Bishop Hegarty was interviewed by Andrew Martin in relation to his handling of the case of Fr Andrew McCloskey and the question of diocesan contributions to the Stewardship Trust.
In all cases ‘Q‘ is a question put by Martin. ‘R‘ is in all cases Bishop Hegarty’s response.
Introduction by Andrew Martin, standing outside Bishop’s House, Derry:
“The incidents involving Fr McCloskey raise questions about the handling of sex abuse allegations by church leaders. We decided to put those to Bishop Hegarty, who, when I met him here at his offices, gave his first interview on the Fr McCloskey case.”
Introductory response by Bishop Hegarty inside Bishop’s House:
“I was aware of the incident and very shortly after coming here I had occasion to call him in . (I) asked him about it. He was very forthcoming about it and I told him that for as long as he remained sober he would remain in ministry.”
Q.. “Was Fr McCloskey sent to Stroud for treatment for anything other than alcohol abuse?”
R. “Well, when, basically for alcohol abuse. But normally in a case … anybody who goes to Stroud, there is … they have facilities there where they explore different areas of personality.
Q.. “Was Fr McCloskey treated for anything to do with psycho-sexual problems?”
R. “Well, I do not know that but I am assuming because of the nature of the way Stroud works that they don’t confine themselves to one specific area.”
Q.. “How seriously did you view the incident once you became aware of it?”
R. “Well, I view all incidents like that very seriously, and this is an area where there are victims. The perpetrator is obviously not functioning in a normal way. I took it very seriously at the time. It is important to make … while it doesn’t in any way mitigate the effect of the incident on the young man in question, it certainly was not child sex abuse – which would crank into position a totally different way of processing it.
Q.. “You used the word ‘victim’. Do you consider the other party was a victim?”
R. “Well I certainly do not attribute any guilt to him. As I understand it he was an innocent party.”
Q.. “Was he a victim?”
R. “Well … he was … an adult at the time. One could say that … he possibly, he possibly was a victim.”
Q.. “Are you aware of any other allegations relating to Fr Andy McCloskey?”
R. “Yes. I am aware of one other … an adult … an incident which long preceded his going to Stroud. And I’ve spoken to the adult concerned, who was then an adult also, and he wishes his anonymity to be preserved and his privacy respected.
Q.. “When did you become aware of that other allegation?”
R. “The late ’90s – ’99 I think.”
Q.. “And do you know what that allegation was? Could you describe that allegation?”
R. “No – I am not prepared to describe that allegation. It was a serious one. It was processed at the time.”
Q.. “What did you do?”
R. “I provided pastoral care and professional care for that person.”
Q.. “Did you inform the authorities that an allegation had been made?”
R. “No – I didn’t.”
Q.. “Why not?”R. “Because they were adults.”
Q.. “Should the police not have been informed?”
R. “Well, they were both advised … I mean … in all cases where it is an adult there is not the same obligation to report as if it were a minor.”
Q.. “You are familiar with the group ‘Hope Alive’?
Q.. “At what stage did Fr Andy McCloskey become involved with ‘Hope Alive’?R. “Either 2000 or 2001.”
Q. “So it was after you became aware of other allegations relating to Fr McCloskey?”
R. “Eh… Yes.”
Q. “Do you think it was appropriate that he should become involved with ‘Hope Alive’?
R. “Well … it was not for me to adjudicate whether it was appropriate or not in the sense that he went … did the programme himself, and then, on foot of his experience there he was invited by the directors to consider participating and assisting them in the work of counselling in ‘Hope Alive’… which was group counselling. There was no one-to-one contact. Interviews … or discussion groups … they were always monitored. ‘Hope Alive’ as it was then is … it was related to the diocese, right. But the direction and administration of it is totally independent. They have very, very rigorous and monitored processes for selection, and the level of confidentiality which they engage in is extremely high, as you would imagine, so I was not privy to what criteria were applied. And what I do know is that the process was rigorous and they deemed him suitable to assist them in this work to outreach to people who were survivors of trauma.
Q. “Nonetheless you were aware that he was working with this group?”
R. “I was aware, but I was also aware that there were safeguards there.”
Q. “But were the people there aware that there had been two allegations of a sexual nature against Fr McCloskey?”
R. “Well, I do not know what detail they knew… I knew they … some of them … were certainly aware that Fr McCloskey did have difficulties in the past with his sexuality. Now, what detail they knew that in, I do not know.”
Q. “But these are not just difficulties with his sexuality. These are allegations relating to his conduct.”
R. “Yeh… well, it may be, but all the while … ah, I would just say that all the while ‘Hope Alive’ and now ‘Nest’ … that they operate totally, totally, you know independently …”
Q. “Do you think that it was appropriate that a man against whom two allegations of a sexual nature had been made was then put in a position where he was counselling victims of sex abuse?”
R. “Well, that is for others to adjudicate.”
Q. “What do you think?”
R. “Well I was given to … was, was assured that he did have, apropos of his time in Stroud, that he did have a particular facility in the whole area of counselling, and that this was an area where he, on the assessment of others – not locals, mind you, but of an international standing and of an international nature – they saw him as somebody who was suitable. I was not going to second-guess a decision taken by them.
Q. “I am asking you for your opinion as bishop of the diocese. Do you feel it appropriate that a man against whom there had been two allegations of a sexual nature should then become a counsellor of victims of sexual abuse?”
R. “Well, I’ll tell you what I do know, that having worked in that he was extremely successful.”
Q. “Do you believe it was appropriate that he should have been placed in that position?”
R. “I think it was appropriate, particularly if he was deemed to have had the skills and the expertise, which he did have, and considering the success of his contribution to that organisation since then – he was bringing skills and experience to the process which were valuable and which were recognised as such by people who were in a position to recognise and to evaluate his contribution.”
Q. “Do you regret that he was put in that position?”
R. “No I don’t.”
Q. “Can I ask you about the Stewardship Trust Fund and the undertaking that the Derry Diocese has taken in terms of what it will contribute”
R. “Eh … Yes.”
Q. “What is the undertaking you have made?”
R. “Well, the Stewardship Trust, as many know, was set up in 1996. (It) began with an initial injection of funding from the insurance company. What the Derry diocese is doing… Yes… we have a commitment to expenses of the conference generally. Now in more recent times we’ve found that because of the expenses arising from issues relating to sex abuse and our managing of that, we were forced to provide another source of funding, because what we were paying in the normal way was not adequate to meet those expenses.”
Q. “But the Derry diocese is making a contribution towards the fund which looks after compensation for victims of sex abuse.”
R. “Well compensation is one, is one…”
Q. “But it is an element of it?”
R. “Yes – it’s an element of it surely, and the diocese is making a contribution.”
Q. “How much of a contribution are you making?”
R. “It will be a significant contribution, depending on the size of the diocese.”
Q. “What is your contribution?”
R. “My contribution is very significant.”
Q. “£200,000 a year? £1,000,000 over five years? Is that right?
R. “Well, that wouldn’t be too far off the mark.”
Q. “How are you managing to raise that money?”
R. “I am raising that money in the diocese.”
Q. “Is there a levy on what parishes raise over the year?”
R. “Well, money has to be collected in a particular way – and a levy is as good a way as any.”
Q. “Are you taking 3% from parish incomes towards that fund?”
Q. “Do parishioners know that?”
R. “Well they… some of them, do, and others … they’ll all know it before very long.”
Q. “Did you make an undertaking to write to parishioners?”
R. “Yes, I did … and I will do that.”
Q. “But you have been taking the money up to this point …”
R. “No, listen … ah … I have not been taking any money at all, I have not been taking any money at all. There was one … we just began that very recently. This is now .. this is a very new initiative. There has been one payment, and some parishes have … have decided that they will not run with it until such time as it is an official, you know, notification from the diocesan office.
Q. “Do you not think that you should have written to parishioners as agreed, to tell them as agreed, before the money was taken.”
R. “No I do not. I do not think that at all. I have no difficulty at all, and the people will be told in due course, and they will be very happy with that.”
Q. “Are you aware of any other allegations in relation to priests in this diocese in relation to sex abuse?”
R. “Any allegation which comes my way is thoroughly investigated, and due process is followed.”
Q. “Are you aware of any other allegations in relation to priests in this diocese regarding sexual abuse.”
R. “That again is an area where great confidentiality must be preserved.”
Q. “I am not asking you to breach a confidentiality. I am asking you to say whether or not you are aware of other allegations against priests in this diocese.”
R. “Well I am saying to you that no matter how inadvertently one talks about numbers or about situations we know that all too easily, all too easily this can get out into the public domain, and it is not the business of the public domain.”
Q. “Perhaps you could just describe for me how you would describe your management of the Fr McCloskey situation?”
R. “The case was handled, I think, very responsibly at the time, and I would do the same again.”(End of Interview)