Magee deputy speaks on Cloyne

 

Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan has admitted he should have resigned as child protection delegate rather than continue in a job where he disagreed with the child protection guidelines.

Msgr O’Callaghan was criticised in the Cloyne report published last month for his role in failing to respond appropriately to abuse allegations.

He was second in command to Bishop John Magee, who the report said had misled the minister for children by claiming the church’s guidelines for handling abuse cases were being fully complied with.

In a letter published in the Irish Catholic newspaper, Msgr O’Callaghan, who had full responsibility for child safeguarding in the diocese, said his primary focus was always on the pastoral care of “everyone suffering the consequences of sex abuse, primarily the victim but also the transgressor”.

“[Cloyne report author] Judge Yvonne Murphy was made aware of the Cloyne commitment to pastoral care but the commission focussed on its remit of reporting on whether or not procedures were fulfilled,” he wrote.

Msgr O’Callaghan also said that “for most of those priests accused in Cloyne the complaints alleged incidents dating back over thirty or forty years.

“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. Reporting was to be made immediately. No exception was to be made even when an accused priest was on his death-bed.”

An editorial in the newspaper states that by admitting he should have resigned, Msgr O’Callaghan was “finally owning up to the reality that his refusal to abide by the guidelines in full effectively sabotaged the Church’s efforts to demonstrate that it was fully compliant and threw it back into scandal again”.

It says his stance “has undermined the real, pioneering work of many within the Church in safeguarding children”.

Archbishop of Cashel and Emly Dr Dermot Clifford, who is apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Cloyne, said he agreed Msgr O’Callaghan should have resigned at that time “once he came to the conclusion that he could not implement the 1996 framework document from the Catholic Bishops on safeguarding of children”.

“His Bishop, Dr Magee, has signed up to implementing the framework,” Dr Clifford said in a statement this evening.

“As Judge Murphy pointed out in her report on the Diocese of Cloyne: “The commission takes the view that the implementation of Church guidelines does not, in any way, preclude a pastoral response.”

He said the pastoral response, “while good in itself, should be an adjunct to, not a replacement for, the procedures set out in the framework document”.

He noted the commission was satisfied that a number of complainants benefited from the counselling put in place for them.

“However, the pastoral approach espoused by Msgr O’Callaghan is not a sufficient response to allegations of child sexual abuse.”

Such an approach did not provide for a proper investigation of the complaints whether by State or Church authoritiesm Dr Clifford added.

“I would re-emphasise that our first priority at all times must be the protection of children.

“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.”

Bishop John Magee said this week he “unreservedly” apologises to victims of child sexual abuse in his former diocese of Cloyne and he said he would be willing to meet them and their families privately if they so wished.

But survivors of abuse criticised the bishop for failing to speak out publicly until now and challenged him to hold a press conference to deal fully with all the issues highlighted in the Cloyne report.