Murphy report ‘highly critical’, ‘dismissive’, towards clergy

Commission concentrated ‘to an alarming degree’ on naming and shaming priests

The practices and procedures of the Murphy commission “fell far short” of meeting the requirements of natural and constitutional justice where Catholic clergy called before it were concerned, a review has found.

The review, commissioned by the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), says the commission “veered off the tight rails imposed by the 2004 Commissions of Investigation Act and wandered into an adversarial arena that concentrated, to an alarming degree, on ‘naming and shaming’ those clerics whom the Commission found wanting in child protection at that time,” it said.

The Murphy commission was set up in 2006 to investigate the handling of clerical child sexual abuse allegations in Dublin’s Catholic archdiocese by Church and State authorities between 1975 and 2004. Its report was published in November 2009.

The 42-page review by barrister Fergal Sweeney is to be presented to the ACP at its AGM in Athlone today.


His Commissions of Investigation and Procedural Fairness review found that "generally speaking, in its report the commission refers to such arguments/submissions as were made by the clergy and or their lawyers only in order to try to dismantle them."

Mr Sweeney has concluded that the commission "went well beyond its mandate in respect of one category of witness by building up and making a 'case' against individual clerics who testified before the commission, instead of being 'concerned only with the institutional response to complaints, suspicions and knowledge of child sexual abuse'."

As a result, “well accepted minimum rights of natural and constitutional justice were not observed and an individual’s constitutional right to his good name was not protected.”

'Naming and shaming'
He found that in the report the commission "dismisses out of hand any reasons, explanations or mitigating circumstances put forward by those clerics whom it 'names and shames'."

He said that “when the report is critical of the handling by State authorities, in only one or two cases is the individual employee named. When it is critical of the handling by Church authorities, in every case is the individual named. No reason or explanation is given for this.”

When asked to respond to the criticisms by The Irish Times yesterday, a source close to the Commission repeated that it has not and does not respond to queries.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times