Catholic bishops and child abuse


Madam, - Geoffrey Shannon (Opinion, January 5th) says Bishop Magee of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cloyne has "lost the moral authority to remain in office". Most people would agree with this assessment.

In the same article Archbishop Martin of Dublin is praised for setting "a high standard in the handling of such cases". This may well be the case, relatively speaking, but from Patsy McGarry's report of January 3rd it is clear that no Roman Catholic bishop complied fully with the HSE request to supply all information on clerical child sex abuse.

Some, if not all, of the bishops, therefore, retain an attitude to the handling of such criminal cases which can, at best, be called discretionary.

If this attitude prevails and the appropriate authorities (the gardaí) do not handle these cases, then the loss of moral authority extends far beyond that of the Bishop of Cloyne. Have not the vast majority, if not all, the Roman Catholic bishops lost moral authority? - Yours, etc,





Madam, - Your edition of January 3rd includes a report under the headline "Bishops refuse to reveal all allegations of child abuse".

That headline suggests at least a degree of wilful obstructionism by the bishops - which, on reading the article, is not justified by the facts.

What the report says is that the HSE presented a questionnaire to all bishops in the Republic in commencement of a formal audit of the child protection practices of Catholic dioceses. The bishops replied with respect to Section 5 of the planned audit that, while they were anxious to cooperate fully with the HSE, they were unable to do so in advance of anticipated legislative measures, there being insurmountable difficulties in relation to confidentiality. The HSE took legal advice and proceeded with the audit with the exception of Section 5.

The clear implication is that the HSE accepted the opinion of the bishops, who clearly themselves had taken advice which formed their collective view.

Especially in the light of the report on Cloyne, which shows unacceptable behaviour by the bishop and the diocese, it is vital that there is accurate and fair reporting of all matters relating to child protection and the Catholic authorities. In this case the bishops refused to provide specific information for sound and justified reasons. Your headline is unsatisfactory in that it suggests otherwise. - Yours, etc,



Co Antrim.

Madam, - The shocking clerical abuse scandal in the Diocese of Ferns was hugely compounded by the then bishop's human weakness and the cynical exploitation of that weakness by a small number of unworthy clergy. I hope the scandal in the Diocese of Cloyne has not been similarly compounded. - Yours, etc,


The Oratory,


Co Antrim.