Bishops' statement highlights reservations of Archbishop Martin


FURTHER EVIDENCE of a difference of opinion between the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, and other Catholic bishops over the handling of child protection procedures emerged last night.

A statement issued on behalf of the bishops said they had agreed “to invite the NBSCCC [National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church] to undertake a review of current practice and risk in the safeguarding of children within their dioceses”.

The bishops 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”.

However the statement continued: “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 statement followed a day-long Special Meeting on safeguarding Children held by the Irish Episcopal Conference in Maynooth.

Following publication on December 19th last of the NBSCCC report on child protection practices in Cloyne diocese, which found them “inadequate and in some respects dangerous’’, Archbishop Martin said he was “extremely concerned at the fact that within a purported ‘one-church-policy’ there may in fact be a wide diversity in the interpretation and application of agreed procedures”.

He said then he had “made it known both to the Irish Bishops’ Conference and to the National Board that if serious doubts were to persist concerning the coherence and consistency of approach in any system, he would find it necessary to implement his own system of accountable child protection”.

He continued that he awaited “to be satisfied by the National Board, through reasonable written assurance, that all dioceses and religious congregations have committed themselves to a common system and are applying it in a uniform way.’’

In their statement last night, the bishops also said they had agreed “to renew their commitment to providing all of the information requested in Section 5 of the HSE audit” and “to sign a written commitment to implement the new safeguarding and guidance materials soon to be published by the NBSCCC, and to co-operate fully with their ongoing monitoring and evaluation.”

The statement said the Bishop of Cloyne, Dr John Magee, who attended the meeting, “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 Bishops collectively “acknowledged that victims who have come forward, and those who are unable to do so for a variety of complex reasons, have once again had their wounds of abuse opened by church failure.”

Aidan Canavan and Ian Elliott of the NBSCCC addressed the meeting “on policies and procedures for best practice in safeguarding children”.

The Bishops also discussed “their pastoral responsibilities towards safeguarding children in the church”.’

Issues arising from the NBSCCC’s Cloyne report, the HSE audit of Catholic Church dioceses and a statement by Minister for Children Barry Andrews, both the latter published on January 7th last, “were discussed in detail”.