VOTFI Statement on Cloyne Report – July 14th, 2011

How can Catholics ever trust these lying bishops again?

The bishop of Cloyne lied to survivors, lied to the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, lied to the public authorities investigating child safety in his diocese and lied to his people. Why would a bishop do that?

The bishop of Cloyne relied on his vicar general to handle virtually all aspects of sexual abuse of children by priests in his diocese. The vicar general considered the national guidelines promulgated by the Church and State in Ireland to be misguided and he substituted his own poorly documented and ad hoc procedures in their place. Why did he do that?

As a result of the actions of these men and others who colluded with them, perpetrators have gone unprosecuted, victims have gone unsupported, and the people have been left bewildered and angry.

Voice of the Faithful Ireland is outraged at the actions of the bishop of Cloyne and his collaborators between 1996 and 2009. We welcome the response of the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald and their commitments to strengthen the legislative provisions and actions of the public authorities to protect children. As Catholics however, we are distraught that it requires action by the secular authorities to protect our children from our priests. We believe that the behaviours revealed in the Cloyne Report are symptomatic of wider problems in the Church that cannot be addressed by the civil authorities but must be tackled by Catholics themselves.

The bishop and his vicar general acted as they did to protect what they perceived to be in the interests of the Church. The bishop saw in his vicar general someone who convinced him that these unpleasant matters could be handled within the diocese and thus the bishop gave assurances to outside inquirers that child protection was under control. He was wrong. Cloyne even volunteered the diocese to take part in a pilot study in 2004 to demonstrate its compliance in child safety. So confident were its leaders of that fact that they allegedly did not even read the McCoy study which showed that they were not in fact in compliance. The vicar general believed that the national guidelines were unduly procedural and substituted his own more “pastoral” approach. He was wrong.

These men acted as they did because they belong to a clerical power structure that does not value transparency and accountability.  They thought that they knew better than everyone else what was in the interests of the Church in Cloyne and there was no one who was in a position to contradict them. The bishop in current Catholic teaching and practice is literally a law unto himself. He makes the local law and administers it, subject only to the general strictures of the universal Code of Canon Law. The administration of this law is done in secret. This has to change.

We need new sharing of power and responsibility in the Church. Let us start with the selection of a new bishop, which the Apostolic Administrator of Cloyne, Dermot Clifford, Archbishop of Cashel, told a press conference today can be expected now that the report has been published. Let the people of Cloyne refuse to accept as legitimate any bishop whose appointment has not be based on a full and open consultation with the people and their priests and who is committed to opening up the way the diocese is governed and working to change the way the Church universally is governed. Voice of the Faithful has developed a document showing how this can be done within current Church law (votf.org). We urge the people and priests of Cloyne to write to Archbishop Clifford demanding that this be done before any new bishop be appointed and to withhold their allegiance from any man appointed without such consultation. We will support them in such a constructive witness.