VOTFI Statement on Irish HSE ‘Audit’ of Dioceses, Jan 2009

Irish state commitment to child safety now seriously in question

The report by Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE) published on Jan 7th, 2009 – of a purported audit of child safeguarding provision in all Irish Catholic dioceses – is a national disgrace.

Although no Irish bishop had been willing to fill in a crucial section of a HSE questionnaire that would have revealed whether or not his diocese was in compliance with the church’s own child safety guidelines adopted in 2005, the HSE nevertheless concluded that no diocese needed to be referred to the ongoing state commission of inquiry into the mishandling of clerical child abuse in Dublin archdiocese.

Had it not been for the damning report by the church’s National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC) on Cloyne diocese published on Dec 19th, 2008, this HSE report would have amounted to Irish state connivance at practices in Cloyne that the NBSC has described as ‘dangerous’ – and no one in Ireland would be any the wiser.

Except the victims of this iniquitous behaviour, some of whom had triggered the NBSC report on Cloyne by reporting their concerns to the HSE or to the victim support organisation, One in Four – and then to the NBSC.

The decision by Ireland’s Minister of State for Children Mr Barry Andrews to refer the diocese of Cloyne to the Dublin inquiry does not therefore go far enough. There is an overwhelming need for a credible process of inquiry into existing child safeguarding practice, and into the handling of all allegations of clerical sexual abuse in recent decades, in every Irish diocese.

Combined with the NBSC report on Cloyne, this HSE report raises the most serious questions about the commitment of the leaders of both the Irish state and the Irish Catholic church to the safety of Irish Catholic children.

The support expressed last week by four other Irish Catholic bishops for Bishop Magee remaining in office is also disgraceful. If these bishops believe it is acceptable for a bishop to make false statements on child safety issues, how can parents in their own dioceses trust anything they themselves say on the same issues? Already grievously damaged by Bishop Magee’s behaviour, trust cannot be restored while he remains in office.

To help restore some degree of confidence, we call upon all Irish bishops to confirm immediately that, in accordance with their own guidelines, they have now referred all allegations of clerical child abuse in their records to the police in their respective state jurisdictions, and to the appropriate health authority. And that they have also complied with central church directives on the reporting of such allegations to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – in particular the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope John Paul II, Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela, promulgated on April 30th, 2001.