Church attempted to 'muzzle' child protection officer


THE CATHOLIC Church has been accused of attempting to muzzle its child protection officer after it emerged that he was the subject of a complaint by a senior bishop.

Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor confirmed yesterday that he had apologised to Ian Elliott, chief executive of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, over what he termed a “procedural matter”.

One in Four director Maeve Lewis said it was “incredibly insulting” of Bishop Treanor to challenge Mr Elliott’s integrity given the latter’s track record and the balanced reports he had produced into child protection practices in Catholic dioceses. The church was attempting to “muzzle” Mr Elliott, she said.

The Sunday Times reported yesterday that the apology was made for accusing Mr Elliott of indulging in spin against the hierarchy during off-the-record briefings with journalists.

After it received the complaint, the board called in retired Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness, who found in a private report that it was without foundation. Mr Elliott took sick leave from his office in Maynooth while the matter was being investigated.

Bishop Treanor said in a statement the matter which arose between the board and his diocese required attention but did not in any way affect or interfere with the safeguarding of children. “Matters were brought to my attention by third parties and were then informally raised with the national board. The national board instigated a formal complaints procedure.”

The issues he raised were rooted in “my genuine concern for the wellbeing of victims affected by abuse”. He said he accepted the findings of the report and supported Mr Elliott’s work. “I wrote to Ian Elliott withdrawing, and apologising for, an earlier assertion. We have moved on from this and we met at the beginning of the summer to discuss how we continue to work towards our common goal, the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults.”

The bishop said he had asked the board to review his own diocese and pointed out that he had proposed a funding increase to expedite this process.

Mr Elliott, who last week published seven audits of dioceses and congregations, declined to comment last night.