Report highlights failure of diocese


WITHHELD CHAPTER:THE FAILURE of the Catholic diocese of Cloyne to deal properly with allegations of child sexual abuse up to 2008 has been highlighted in previously redacted elements of the Cloyne report, published yesterday.

It said the failure rested mainly with former bishop of Cloyne John Magee, who resigned in March last year, and Msgr Denis O’Callaghan, the delegate for the diocese with responsibility for child protection.

“However, at least three priests of the diocese appear to have ignored complaints,” the report said.

The report investigated how clerical child sex abuse allegations were handled in Cloyne diocese between January 1st, 1996 and February 1st, 2009. It followed findings by the Catholic Church’s own child protection watchdog, the National Board for Safeguarding Children, that child protection practices in Cloyne were “inadequate, and in some respects dangerous”.

In January 2009 the then government decided to extend the remit of the Murphy Commission, then investigating the Dublin archdiocese, to include Cloyne.

Its subsequent Cloyne report, published on July 13th, examined how abuse allegations against 19 priests there were handled between 1996 and 2009.

As court proceedings were then pending against “Fr Ronat”, the pseudonym for the priest who is the subject of Chapter 9 of the Cloyne report, the High Court decided that elements of that chapter should not be published until those proceedings concluded, which they have.

Last Friday the High Court ordered that the redacted elements be published.

Chapter 9, the longest in the Cloyne report at 42 pages, detailed how a total of 13 complainants reported abuse allegations against Fr Ronat

It said that: “It seems that Fr Ronat practised hypnosis as a means of dealing with the problems of people who came to him in his capacity as a guidance counsellor. A number of complainants told the commission that they were asked about hypnosis when they were making a complaint.

“Bishop Magee denies any knowledge of Fr Ronat practising hypnosis. Fr Ronat told the commission that he did use hypnosis but only as a hobby. He said that he did not use it with people who had emotional problems but only for treatment of addictions such as tobacco and alcohol. He said he practised hypnosis from 1981 to about 1988/89.”

In February 2009 “Keita” (a pseudonym) came forward to the diocese and gardaí alleging she had been abused by Fr Ronat in 1973 at the age of 15 and suggested hypnosis was involved.

The commission concluded that: “This case clearly illustrates the failure by the Diocese of Cloyne to deal properly with allegations of child sexual abuse up to the year 2008.

“Not only were the procedures, voluntarily agreed by the diocese, not followed but two of the complaints – those of ‘Ailis’ in 1995 and ‘Bretta’ in relation to ‘Matthew’ in 1996, were not classified as child sexual abuse.”

It said “complaints were not reported to the gardaí when they should have been. They were not reported to the health board/HSE by the diocese until 2008.”

It found that there were no proper church investigations of the complaints and the commission did “not accept that there was any real restriction on ministry.”

It also found a statement made to gardaí by “Matthew” in March 2003 “seems to have been put in a drawer and forgotten about until raised by this investigation”.