Diocese of Cloyne failed to alert HSE to allegation of child sex abuse Bishop 'acknowledged his error'

The Irish Times/January 8, 2009

Audit Report: The Diocese of Cloyne failed to alert health authorities to a child sex abuse allegation, in contravention of existing child protection guidelines, a Health Service Executive (HSE) report has found.

The report of a HSE audit, examining the handling of child-protection policies in Catholic dioceses cited evidence that the diocese was in breach of the Ferns child protection guidelines.

The audit report said the Bishop of Cloyne John Magee had "acknowledged his error in this respect". It said misunderstandings relating to the roles and responsibilities in this area led to the failure.

Despite this, the report said there was no need to refer the Diocese of Cloyne to a commission of investigation established by the Government.

It made a similar recommendations in respect of the other dioceses, saying there was no need for their further investigation by the Commission of Investigation into the Dublin Archdiocese.

But it said bishops in all dioceses refused to answer a section requesting detailed information on complaints and allegations on child sex abuse involving members of the clergy for legal reasons.

As a result, the HSE audit was unable to verify fully the extent to which child protection policies were being implemented in various dioceses.

This section of the audit - Section 5 - sought detailed information on allegations of child sexual abuse against members of the clergy and whether these allegations had been brought to the attention of civil authorities.

"The bishops identified that section five presented insurmountable difficulties in relation to confidentiality given that appropriate legal arrangements had not been put in place.

"That in essence the disclosure of such confidential information was required by the audit could not be actioned," the audit report says.

It said the HSE, following its own legal advice, decided to proceed with the audit without seeking information under this section.

On the basis of replies by dioceses to the audit, the HSE said it was satisfied that that there was no "prima facie case of serious non-compliance with the Ferns recommendations".

The only concerns focused on the Diocese of Cloyne which was not "fully compliant" with the Ferns recommendations.

The report said the bishop had since taken steps to become compliant with the guidelines.

This included the removal of the alleged perpetrators from ministry; affording pastoral care to the complainants; risk assessment of the alleged perpetrators by an agency which works with sex offenders; and ongoing supervision of the offenders.

The audit report said the HSE had put in place a number of actions to assist the diocese to help ensure the diocese child protection guidelines are strengthened.

On foot of such developments, the HSE audit said a referral of Cloyne to the Commission of Investigation in the Dublin Archdiocese was "not warranted".

In the national audit, the HSE report says a number of issues were raised by bishops regarding procedures for reporting possible cases of clerical abuse to the HSE and gardaí.

All bishops affirmed that cases of possible or known abuse were notified "without delay". Each diocese reported that they had a designated person to whom allegations or suspicions of child sexual abuse were reported and that written records were kept.

While the audit noted that a majority of dioceses said they had a child protection training programme in place, the HSE stated it was "disappointing" that a minority of dioceses did not.

The report also contained comments from bishops on child-protection guidelines.

One comment cited was the need to consider urgently legislation for proper monitoring of sex offenders in the Republic.

Overall, the HSE report says the audit had provided a substantial amount of information on child protection policies, practices and procedures within Catholic dioceses.

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