Thursday, February 26, 2009

Two more sex abuse claims followed Cloyne report

TWO FURTHER unreported cases of allegations of clerical child sex abuse were brought to the attention of the Catholic Church watchdog, the National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC), following publication of its Cloyne Report on December 19th last.

As with the two cases dealt with in the Cloyne Report, these latter two were also brought to NBSC’s attention by third parties.

The board had not been told of the two cases by either the diocese or the religious congregation, both of which were in the Republic. The NBSC declined to give further details other than saying the diocese in question was not Cloyne.

The new cases are revealed in the NBSC’s first report, published yesterday. Ian Elliott, chief executive of the NBSC, said that in dealing with the two new cases they “had been very impressed by the response” of relevant church authorities, “who had been open to learning from the past”.

He said the alleged perpetrator in both instances was found not to represent any current risk to children.

In both instances also the civil authorities had been informed. He said the NBSC decided not to name the diocese or religious congregation involved, due to the degree of their co-operation.

Yesterday’s report also disclosed that in 2008 a total of 56 allegations of abuse were notified by the 26 dioceses in Ireland and all were reported to statutory authorities.

Twenty-one concerned deceased clergy.

Allegations “covered a broad spectrum in interpretation. Some were little more than suspicion and anonymous innuendo”.

It said that over the past year and a half, the NBSC initiated a process of gathering statistical data to assess the volume of safeguarding issues within the church, its management of allegations, and assess the risk and response to those in need of support.

Analysis of responses to this request, sent to the 26 dioceses and 166 religious congregations, “revealed a lack of clarity, understanding of language and common approach to safeguarding across the Church in Ireland”.

Last December it sent another request for information, using an amended questionnaire. All dioceses responded. There was “still variation in interpretation”.

It said “the key issue was that some dioceses were being more rigorous than required by civil guidelines or Church standards.”

It was this questionnaire which disclosed the figures above, of which the report concluded “it would be inappropriate and unhelpful to accept these returns as a true reflection of safeguarding practice” in dioceses.

It did accept, from the information received, that “appropriate procedures are being followed within all dioceses with regard to referring new allegations that emerge against members of clergy to the statutory authorities for their investigation”.

Chairman of the NBSC Aidan Canavan said the new review “will be rigorous” and he felt the church had moved “very significantly’’ since the NBSC was set up. He believed cover-up was “a diminishing factor, with much greater openness and more people coming to us”.

Mr Elliott said he had been working on child protection for 36 years. “I am not going to compromise that for the sake of a job, rest assured”, nor would he be party to a cover-up.

The Catholic Primate, Cardinal Seán Brady, welcomed the new Safeguarding Children guidelines, published yesterday along with the report, as “a great help in guiding those who are implementing safeguarding policy and procedures throughout church life”.

Minister of State for Children Barry Andrews said the NBSC’s work had “considerably strengthened the capacity of the Catholic Church in Ireland to address issues surrounding the threat of clerical sexual abuse”.

The Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, while welcoming publication of both the report and Safeguarding Children, was “puzzled” by the report’s assertion that: “The key issue [his italics] was that some dioceses were being more rigorous than required by civil guidelines or church standards”.

What had been revealed left him still “anxious that the planned review of practice in various dioceses by the NBSC should contain specific protocols for the Archdiocese of Dublin to verify that the superiors of priests other than those of the Archdiocese of Dublin working in Dublin subscribe to and sustain the same norms and guidelines as those of the Archdiocese,” he said.

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(Source: IT)