Cleric's abuse comments cause 'distress' says Clifford
PUBLIC COMMENTS by the former delegate for the safeguarding of children in the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne, Msgr Denis O’Callaghan, were causing “distress and hurt to victims of child sexual abuse and their families”, Archbishop Dermot Clifford said last night.
The Archbishop of Cashel and Emly has asked the retired monsignor to “refrain from any further public comment” on the matter.
His remarks came after Msgr O’Callaghan wrote to the Irish Catholicsaying he should have resigned as child protection delegate when he realised the implications of child protection guidelines published in 1996.
The Cloyne report, which examined child sexual abuse in the Cloyne diocese, was highly critical of the monsignor for his failures in reporting complaints of child sexual abuse. It said he failed to understand that the requirement to report included in the guidelines was for the protection of other children.
In his letter, Msgr O’Callaghan said his focus was always on the pastoral care of “everyone suffering the consequences of sex abuse, primarily the victim but also the transgressor”.
He said he attended meetings that engaged in the drafting of the Framework of Guidelines for a Church Responseand expressed concern that mandatory reporting compromised the “fundamental Christian duty of pastoral care”.
For most of the priests accused in Cloyne, the complaints alleged incidents dating back more than 30 or 40 years, he said. “Of those priests some would now be terminally ill while others would be under constant medical care.
“The literal guidelines did not allow for any discretion to bishops and to their delegates,” he said.
“The plea that there was no further risk to children was not a protection against a charge of cover-up!”
He said there was also a problem where a traumatised complainant was not yet prepared to have the report submitted to gardaí. “Here some time and counselling should surely be justified until the complainant came to accept the need to make the report,” he said.
In some cases, as a Christian “one was duty bound to extend pastoral care to anyone in sore need”, he said, “otherwise one could not live with one’s conscience”.
“With many others I winced when understandably angry people expressed the wish that an accused priest would burn in hell,” the monsignor said.
He also said that Judge Yvonne Murphy was made aware of the Cloyne commitment to pastoral care, but the commission “focused on its remit of reporting on whether or not procedures were fulfilled”.
“In hindsight, I accept that I should have resigned on the point of principle from my role as delegate once I came to realise the implications of the 1996 guidelines for the overriding duty of pastoral care,” Msgr O’Callaghan wrote.
Last night, Archbishop Clifford said the monsignor should have resigned once he came to the conclusion he could not implement the guidelines, which his bishop, Dr John Magee, had signed up to.
Quoting the Cloyne report, he said that “the implementation of church guidelines does not, in any way, preclude a pastoral response. I would re-emphasise that our first priority at all times must be the protection of children,” Archbishop Clifford said.
“I would kindly request Msgr O’Callaghan, now retired, to refrain from any further public comment on this controversy as it will only cause further distress and hurt to survivors of child sexual abuse and their families.”