of Catholic Church dioceses and a statement by Minister for Children Barry Andrews published on January 7th.

“Bishop John Magee of Cloyne apologised to victims of clerical sexual abuse, to those working with victims and to the general public for the suffering and frustrations occasioned by the failures detailed in the NBSCCC's report,” the statement said.

The Bishops said they had agreed a number of measures at today’s meeting, including that they would provide all information requested by the HSE in an audit form on child protection.

Bishops had previously refused to fill out a section of that form, citing legal difficulties.

The Bishops said they would sign a written commitment to implement the new guidelines on the safeguarding of children due to be published shortly by the NSBCCC and to “cooperate fully” with their monitoring and evaluation.

They would also invite the NBSCCC to “undertake a review of current practice and risk in the safeguarding of children within their dioceses”.

“It was emphasised that in order to restore confidence and credibility in the Church's commitment to safeguarding children, every Bishop, every Religious Congregation and every Missionary Society must implement all statutory guidelines in this area, as well as the agreed policy of the Bishops' Conference, Conference of Religious of Ireland and the Irish Missionary Union.”

Today’s meeting was the third such emergency meeting of the Irish Episcopal Conference on child protection issues since 2002.