Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Diocese of Dromore - Response To Abuse Report

The Bishop of Dromore, Dr John McAreavey speaking from Newry Cathedral has said:
"In the past generation we have lived through a time when trust between Church goers and Church leaders has been badly damaged. 

The disclosures in report after report that children and young people had been abused in our Church and the inadequate response of Church leaders have caused deep distress and dismay. My thoughts today are particularly with these women and men and again I express to them my deepest sorrow for what they experienced.

"In 2006 the Irish Church leaders set up the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland. This independent body was set up to offer guidance in this area and to oversee the implementation of good practice. In 2010 the Church asked the Board to review safeguarding in every diocese, religious congregation and missionary institute in Ireland. In December 2010 I wrote to the Board to invite a review of this diocese and in doing so I committed myself to publishing the report on completion. We are now at this stage."

"I want to thank the personnel of the National Board who carried out this review for their professionalism. To submit oneself or one's diocese to the scrutiny of an independent body is not easy. However the National Board carried out its review by helping us to recognise both our strengths and weaknesses. The final report also provides a series of recommendations to help us improve the way we do things.

"I accept this report. I also accept all the recommendations. Many have already been implemented. On the remaining ones, we already have plans in place to implement them as a matter of urgency.

What does the report say?
  • Over the years since people began to come forward with complaints, the diocese has gradually learnt how to manage them better. At an early stage we were inclined to depend too much on legal advice; however we quickly involved people with a wide range of skills who helped the diocese to assess risk and decide how to respond effectively to complaints.
  • The arrangements currently in place are effective in ensuring quick action and in providing good support and care for those who make complaints.
  • The Board has praise for the work of Patricia Carville who has been the 'designated person' for dealing with complaints in recent years;
  • Representatives of the PSNI and Social Services have expressed their satisfaction with how complaints are being handled.
  • In addition to responding to complaints the Church is anxious today to ensure that arrangements are in place to ensure that wherever children and young people are involved in church life, they are safe. The Board looked at our safeguarding policies and procedures; they met the people responsible for drawing up policies and procedures at diocesan level; they met those who implement them at parish level and spoke of the 'infectious enthusiasm' that they have for their work.
"Hundreds of people are involved in working with our priests around the diocese in the area of safeguarding and they bring their own experience and sensitivity to children and young people to their safeguarding work in the diocese.

"However the work of safeguarding is an ongoing task and we need to continue to be vigilant and attentive. The people of the diocese – and particularly those who suffered in the past – deserve no less. I am aware today of the pain in many families, which relates to these issues and I ask the people of the diocese, the clergy and religious to pray and stand in solidarity with victims as they deal with the legacy of hurt and distress.

The report being published today says that it is critical that I, as Bishop, continue to show good leadership. Today, I commit myself to continue to give my best energy to the work of safeguarding in the diocese and in support of all those involved in this crucial area. I hope that this report will give some reassurance to the people of the diocese that things have changed."

The report can be accessed at

Diocese of Ardagh & Clonmacnoise - Response To Abuse Report

Publication of Review of Safeguarding of Children In the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois

The Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois is one of the six dioceses which had its Child Safeguarding procedures reviewed by the National Board for Safeguarding Children. 

All six dioceses concerned sought to have the Review carried out. I am very pleased that the process has now been completed and I commend the work of Mr Ian Elliot and the National Office for the diligence and professionalism with which they carried out their work.

I assure the people of this Diocese and all others who will read the Review on our website (www. that all the information on how our Diocese has dealt with this difficult matter has been made available for this review.

One cannot but be conscious at this time of the fact that people who suffered because of wrong doing by Church personnel will be affected by having to think again about an experience which pained them deeply. It is my hope that this pain will be lessened by the knowledge that their lives can move into a new phase when some at least of the past can be left behind. I want to express my sorrow at how they have been made to suffer and I want to welcome any contact which any person who is feeling distressed at this time would make with me or with the Diocesan Delegate for Safeguarding of Children.

I want to avail of the opportunity of this time to express my heartfelt thanks to our Diocesan Child Safeguarding Committee, to the priests and lay people who have given much dedicated service to furthering its work. To each and every child safeguarding representative in our parishes I express my sincerest thanks for their commitment to keeping children safe. In the parishes priests and lay people share the burden of caring for children. That unity of purpose is a great source of strength for the Church and for society in fulfilling the responsibility we all have for caring for children.

I am satisfied that we have good policies and procedures for safeguarding children in place. 

However, I believe that there will always be need for reappraisal and revision. The documentation of our National Board for Safeguarding Children continues to be evaluated and developed. Our diocesan manual and posters published in April 2010 will soon be re-issued with some amendments.

I ask for the prayers and support of the entire community of the faithful of the Diocese at this important moment in our diocesan history. Any person who wishes to make a
complaint to the Diocese is invited to contact the Diocesan Designated Person, Mr Sean Leydon at 087 7431649. 

Any person who feels the need for counselling is invited to contact the Church’s Free Confidential Helpline and Counselling Service, Towards Healing, at 1800 303 416. –

Anyone who wishes to make a complaint to the Statutory authorities can approach the Garda Síochána at the contact numbers on our posters and in our handbook. Similarly, the HSE can be contacted as indicated in these documents.

+Colm O’Reilly. Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois

30th November 2011

Archdiocese of Tuam - Response To Abuse Report

The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church has reported on the Audit which it conducted in the Archdiocese of Tuam.  

The Report is being published today.

The report illustrates that strong procedures have been put in place to ensure that children are safe and cherished here in the Archdiocese of Tuam.

I warmly welcome the Report of Ian Elliott, the CEO of the National Board, and am very happy that he has adjudicated so positively on the way things are being addressed in our Archdiocese.  

This is an enormous tribute to all working in this area.  It is very encouraging to see that their work has been recognised, affirmed and appreciated in the Report.  

They convened and worked long hours to address the problems of sexual abuse in a fair and transparent manner.  

I want to thank all who were involved in this important work for the way in which they have given so generously of their time and expertise. Each parish now has a trained Child Safeguarding Representative.

I am grateful to Ian Elliott, the members of the National Office and the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church for their guidance, availability and on-going support.

As Archbishop I have had to address these sad situations.  

I was convinced that it would be impossible to do so without involving lay people, particularly parents and especially mothers who have been nurturing, cherishing and protecting children day in day out.  

I appointed an Advisory Panel, men and women, professional and highly qualified lay people, religious and priests from whom I have taken advice in dealing with cases of abuse. Conscious of the urgency and centrality of safeguarding children the Safeguarding Committee has worked diligently and voluntarily to ensure that the safest possible environment is created for children in the Catholic Church in our Archdiocese.

This is not something, however, about which we can become complacent.  

The safeguarding and cherishing of children in the Catholic Church must continue to remain a challenge for all of us.

Foremost in my thoughts are the survivors of child sexual abuse and their families, the harm and the hurt which they have experienced and the courage which they displayed in telling their story.  I have apologised to them in the past and wish to reiterate my apology today.

I invite anyone who has been abused to come forward and report the matter either to the Archdiocese and/or to the statutory authorities.

Counselling help is available at the dedicated helpline; Towards Healing – Freephone 1800 303416 or log on to

Contact details for counselling services

Contact details of organisations offering counselling for those affected by abuse.

HSE Counselling Service (Letterkenny)

Freephone: 1800 303529

Open from 8am to midnight today, Thursday and Friday.

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre

Freephone: 1800 778888

24-hour helpline

One in Four

Telephone: 01 6624070


Callsave: 1850 609090

24-hour helpline

Connect, the National Adults Counselling Service

Freephone: 1800 477 477 (Republic of Ireland) 00800 477 477 77 (Northern Ireland or UK)
Connect is an out of hours service available Wednesday to Sunday, from 6-10pm

Dublin Diocese Child Protection Service

Telephone: 01 8360314

National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland

Telephone: 01 505 3124

Towards Healing

Counselling and psychotherapy referral service by people working for the Catholic Church. From today the service will open on an extended basis as follows:

From 11am-11pm today, tomorrow and Friday and from 11am-8pm on Saturday and Sunday the 3rd and 4th of  December.

Freephone: 1800 303416 (Rep of Ireland) and 0800 0963315 (Northern Ireland and UK).

Cork Sexual Violence Centre ( formerly Cork Rape Crisis Centre)

Freephone: 1800 496496 from 9am to 5pm daily

Fr Eugene Greene: jailed in 2000

One of  the most notorious priest abusers to come to public attention in Ireland was Fr Eugene Greene of Raphoe diocese.

He was jailed for 12 years at Donegal Circuit Court in 2000 when he pleaded guilty to 41 sample charges of sexual assault against 26 children in Donegal parishes between 1965 and 1982.

He had been charged on over 100 counts. The trial heard that many of his victims were altar boys, who suffered repeated assault and buggery. Sentencing him, Judge Matthew Deery noted some of his victims had turned to drink to try to erase the pain of their childhood abuse which he described as “horrific”.

In 2001 Greene sought a reduction in his sentence at the Court of Criminal Appeal on grounds of advanced age and a drink problem; the appeal was dismissed. He was released in 2008 after serving nine years.

A native of the Annagry parish in Co Donegal, Greene had served 10 years with the Kiltegan Fathers in Nigeria when he returned to Ireland in 1965. He then served in Scotland and Cork.

In 1970 he was curate in Gweedore, thereafter serving in Killybegs, Lettermacaward, Gorthahork (where between 1976 and 1981 he abused 16 boys) Glenties, Kilmacrennan and Annagry.

His abuse came to light when he reported a man for trying to blackmail him. In the subsequent investigation, the Garda uncovered the abuse.

In their 2008 book Breaking the Silence  retired garda Martin Ridge and journalist Gerard Cunningham revealed that Greene’s criminal activities “were known to Raphoe clergy at least as early as 1976”.

Bishop Séamus Hegarty, who was bishop of Raphoe from 1982 to 1994, has said Greene was sent to the Stroud treatment centre in England because of alcoholism but that he was unaware while he was bishop of the diocese of any allegations of sexual abuse against the priest.

Dr Hegarty became bishop of Derry in 1994 and resigned last week for health reasons.

Cardinal in settlement with victim he swore to secrecy

A SETTLEMENT has been agreed by Cardinal Seán Brady with a Co Louth man who was one of two teenagers he swore to secrecy in 1975 following his investigation into their allegations of abuse by Fr Brendan Smyth.

Brendan Boland (50) sued Cardinal Brady in his personal and official capacities, the diocese of Kilmore and Smyth’s Norbertine Order.

The settlement will be concluded in the High Court this morning, a spokesman for the Catholic bishops confirmed.

Afterwards Mr Boland will issue “a comprehensive statement”, his solicitor Paul Horan, of Horan and Sons solicitors in Galway, said yesterday.

In June 2010 Cardinal Brady reached an out-of-court settlement, said to be worth more than €250,000, with the other teenager whose abuse by Smyth he investigated in 1975.

Marie McCormack also sued the cardinal in his personal and official capacities as well as the diocese of Kilmore and the Norbertine Order. 

It followed her being sexually abused by Smyth between 1970 and 1975. The settlement was made without admission of liability and included apologies by the defendants.

It was the High Court action by Ms McCormack which led to disclosures in March 2010 that Cardinal Brady had been involved in canonical investigations into abuse allegations against Smyth in 1975 which involved the two young people. 

He believed both of them at the time and swore them to secrecy at the end of his inquiry in Kilmore diocese.

Ms McCormack, who lives in Canada, said after the settlement that 35 years after the abuse, her marriage and quality of life had been greatly affected by the trauma she suffered, which began when she was 14 and continued until she was 20.

Following the disclosures, Cardinal Brady said he had done his duty by informing his then bishop of Smyth’s abuse. 

He was not the designated authority to report to the Garda and Smyth’s Norbertine Order was responsible for the priest after removal of his priestly functions in Kilmore and other dioceses, he said.

Abuse reports highly critical of Catholic bishops

A review into the handling of clerical child sex abuse allegations in the Diocese of Raphoe has concluded that "significant errors of judgment" were made by successive bishops in responding to the accusations.

Bishop of Raphoe Dr Philip Boyce said he fully accepted the recommendations contained in the review, which was undertaken by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church.

In a statement, Dr Boyce admitted that during the past decades there had been "very poor judgments and mistakes made.

"There were horrific acts of abuse of children by individual priests, that should never have happened, and if suspected should have been dealt with immediately in the appropriate manner," he said.

"Insufficient emphasis was placed on the needs of victims, often in the misguided attempt to protect the reputation of the Church. There were frequent cases of delays or non-reporting of allegations and complaints about child sexual abuse," he added.

Dr Boyce said he was "truly sorry for the terrible deeds that have been inflicted on so many by a small minority of priests.

"We offer our humble apologies once more and seek their forgiveness for the dreadful harm that has been done to them, their families and friends."

Three heads of Raphoe Catholic diocese, which includes most of Co Donegal, including Dr Boyce, were criticised for their handling of clerical child sex abuse allegations in the report on child protection practices, which was published this morning.

Former Bishop Séamus Hegarty, who retired as Bishop of Derry last week for health reasons, and his predecessor, Bishop Anthony McFeely, also come under fire for their response to accusations of clerical child sex abuse.

Dr Hegarty succeeded Dr McFeely in Raphoe in 1982 and became Bishop of Derry in 1994. Dr Boyce became Bishop of Raphoe in 1995.

The report on Raphoe is one of six such reports to be published today as part of an all-island review of child protection practices in all Catholic institutions on the island of Ireland.

Reports are also being published this morning following similar board reviews of Derry diocese, Dromore (Down), Kilmore (Cavan), Ardagh Clonmacnoise (Longford, Leitrim, Offaly) dioceses as well as on Tuam archdiocese.

The Raphoe review said that in dealing with allegations, too much emphasis was placed on the situation of the accused priest and too little on the needs of their complainants.

"Judgements were clouded, due to the presenting problem being for example, alcohol abuse and an inability to hear the concerns about abuse of children, through that presenting problem," it said.

"More attention should have been given to ensuring that preventative actions were taken quickly when concerns came to light," the report added.

The Raphoe review examined all case files from 1975 to 2010 to determine how allegations and concerns were dealt with.

Its purpose was also to interview key persons involved in child safeguarding, judge how cases are currently assessed, how the statutory authorities are notified and determine if there are any current risks to children.

The review concludes that the diocese now has a robust safeguarding policy and procedure in place for safeguarding children, that files are kept n a satisfactory and orderly fashion, that there is a prompt referral system to the state authorities and good co-operation with the Garda Síochána and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Diocese of Kilmore - Response To Abuse Report

I welcome the publication of the Review of Safeguarding Practice in the Diocese of Kilmore. In June 2010 I invited the National Board to undertake this Review and I committed myself to publishing its findings.

The review was carried out in November 2010 by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church. It reports on the work undertaken in the diocese to make it a safer place for children. It also reviews the management of allegations against priests in the diocese and provides a statistical summary of these.

The statistical data in the Review cover a period of seven decades, from the 1940s until 2010. During that period there were allegations of abuse against seven priests of the diocese of Kilmore. One priest was convicted in the courts of abuse of a minor and is currently serving a sentence.

Each allegation represents a person who has suffered and my thoughts today are very much with the survivors of abuse. I am aware that the publication of this and other Reviews of Child Safeguarding today may reopen painful wounds of those who have suffered abuse at the hands of priests. I once again apologise to them and express my anger and deep sadness that they experienced this betrayal by those who should have brought them Christ’s love and compassion

The review observes "that cumulative learning and experience have helped to develop practice and decision making in the diocese". I hope the review will give some measure of reassurance to victims, their families and to all parents and families, that the diocese has high standards of safeguarding and is open to continued enhancement of current and future practice and so contribute to making it a safe place for children.

The review commends "the enthusiasm and commitment of staff and volunteers". I join with that commendation and thank them for their generosity. I wish to thank also our dedicated priests and all others who have worked so diligently to improve and maintain high standards in our continuing commitment to safeguarding children. I want to express also our appreciation for the advice and support of the Garda Síochána and the HSE locally, particularly in relation to the management of allegations.

Those who wish to access support or counseling may avail of the Towards Healing service: Towards Healing is the free and confidential helpline and counseling refettal service which has replaced Faoisheamh.


Towards Healing is providing an extended service from today as follows:

    * From 11.00 am to 11.00 pm on 30th November, 1st and 2nd December and
    * From 11.00 am to 8.00 pm on 3rd and 4th December


The helpline can be contacted by calling:

Freephone 1800-303416 from anywhere in Ireland

And on 0800-0963315 from Northern Ireland and the UK.

As the safety of children is of paramount importance I encourage anyone with a specific concern to contact the statutory authorities. They may also contact the Diocesan Designated Person, Suzie Duffy, at 049 4375004.

Further details are on our website:

Leo O’Reilly

Bishop of Kilmore

Church audit a whitewash, say abuse victims

VICTIMS of clerical sex abuse have branded a church-authorised audit of a controversial diocese a whitewash and called for a full garda inquiry.

The audit of the Raphoe Diocese in Co Donegal, compiled by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, will be released at 10am today.

A second audit of the Derry Diocese, which covers Co Derry and parts of counties Tyrone, Donegal and Antrim, will be released an hour later.

But several victims told the Irish Independent that they were not interviewed for the report and had never received an apology from the church.


John O'Donnell (55) was abused for six years from the age of nine by a member of a choir. He claims when he made a complaint to gardai when he was 17, he was "slapped around the ear and thrown out of the station".

He claims his complaint to the church wasn't dealt with properly and he had a "very unsatisfactory" meeting with Raphoe Bishop Philip Boyce last August.

Today's reports will focus on how complaints against priests were handled -- with sources saying the Raphoe audit will highlight "serious errors of judgment".

Mr O'Donnell told the Irish Independent: "I know I will be accused of speaking out before publication, but I have lost all faith in this audit because it will be an exercise in going through church paperwork. The real story of what happened in Raphoe to hundreds and hundreds of victims will, in my opinion, only come out when there is a full garda investigation or judicial inquiry."

Martin Gallagher (45) was one of the victims of serial rapist Fr Eugene Greene, who was jailed for 12 years in 2000 for dozens of sex offences.

"This report will mean nothing to me," he said yesterday. "There were 26 of us who came forward and probably more than 100 others who didn't. I sat in court when he (Greene) was jailed. There were just three of us (victims) there. There was no apology from the church, no counselling offered or anything else. I haven't been contacted by anyone in the church for this audit or report. How can they do a report and not talk to the victims? In my case, the church had a chance to stop Greene and it didn't."

He said victims were still "hurting" over the fact that so many people in the parishes where Greene operated contributed to a fund given to the paedophile priest on his release from prison four years ago.


"I don't know what you can say about people who would give money to a man who pleaded guilty to the rape and torture of children," he said.

Retired Garda Martin Ridge, who brought Greene to justice, told the Irish Independent: 

"This audit will do nothing for the victims, as far as I can see. I will be interested to see what has been found in this audit. When I requested information from the diocese on Greene. . . all I got back was a CV. I was told there were no records of any abuse allegations."

The National Counselling Service is setting up special phone lines today to deal with calls from victims of clerical sex abuse. 

* The freephone number is 1800 303 529

Diocesan child protection reports to be published

SIX separate reports on child protection measures in Catholic dioceses in Ireland will be published today. 

Counselling services are gearing up for an influx of calls from survivors of clerical abuse after the audits from the Church’s own watchdog are posted online.

The study into diocesan child protection measures in Raphoe, Derry, Dromore, Tuam, Kilmore and Ardagh and Clonmacnoise were carried out by Ian Elliot, chief executive of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland.

It is understood that the long-awaited reports will not focus on historical complaints of clerical sex abuse, leaving the victims of one of Ireland’s most notorious paedophile priests, Raphoe-based Eugene Greene, still searching for answers.

The cleric moved parish eight times during 25 years of abuse from the early 1960s.

He was eventually jailed for 12 years in 2000 after pleading guilty to 41 sample charges against 26 victims between 1962 and 1985. He was freed in 2008.

Former Bishop of Derry Seamus Hegarty, who was in charge in Raphoe between 1982 and 1994, is expected to face questions over his handling of Fr Greene.

The reports, examining child protection changes since 1975, will set out efforts to safeguard youngsters in the dioceses.

However, a spokesman for the Raphoe Diocese admitted that the report will not go into specific details of the "terrible deeds done by priests".

Michael Keane of Insight PR Consultants said the report was more about putting the right procedures in place for the future.

But he stressed it will not contain the level of detailed sex abuse some victims may have been expecting.

"It will not be like other clerical sex abuse reports, where there will be huge chapters on all sorts of terrible deeds done by priests.

"It will be an audit of the procedures which were put in place over the years and it will highlight the mistakes and ensure the right procedures are put in place going forward," he said.

But the man who first exposed the horrific chapter of sex abuse in the Catholic Church, former Gda Det Martin Ridge, said the report was "another slap in the face for victims".

"Some of these people have been waiting decades for justice and now they are being told they will not get it," he said.

"The Church and the people in it had more than enough time to compile this report and cover every last inch of what happened in Raphoe but that is not going to happen."

Maeve Lewis, of support group One in Four, said: "Our understanding is theaudits will focus on current child procedures so we are hoping it shows thechurch has progressed in implementing good child care procedures across the six dioceses."

It is hoped Mr Elliot’s audit of all 26 dioceses in Ireland will be completedby mid-2012.

* Anyone affected is urged to call the HSE National Counselling Service on 1800 303 529 or the National Rape Crisis on 1800 778 888.

RTÉ affair may tame media arrogance and aggression

AFTER AN initially lethargic and evasive response to the Fr Kevin Reynolds’s libel action, RTÉ moved rapidly and dramatically this week to catch up with the crisis in public confidence.

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte and his Cabinet colleagues are to be complimented for their swift action on Tuesday in deciding to have the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland conduct an investigation “to determine the true facts and circumstances” that led to the broadcast of the libellous Prime Time programme.

In doing so the Government did RTÉ a favour. 

The national broadcaster was about to dig itself deeper into a hole. 

Right up until the Government announced the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland inquiry, RTÉ continued to claim that the issues arising from the libel of Fr Reynolds could be addressed in a report generated internally and published at a pace of RTÉ’s choosing.

RTÉ was forced to abandon its defensive and delaying strategy on Tuesday and its approach changed completely. A series of dramatic steps in the following 24 hours has gone some way to redress the previous week’s errors.

For the first five days after the libel settlement RTÉ’s senior management refused to appear even on its own news programmes. On Tuesday evening the director general of RTÉ finally took the short but significant stroll to the studio to face questions about his and his organisation’s handling of the crisis.

On air Bryan Dobson subjected him to the type of rigorous cross-examination to which he should have consented four days earlier. Noel Curran announced the deferral of December’s Prime Time Investigates series pending an examination of the programme’s editorial procedures.

On Wednesday, the RTÉ Authority convened a special meeting and, belatedly, began to do its job. It issued a strong statement representing the first real sign that RTÉ appreciated the reasons for public concern. It was announced that the four key people involved in making and in editorial oversight of the programme had decided to step aside from their roles until the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland inquiry was completed.

The Government announcement of the broadcasting authority inquiry also had the effect of parking what would probably have been a contentious and cantankerous trawl through the events by a committee of politicians. In the new year when the broadcasting authority report is published, the political system will be perfectly entitled to debate its findings and assess its adequacy.

However, for all the reasons rehearsed during the recent referendum on Oireachtas inquiries it is best that the first detailed independent look at this matter is done by a non-political body.

It would be unfair to come to any fixed view on the respective responsibilities of the people involved in the making and oversight of the programme until the full details arising from these investigations are published. Irrespective of the outcomes, however, it is to be hoped that RTÉ and the media generally will learn some lessons from these events.

The first is the need for more moderation in tone and more understanding at a human level for those who are the focus of controversies. Listening and watching media coverage of this controversy, one is struck by the different tone adopted by journalists when they talk about media mistakes. There is none of the nastiness and vitriol that is now so often and so easily directed at mistakes by politicians or other public officials.

The media seldom discusses media mistakes or errors, but when it does it uses a different vocabulary. Criticism is first qualified with compliments about the particular journalist’s work or the wider reputation of the programme or publication concerned.

This may happen because they know or have a professional affinity with those at the centre of the storm, or feel “there but for the grace of God go I”. That is not to suggest that setting an individual mistake or error in a wider context is not a good thing.

On the contrary, hopefully the same contextualisation and basic courtesy will now also be extended to other classes of persons pursued by media for similar breaches.

The outcome of these inquiries should also rebalance a little the relationship between those pursuing a story and those being pursued. There has in recent years been a de facto reversal of the burden of proof. Too often it seems the media only has to allege something and the subject of the allegation must then disprove it.

In this instance the allegation that Fr Reynolds had raped and fathered a child could have been scientifically disproved by means of a paternity test. Very few allegations can be as comprehensively disproved. More often than not they come down to a contest of credibility between both sides.

Where the allegation involves a suggestion of criminal misbehaviour, then the benefit of the doubt must go to the person being accused. Unless the media organ can prove the allegation and do so decisively, it should not be printed or aired.

Learning these lessons does not, as some might lazily suggest, mean that the media needs to be less assertive or effective in investigating or holding wrongdoers to account. It just means they should be less aggressive, more thorough, more civil and more careful.

It will also be positive if these events render some of those involved in media less arrogant and less aggressive in their approach. 

The media should now have a greater understanding of human and organisational frailty.

A little less swagger can only be a good thing.

Tony Blair once famously spoke of how today’s media, more than ever, hunts in a pack.

RTÉ and media generally usually play the role of hunt masters. 

This week they got some sense of how the fox feels. 

It should be a humbling experience and a learning exercise.

RTÉ chief vows to restore trust after priest’s libel

THE head of RTÉ has pledged to restore the "fundamental bond" of public trust in the state broadcaster in the wake of the Fr Kevin Reynolds libel controversy.

RTÉ’s director general, Noel Curran, has also vowed to restore the station’s good name for investigative journalism.

Mr Curran, whose offer of resignation over the scandal was turned down by the RTÉ board, made his comments in an article he wrote for a Sunday newspaper in which he again apologised for the wrong done to Fr Reynolds, and set out how RTÉ is responding.

He said few media organisations can thrive without their public’s faith.

"For a publicly owned media service, that bond is fundamental," he said.

Mr Curran defended the "proud record" of Prime Time Investigates which, over 54 programmes broadcast since 2003, has shone "a beam into dark corners and facilitated national debate".

But he insisted that RTÉ understands the shock and hurt felt around the country by the treatment of Fr Reynolds in its Mission To Prey programme last May.

He said a lot of work is being done behind the scenes to compile a detailed account of what occurred in the lead-up to the broadcast of the programme.

He said RTÉ may appear to have been slow to react, but that it is not only examining how the libel came to be broadcast, but is stress-testing all of its editorial processes.

He said RTÉ will co-operate fully with the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s (BAI) inquiry, ordered by communications minister Pat Rabbitte.

He said RTÉ’s own investigations should be completed within three weeks, and the BAI inquiry completed in two months.

"It is an absolute requirement that the account given and the measures outlined be such as to renew and restore the public trust that is our bedrock, our lifeblood, and our currency," said Mr Curran.

"I give my guarantee that this will be done. The Irish public deserves nothing less.

"I am deeply sorry that we have disappointed our licence fee payers, who rightly expect the highest standards from RTÉ."

But he said: "We cannot lose our nerve when it comes to pioneering journalism — it is too important for our society.

"Investigative journalism, trusted and fully resourced as a fixture in our schedules, will resume, with our full commitment to it as a key priority and a core service to the Irish public."

Meanwhile, Tom Savage, chairman of the RTÉ Authority, has said the crisis has "rocked the organisation to its foundations".

The libel, which forced RTÉ to pay out an undisclosed six-figure sum to Fr Reynolds, has resulted in Ed Mulhall, the director of news and current affairs, and Ken O’Shea, the editor of Prime Time Investigates, stepping aside pending the outcome of the investigations.

Brian Pairceir, executive producer, and Aoife Kavanagh, who reported on the programme, will no longer be involved in on-air programming while the probes continue. The series has been taken off the air.

The mystery of Jesus' tomb

Along with the lights and open markets, even the world of entertainment archaeology is reminding us that Christmas is approaching. 

Along with the holiday packages, a “new discovery” is being boxed for retail, destined to show us how things really went in the life of the one called Jesus.
All it takes is a visit to the website of the large American publishing house Simon & Schuster, to discover that on 3 January  The Jesus Discovery will hit the shelves, the new bestseller by Simcha Jacobovici and James Tabor. 

The “discovery of Jesus”, in the sense that these two archaeologists  have allegedly found, the oldest tale of the resurrection, in a tomb in Jerusalem that has been sealed until today. According to them, the text predates even the Gospel narratives. One might note that 3 January  is after Christmas. 

But never fear: Simon & Schuster have announced that the book will be on shelves only after the National Geographic TV Channel has broadcast the first episode of a documentary put together by the same archaeologists. 

Preceded, obviously, by the inevitable press conference, in which the two will reveal the details of this discovery which – and we quote – “is destined to revolutionize what we know about Jesus and about the origins of Christianity.” Do the math and you'll find the story of operation published in half the world's newspapers, with more precision than a Swiss clock.
The protagonist of this story is an old acquaintance: Simcha Jacobovici is in fact the same Israeli-Canadian archaeologist who – on the eve of Easter 2007 – rocked the world with another documentary that went on air on the Discovery Channel: he claimed to have found the true tomb of “Jesus son of Joseph”, in the Talpiot quarter of Jerusalem. 

An occupied tomb, moreover. Jesus is allegedly still there, a theory which would make the resurrection be a myth. The icing on the cake, in perfect Da Vinci Code style, is that he is supposedly not alone: his mother Mary, his wife Mary Magdalen, and a son named James are also supposed to exist the ossuaries of the family tomb. 

The “exceptional discovery” opened the floodgates to an avalanche of articles, made possible by another deft move: the documentary went online unseen and without  any scientific analysis by other archaeologists regarding the proofs offered. Otherwise it would have been revealed that that tomb, in reality, had already been discovered 25 years prior to this, and no one had interpreted it in the way described above. 

And that Yehoshua and Yoseph – the names found on the ossuary – were very common in the Jerusalem of two millenia ago and therefore the mere fact of finding them together on a family tomb proved absolutely nothing. 

The little game was thus able to take advantage of an audience of four million spectators and garnered an Emmy Award for Jacobovici, known to a wide audience for The naked archaeologist television show (also on air on the History Channel).
Now he is trying again with another tomb discovered in the same area of Talpiot. As usual, for the moment we know very little about this first narrative of the resurrection of Jesus: the announcement of the book only mentions two ossuaries bearing an image and a Greek inscription. 

One detail, however, is clear: the Israeli-Canadian archaeologist is still of the opinion that the story we are dealing with is a myth. Because Simon & Schuster hastens to specify that the new bestseller “relaunches” the credibility of the “tomb of the family of Jesus,” since the new discovery occurred only 200 feet (60 meters) from that which leapt into the spotlight in 2007.
We should note that lately, Jacobovici has become a real factory for this kind of operation. Last Easter, in fact, he came up with another shock discovery : the nails of the cross of Christ, found in the tomb of a certain Caiaphas, which for him beyond the shadow of a doubt was that of the high priest mentioned in the Passion narratives.

Realizing the importance of the condemned man – and his claim – he would have preserved that heirloom.

Needless to say, in that case, too, other archaeologists have shown this kind of tomb to be incompatible with the prestige of that priestly man; and that the nails shown in the inevitable press conference were too short to be those commonly used by the Romans in crucifixions.

Come home for Christmas

“Come home for Christmas” is the awareness initiative promoted by the Department of evangelisation and catechesis of the Episcopal Conference of England and Wales. 

As the "Come home for Christmas" website says, the initiative “aims to offer a seasonal welcome to Catholics who for different reasons no longer or rarely attend Mass.” 

The news was reported by the Holy See’s newspaper, “L’Osservatore Romano”. 

Those who wish to learn more about the initiative’s goals and get involved again with the Catholic Church and its community activities can visit the website

In a message, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop Emeritus of Westminster, explained that “Come home for Christmas is aimed at sending out a warm welcome to everyone, particularly those who are baptised but currently have little contact with their local communities. Whatever your story or experience of life may be – he continued – we welcome you and want to listen to your story. Christmas is family time. We welcome you with an open heart, a place is already waiting for you. Let us gather together in friendship, love and forgiveness during this joyous season, like brothers and sisters in Christ.”

This initiative comes just days after the launch of a national tour, started in York, called “Crossing the Threshold”. 

The tour was aimed at offering support to Catholics who go to Church to meet and contact all those who have been baptised but who rarely or never attend mass. The event which took place in the English Martyrs Church, gave the large number of people present, the opportunity to pray together and to address a number of issues. 

Mgr. Terence Patrick Drainey, Bishop of Middlesborough, explained that “taking part in the regional evangelisation day “Crossing the Threshold”, was an exciting experience. At the end of mass, the congregation was told to go out and spread the word of the Lord’s Gospel. Those of us who have been baptised and confirmed, have been given a task in the mission to spread the Word and build up the Church Body.

In essence, the day helped us understand that the mission is close by, it is on our doorstep and we have the ability to bring the Gospel into our life and the lives of those we meet, through simple gestures.

“One of the most simple and crucial ways – he added -  is to invite people  to come and see, to come and meet the Lord and accompany him in friendship. Meeting in York was a sign of wanting to continue the great work of sharing the Gospel with those who are open and are searching for their path towards God.”

Hope that new bishop could be appointed to Limerick early next year

THE administrator of the Diocese of Limerick says he finds it “very strange” that a replacment for Bishop Donal Murray has still not been appointed by the Vatican.

Bishop Murray resigned almost two years ago in the wake of the controversy following the publication of the Murphy Report into clerical abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese.

However, Fr Tony Mullins, who was appointed Diocesan Administrator following Bishop Murray’s resignation, says he would be surprised if a new bishop is not appointed in the near future.

Fr Mullins says the fact that there are 184,000 Catholics living in the Diocese of Limerick would be a major factor in any decision.

He also believes the presence of a major urban centre and a Catholic third-level college in the diocese would be significant factors.

“I would be surprised if we didn’t have a bishop in Limerick; I would imagine that we would have a bishop and that would be my hope but I really don’t know what is going to happen, I really don’t and that, I suppose, in itself is very strange,” he said.

Recent reports in the national media have suggested that the number of dioceses in Ireland might be reduced next year from the current 26 by the Vatican.

Fr Mullins says he expects an announcement to be made in relation to that in January.

“The church in Ireland has been under review since the visitation took place in spring of last year and they have said they will respond to that in January so I think all will be revealed in January,” Fr Mullins told the Limerick Leader.

It is understood that one possibility being examined as part of the review of the church in Ireland is that the Diocese of Limerick may be expanded to include parts of neighbouring dioceses such as the Diocese of Killaloe and the Diocese of Cashel and Emly.

“I don’t know what’s in it and I don’t believe that anybody in the hierarchy knows what’s in it but they (the Vatican) will be making proposals. Historically there is a huge attachment to the structures that we have but perhaps as we move to the future we should look at those structures,” said Fr Mullins.

Child abuse case monk in secret trip to Vatican while on the run

A monk wanted by police over child abuse allegations at a leading Catholic school secretly visited Rome to empty his Vatican bank account while on the run.

Father Laurence Soper, a former teacher at St Benedict’s, West  London, disappeared in March and failed to answer his police bail.  

The school is attached to the  Benedictine monastery Ealing Abbey and old boys include comedian Julian Clary and BBC chairman Lord Patten.

It has been at the centre of a scandal since claims surfaced last year that pupils had suffered decades of sex abuse from monks, prompting a high-level Vatican inquiry.

Fr Laurence, known as ‘St Benedict’s banker’ because of his financial acumen, had gone on to be treasurer at St Anselmo in Rome, the headquarters of the Benedictine Order, but as the investigation closed in on him he vanished.

However, The Mail on Sunday has been told that after hiding in Montenegro on the Adriatic coast – where the European Arrest Warrant is not valid – he secretly returned to the Vatican to empty his account.

Fr Laurence, 68, who worked at Barclays Bank between 1960 and 1964 before becoming a monk, is said to have several thousand pounds in investment portfolios and also a ‘large inheritance’ from his parents.

He was quizzed after a former monk at Ealing Abbey, Fr David Pearce, was jailed for eight years in 2009 after being charged with indecent assaults against youngsters dating back to 1972.

Fr Laurence, who taught at the school between 1972 and 1984 and was Abbot at the abbey until 2000 before moving to St Anselmo, was questioned in London in September 2010. 

He was arrested on suspicion of historic sexual assault and bailed, but was allowed to keep his passport to return to Rome. He should have returned to a West London police station in March but failed to do so.

A Catholic Church source in Rome  said: ‘He emptied his account at the Vatican Bank some time over the summer. One thing that everyone did notice in the run-up to his disappearance was that he was drinking heavily.’

Ealing Abbey has been the subject of an inquiry by Lord Carlile QC and an internal Vatican investigation following disclosures of abuse at St Benedict’s.

Lord Carlile named Fr Laurence as one of five clergy who have been tried or are wanted for questioning in  relation to abuse at the Abbey involving pupils.

Yesterday, Father Elias Lorenzo, a prior at St Anselmo, said: ‘We have no idea where Laurence is.’ Italian police said: ‘We are continuing to investigate the disappearance of Soper.’

Vatican checked in laundering probe

COUNCIL of Europe inspectors have visited the Vatican to monitor its plans to tighten money laundering regulations. 

The group from the Moneyval committee "met with representatives of Vatican authorities dealing with the issue of prevention and fight against money laundering and terrorist financing," a statement from the Vatican said.

The group, composed of legal, financial and law enforcement experts from five countries, arrived on Monday and left overnight, the statement said.

They are expected to present a report with their findings at a plenary session of Moneyval "presumably in the middle of 2012," the Vatican said.

Pope Benedict XVI last December created a new financial authority following an embarrassing investigation of Vatican bank officials by Italy.

The Vatican also approved a law from April imposing sentences of up to 12 years in prison for money laundering and 15 years for terrorist financing.

In September last year, Italian authorities launched an investigation into and seized assets linked to the Institute for Religious Works (IOR) - the official name of the Vatican bank - for alleged violation of money-laundering rules.

The Vatican has also been excluded from an international "white list" of countries compliant with strict financial controls.

The new financial authority is aimed at bringing the Holy See in line with new global standards.

Pope envoy: Rules for Legion-linked group invalid

The pope's envoy running the disgraced Legion of Christ religious order says the 1,000-plus rules governing the cult-like life of some of its members are invalid and will be whittled down to a core set of norms.

The rules that the Legion's consecrated women and men live under cover everything from how to eat a piece of bread (tear off bite-size pieces, don't bite into it) to what they can watch on television to how they interact with outsiders and family members.

Pope Benedict XVI took over the Legion last year after the order admitted its Mexican founder sexually abused seminarians and fathered three children. 

A Vatican investigation determined he was a fraud and discovered serious spiritual and psychological abuses within the Legion and its consecrated branch — abuses the pope's delegate says he's now trying to fix.

The Legion scandal ranks as one of the worst in the 20th century Catholic Church since Pope John Paul II held the Legion's late founder the Rev. Marciel Maciel up as a model, even though the Vatican knew for over a decade about credible allegations he was a pedophile.

One of the greatest scandals concerning the Legion's consecrated members is that for years they were told that the 1,000-plus rules they lived by had been approved by the Vatican, when in fact only 128 general statutes had been approved.

Former members have complained that they were told that disobeying any one of the rules was tantamount to disobeying God's will — a heavy onus that created an unhealthy striving for perfection over the most meaningless of norms.

But in a Nov. 21 letter, the pope's delegate for the Legion, Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, said the rules had no legal status since they were never officially approved. He said a small commission would be formed soon to "extract" from the rules only those that are "strictly necessary" for the life and governance of the group.

This core set of rules will guide the consecrated until their whole governing statutes are revised, he wrote.

Significantly, this revision process will be carried out almost independently of the Legion — part of the autonomy De Paolis envisages for the consecrated members.

The rules aren't public but were at one point posted on Wikileaks. The etiquette norms specify how to eat specific types of food: an orange (with a knife and fork); spaghetti (cut, not rolled around a fork) and chicken (with a knife and fork, except on picnics when it can be eaten with fingers).

Members have defended the rules as a way to create unity in an international movement with people from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. Critics have said the excessiveness of rules masks a lack of spirituality and constitutes a red flag about the cult-like nature of the movement.

Mary DeGoede, a consecrated woman at the Mater Ecclesiae College in Rhode Island, recently blogged about some of the "idiosyncrasies" of her life in the movement, including living in a dorm of 18 women and shooting out of bed at the crack of dawn.

"When was the last time you used a fork and knife to eat an orange? How about a buffalo wing?" she wrote on the movement's blog. "I find myself alternately amused and alarmed that this type of behavior no longer strikes me as the least bit strange."

She said her family and old friends tease her about the rules she follows "but I find these odd habits endearing. Maybe it's because they're a sign of the deep unity that underlies our life together."

The consecrated women live like nuns, teaching in Legion-run schools and running retreats, youth programs and other initiatives to raise money and attract new members to the Legion's lay branch Regnum Christi.

They have no legal status in the church, however, since they're not members of a religious order like nuns are and aren't members of an independent institute of consecrated life.

In his Nov. 21 letter, De Paolis said members must now reflect on what type of canonical status they should have as an autonomous movement from the Legion.

Some "dissident" Legion priests and many former Legionary priests have complained that De Paolis isn't moving decisively enough to reform the order and that none of the Legion's superiors have been disciplined for having covered up for Maciel.

Dozens of priests, more than 200 seminarians and hundreds of consecrated women have left the movement since the scandal broke in 2009.