Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bishop still fighting abuse cases despite 'admission'

The diocese of Cloyne is continuing to contest a number of civil legal actions by the victims it betrayed despite Bishop John Magee's admission of personal responsibility for mishandling complaints of child sex abuse.

In the six months since receiving the report of the National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC) on the diocese's "inadequate and in some respects dangerous" child protection policy, Cloyne has made no attempt to settle at least three High Court suits involving two diocesan priests.

Responding to the bishop's 'mea culpa' statement in Cobh Cathedral on Christmas night, one of the plaintiffs claimed that, at a meeting she attended with Magee and his vicar general, Denis O'Callaghan, to discuss her complaint nearly three years ago, the latter suggested to her: "There's always the civil route".

She added: "He (Magee) is dragging this out to the bitter end. He's still abusing us and he's still abusing his position. I'm not surprised. It's typical of the way they behave."

Cloyne is dealing with six separate complainants' cases relating to three priests and a member of a teaching order.

One of the priests at the centre of the court actions is 'Father B' who, according to the NBSC report, allegedly abused the 14-year-old son of a woman with whom he had a sexual relationship, abused another female while she was making her confession, and persistently abused another female for five years, starting when she was 13.

Three years after the first complaint was made against him, Father B was placed on "restricted ministry", allowing him wear clerical garb which, according to the report, "may facilitate further abuse of young people" and render the diocese "vulnerable to be seen as complicit".

The report questions the meaning of Cloyne's stated "pastoral care policy" in handling complaints of child sexual abuse. Denis O'Callaghan, who dealt with Cloyne's child abuse claims until last October, explained its meaning in his memoir, Putting Hand to the Plough, last year

He described it as a "Good Samaritan" model that "went beyond satisfying oneself whether the diocese was or was not liable for the actions of the abuser".

He wrote: "A professional lawyer might have advised that the diocese should not become involved in case that involvement could be interpreted in any way as an admission or an assumption of liability. Fortunately we were advised by an enlightened solicitor. Mr Diarmuid Ó Cathain was of one mind with us on the matter of pastoral care. Indeed it was his idea from the beginning. He put any concerns in context by securing (sic) that assistance be provided on a good-will basis without prejudice. In the event, anyone suffering the consequences of sexual abuse would be treated with sensitivity and would be provided with professional help as needed. The call made on our charitable resources (our italics) was akin to that in a parish where a member of a family was in some trouble or other."

Among those who have urged Magee to take stock of his position is Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin.

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(Source: SBP)