Sunday, August 28, 2011

Leave abuse to DPP alone call rejected

A leading cleric and retired ethicist has said he believes that priests who are subject to allegations of sexual abuse should not be forced to step aside from ministry until the civil authorities decide whether or not there are grounds for a prosecution.

The suggestion by Fr James Good, a former lecturer in University College Cork (UCC), has been rejected by the Church's child protection watchdog, and abuse campaigner Colm O'Gorman. 

In a post on the website of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), Fr Good urged fellow priests to ''press for a situation in which no action of any kind is taken against a priest by his bishop until the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) has notified the diocese that the truth of an allegation has been established and that a case for prosecution is prepared.''

However, Mr O'Gorman, founder of the One In Four support group for survivors of abuse told The Irish Catholic that ''there are many, many cases referenced in State inquiries, both in the context of Church and beyond, where offenders have not been prosecuted.

''For example, there have only been three prosecutions taken by the DPP for offences against children by Roman Catholic clergy and religious in the institutions investigated by the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse despite clear evidence that many thousands of children were horrifically abused in these institutions.

''Prosecution is a criminal justice response, and not a child protection measure,'' Mr O'Gorman added.

Fr Good insists that his proposal would ''remove the onus on the bishop of passing judgement on one of his priests''.

Ian Elliott, chief executive of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCC) told The Irish Catholic that ''informing the gardaí and the HSE is necessary but does not remove the need for the bishop to take whatever preventative measures they deem appropriate to safeguard vulnerable children during an investigation''.

Obvious solutions

Mr O'Gorman added: ''there are no simple obvious solutions to balancing the rights of children versus the rights of adults who are in positions of power and authority. This is why best practice requires that children's rights and their welfare be the paramount concern in such circumstances.

''Any error may result in the need to work to support or indeed restore the good name of a wrongly accused or suspected person. And we must be prepared to do such work with integrity and honesty.

''But an error in not acting to require a person who has abused a child to step aside may well result in the rape and abuse of other children. It is impossible to put right the rape and violation of a child. It simply cannot be done,'' he said.