23 Jan 2009

Irish Bishops to hold crisis meeting on child abuse

The Independent - Ireland
January 23, 2009

By John Cooney | Independent Religion Correspondent

The Catholic bishops will hold a crisis meeting today on clerical child abuse, amidst the fallout from revelations that Bishop of Cloyne John Magee failed to apply proper safeguards for children.

The one-day emergency gathering has been summoned by the chairman of the Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Sean Brady, to ensure full implementation of national and statutory child protection procedures in all 26 dioceses.

Last night, Church sources said that Cardinal Brady would demand a written commitment from every bishop, including Bishop Magee -- as well as every Religious Congregation and Missionary Society -- that they would implement all statutory guidelines and enforce the agreed policy of the Bishops' Conference.

The Cardinal's call for immediate and decisive action to allay renewed public scepticism that the Catholic Church cannot be trusted to put child protection to the top of its agenda follows intense discussions with the Vatican and priests in his archdiocese of Armagh.

A previous extraordinary meeting on child abuse was held in October 2005, a week after the publication of the report by the commission of inquiry into the diocese of Ferns, which listed more than 100 allegations of child sexual abuse over four decades, from 1962 to 2002, made against 21 priests.

That special meeting paved the way in 2006 for a co-ordinated approach by bishops on implementing Ferns Report recommendations, including improved pooling of information by dioceses with the Health Services Executive and gardai.


But late last year, a damning report by the Church's independent watchdog, the National Board for Safeguarding Children, (NBSC), found Bishop Magee's procedures to be "inadequate and in some respects dangerous" for children.

An HSE audit published earlier this month was satisfied that Bishop Magee was now implementing proper procedures under direction by the Church board.

But Children's Minister Barry Andrews ordered a third probe into how Bishop Magee dealt with child abuse allegations against priests dating back to 1999.

Last week, Cardinal Brady ignored widespread calls for Bishop Magee's resignation when he said that the former secretary to three Popes, whom he had known for 50 years to be "dependable and reliable", should remain in office so that he could co-operate with the new State commission of investigation. His comments caused outrage among victims.

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