Monday, November 30, 2009

Dublin Report - Diocesan Responses - Elphin

I acknowledge the publication of the Report of the Dublin Archdiocese Commission of Investigation.

It is important and necessary in bringing into full light the painful truth of the past and in helping to forge a better future for those who have been sexually abused as children.

The weeks which have passed since the publication of the Ryan Report have been for members of the Catholic Church and indeed for everyone throughout Ireland and beyond a time of unprecedented shock, despondency and soul-searching.

Those abused were our children. We were their church and we let them down. In failing to adequately act on the allegations of abuse suffering was added upon suffering.

Let me, add my own words to those of Archbishop Martin in expressing my horror and revulsion at the Dublin Report’s findings – My horror and revulsion at the abuse that occurred and the failed responses it documents.

I, as Bishop, have had the painful task of meeting with people who have been abused and have come to know the pain they suffer. I humbly reiterate my sincere sorrow to all those who as children have been abused by members of the clergy and to anyone who has found the church’s response to be lacking in any way.

I also extend my sorrow and concern to their families and to the church community as a whole.

Commitment to Safeguarding Children

I would like to take this opportunity to assure those who today have questions about the Church’s resolve in dealing fully and comprehensively with this matter of child abuse that the Diocese of Elphin is absolutely committed to providing a safe environment for children.

The Diocese is working in tandem with the HSE and the Church’s National Board for Safeguarding Children led by Mr Ian Elliott to ensure that best practice in the area of safeguarding children, as underpinned in Children First, Our Duty to Care and Safeguarding Children: Standards and Guidance Document for the Catholic Church in Ireland, is fully adhered to and implemented.

The Diocese is thankful for the continued help and support of so many committed people in facilitating this task at parish level.

Normative and Binding Policy

In line with these civil and Church policies the Diocese has developed a Child Protection Policy, which is normative and binding for all parishes in the Diocese. This policy commits parishes to the implementation of:

· Codes of Conduct for Children, young people and adults who work with them.
· Procedures for recruiting, overseeing and supporting adult leaders.
· Appropriate supervision and record keeping processes.
· Procedure for reporting child protection concerns and/or disclosures.
· Accident and Emergency Plans.

Policy Implementation

The Diocese has established the following structures to ensure the successful implementation and continued optimisation of the policy and the procedures contained therein:

· Diocesan Office for Safeguarding Children.
· Diocesan Director of Safeguarding Children.
· Designated Persons/Officers.
· Elphin Diocesan Advisory Child Protection Committee.
· Elphin Diocesan Advisory Case Management Committee.
· Pastoral Support Personnel for complainants and alleged perpetrators of abuse.
· Two accredited Keeping Safe Child Protection Trainers with two more currently being trained by the HSE.
· Two part-time child protection workers who oversaw the initial roll-out of Child Protection Policy and Procedures.
· Parish Child Protection Representatives

Training and Awareness Raising

Paramount to every Child Protection Policy is the raising of abuse awareness and also Child Protection Training.

Both have been and will continue to be made available throughout the Diocese for everyone who has contact and involvement with children within our Church setting.

Garda Vetting

In addition to this our Diocese is keenly aware that it is in the best interest of our children, that all adults who are involved with them through the Church undergo Garda vetting.

In conjunction with the Diocesan Office of Safeguarding Children, we have worked collaboratively with the other five Dioceses of the Western Province and the Garda Central Vetting Unit to establish a common policy in this regard.

This policy which has been ratified by the six Bishops will provide a standardised procedure and central office in the West of Ireland.

This will ensure a unified approach to the vetting of all adults, both clerical and lay, who work with children in our Church settings.

Reporting Abuse

The Diocese of Elphin supports the principle that everyone has a duty to report any concerns relating to the welfare of children and encourages the reporting of such concerns or disclosures of abuse.

Concerns and complaints can be passed on directly to HSE or An Garda Siochana. Where such matters are reported to our designated persons, they will respond compassionately and liaise with the HSE and or An Garda Siochana in dealing with the matter.

All allegations and concerns of sexual abuse against children are reported to An Garda Siochana and the HSE.

In dealing with each case the Diocese follows current state and church policies in this area and is guided by the Diocesan Case Management Committee (which is made up of laity with expertise in relevant areas).

The Diocese of Elphin co-operated fully with the recent HSE audit questionnaire concerning allegations of child sexual abuse against diocesan priests who are still living.

Sorrow, Regret and Prayers

In conclusion, let me once again apologise to anyone who has been abused by a priest. In these times, such an apology may seem hollow but it is made with utmost sincerity and deep regret.

I have asked every parish in our Diocese to offer prayers this Sunday for all people who have suffered abuse. I pray that they may get all the help possible and go on to live full, happy and fulfilled lives.

I also pray that as Church we may be strengthened in our determination to do all in our power to put children first – both now and in the future.

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