Clifford apologises for failing victims of sex abuse


ARCHBISHOP Dermot Clifford of Cashel and Emly has formally issued a public apology for both the clerical sexual abuse of children and the failure to properly investigate complaints of abuse by senior figures in the diocese of Cloyne.

In a letter read out at Masses in all 46 parishes of the diocese at the weekend, Dr Clifford began by apologising “to the many who have suffered horrendous acts of abuse perpetrated by some priests of the Cloyne diocese”.

“The sexual abuse of children, particularly when carried out by those in positions of trust and responsibility for the welfare of children, is always a criminal as well as a sinful act. It deserves our utter condemnation.”

He also apologised to the people of the diocese for the failure of Bishop John Magee of Cloyne and his child protection delegate, Msgr Denis O’Callaghan, to report all allegations of clerical child sexual abuse to the civil authorities and for the mistakes and omissions that they made.

“The people of Cloyne were entitled to expect that all such complaints would be handled according to the official church guidelines. This was not the case, and for this I am truly sorry.”

Dr Clifford took over as apostolic administrator of the diocese of Cloyne in March 2009 when Dr Magee stepped aside.

In his letter, he said he had worked to ensure the proper procedures were in place to deal with any allegations of abuse.

Work on some of “these genuine improvements” had been put in place before his appointment, but over the past two years, a large number of positive actions had taken place in the diocese to ensure that there was no repeat of what went before, he said.

Dr Clifford added that every parish now had one or more child safeguarding representatives in place and every priest in ministry in the diocese had been vetted by the Garda. While the full list of safeguarding reforms was not exhaustive, it represented real improvements.

“Everything possible is being done to ensure that the diocese of Cloyne is as safe an environment for children and vulnerable adults as is possible. The process of improving child safeguarding procedures in the diocese is ongoing.

“I have consistently encouraged and facilitated the promotion of safeguarding of children in the diocese of Cloyne since I was appointed here,” Dr Clifford said.

He described the publication of the commission of investigation report as “a sad day for all of us”.

However, he also knew that the majority of the priests in the diocese were “good and holy men” whose main interest was to serve God and their people and he knew that people would realise that they too were hurt, angered and saddened by the report’s findings.

Dr Clifford asked Mass-goers to continue to pray for all those who had been abused, especially those abused by priests, so that they might find reconciliation, deep inner healing and peace.