Criticisms made by the former Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland, of the National Board for Safeguarding Children's lack of funding and the time it is taking to complete a full audit of the Irish Church, have been challenged by the Catholic Communications Office (CCO) in Maynooth.
Speaking at the launch of the book Can I Stay in the Catholic Church, by Fr Brian Lennon SJ, Baroness Nuala O’Loan said it was a “scandal” that the NBSCCC still had not completed a full audit of the Church’s twenty-six dioceses and all of its Catholic institutions, six years after the safeguarding board had been established.
Last November, the first six of the Church's 26 dioceses published reviews carried out by the NBSCCC, and this June, another tranche of reviews is due to be published covering four dioceses and three religious congregations.
Baroness O’Loan also described the NBSCCC as, “under-staffed and under-resourced” although she praised its chief executive Ian Elliot and the Board for overseeing the establishment of current child protection measures.
Recently, NBSCCC chief executive Ian Elliot stated that the Board’s intention is, “to complete the overall task in two further years" and to encourage participants to follow the example set by the six bishops last November and publish their completed review reports together twice a year.
At the Jesuit book launch, Nuala O’Loan also warned that there might still be men in active ministry in the Church against whom allegations were made that were never investigated.
However, the Church’s Communications Office responded to these criticisms in a statement saying the review process was underway and had begun to publish reports.
It underlined that the process is continuing and will continue, “until all of Ireland’s dioceses and religious congregations are reviewed.”
The CCO also highlighted that the NBSCCC had the cooperation of the Irish Bishops.
“There is a commitment to the Board by the Bishops to support this process and to go forward in partnership, and to foster throughout the Catholic Church best practice in child safeguarding,” the CCO said.
In relation to Baroness O’Loan’s claims that the NBSCCC, “is understaffed and under resourced,” the CCO referred to a public commitment of financial support by the Bishops and religious congregations for safeguarding children and young people in the Church and for the ongoing care of those who have been abused.
This included a five-year €10 million fund for the Towards Healing helpline and professional counselling referral service (formerly known as Faoiseamh) and support for the National Board for Safeguarding Children and related safeguarding activities at diocesan and national level.
The CCO also pointed to its guidelines and procedures for addressing concerns, suspicions, allegations and disclosures of abuse and said this involved referral to An Garda Síochána / PSNI and the Health Service Executive/ Health and Social Services of any such concerns.
“It is the duty of anyone with any such concerns to bring these to the attention of the appropriate civil authorities,” the CCO said.