Bishops meet in emergency session today to discuss child protection


IRELAND’S CATHOLIC bishops are to meet in an all-day emergency session today at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, to discuss child protection as the crisis deepens after the report on child protection practices in the Cloyne diocese.

The Bishop of Cloyne Most Rev John Magee is expected to attend.

It will be the third such emergency meeting of the Irish Episcopal Conference on child protection issues since 2002.

Meanwhile, Voice of the Faithful, the lay Catholic group in the US which succeeded in having Cardinal Bernard Law resign as Archbishop of Boston following allegations that he mishandled clerical child sex abuse cases, has said that “clearly in Ireland as in the US, many bishops continue to put the needs of predator priests before those of the children of the church”.

In a statement, it said: “A bishop stands accused of not reporting claims of abuse to the proper authorities. His fellow bishops line up behind him in support. The laity calls loudly for his resignation. Does this sound familiar? It should. It was just seven years ago when this exact situation happened right here on our shores. Now the Catholic Church in Ireland faces a crisis of the same calibre. Many years after bishops in Ireland first promised to follow guidelines to protect children, they stand against allegations that they failed to do so.”

It continued: “The failure of Bishop John Magee of the Cloyne diocese of Cork to report sex abuse to the proper authorities, coupled with support of Bishop Magee from the Ireland Primate Cardinal Sean Brady, serve as a harsh reminder that the Catholic Church remains unable to hold its leaders accountable for failures. Clearly in Ireland, as in the United States, many bishops continue to put the needs of predator priests before those of the children of the church.”

The statement quoted Sean Ó Conaill of Voice of the Faithful – Ireland that “there is an overwhelming need for a credible process of inquiry into existing child-safeguarding practice, and into the handling of all allegations of clerical abuse in recent decades, in every Irish diocese”.

Voice of the Faithful continued: “His statement could be applied to the church worldwide. The spectacle of the Catholic hierarchy evading responsibility for actions and being encouraged to do so by ecclesial advisers in the US, Ireland, Australia and beyond gives the wrong message to devoted Catholics across the globe.”

Today’s meeting in Maynooth follows publication on December 19th last of a report on child protection practices in the Cloyne diocese by the National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC) in the Catholic Church in Ireland. It found such practices in Cloyne to be “inadequate and in some respects dangerous”. It also found Bishop Magee 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.

It has also emerged that Bishop Magee twice misled the State on child protection practices in Cloyne. As disclosed by Minister for Children Barry Andrews at a press conference on January 7th, Bishop Magee wrote to the minister for children on November 23rd, 2003, asserting child protection practices in Cloyne fully complied with church and State guidelines.

Since then, Bishop Magee has received the public support of Cardinal Brady, as well as the Archbishop of Cashel Most Rev Dermot Clifford and the Archbishop of Tuam Most Rev Michael Neary, all of whom have stated that he should not resign.