Statement in Response to Bishop Magee’s Interview

The Association of Catholic Priests, while it welcomes the fact that Bishop Magee did an interview, believes that what he said was inadequate. Like many other senior clerics, the language he used and the way that he presented it left a question to to whether he fully understands the extent of the problem as experienced by those who were abused. Something much more straightforward is needed in order to convinced the general public of the real sincerity of the Church in dealing with the problems of clerical sexual abuse.

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  1. Thank you, Fr. Bermingham for all that information! Questions: Is Mr. Meagher dependent upon pastors for information about concerns or allegations? How does the Advisory Panel get its information? Will the “manual that could be widely distributed in the parishes” instruct parishioners to bring concerns or allegations directly to the Gardai?
    I ask these questions because in the USA, according to the National Catholic Reporter’s May 23, 2011 report, “a member of the review board in the Kansas City diocese told NCR the group had never been notified of the Ratigan matter.” Fr. Ratigan has been indicted for producing pornographic photos of little girls in his parish, and some parishioners are seeking an indictment for their Opus Dei bishop, Robert W. Finn, as well, for neglect of oversight. Review board members learned of Fr. Ratigan’s arrest from a newspaper report even though, months earlier, the Bishop had received a letter from the school principal asserting that Fr. Ratigan fit a pedophile profile and diocesan officials had found pornographic photos on Fr. Ratigan’s computer.
    The USCCB’s “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” sets up lay review boards to assist bishops in assessing evidence of child abuse, but Bishop Finn chose not to share information from his office with the Diocesan review board. (Like Bishop Mcgee, he has apologized for his behavior.)
    The review board in the Philadelphia cases, in which there are allegations against 37 priests and suspensions of 21 more, worked just as well as the Kansas City Board. According to the NCR article, “The head of the Philadelphia review board has said that archdiocesan officials held back pertinent information from that board regarding the cases against priests in the archdiocese. The Philadelphia board ‘had been advised only about allegations previously determined by archdiocesan officials to have involved the sexual abuse of a minor — a determination we had been under the impression was ours to make,’ wrote Ana Maria Catanzaro in a May 12 article in Commonweal. . . . [A person] who is familiar with the review board process, also said that the system has been ‘exposed as a sham.'”
    Structural reform is necessary, I believe, to empower parish lay persons/committees to notify and work with civil authorities and to decide whether an accused religious ought to be suspended pending the outcome of an investigation. But as long as lay investigators and panels are dependent upon bishops or pastors for their information, obstructions and dangerous delays seem likely to continue.

  2. Bill Bermingham says:

    Maire, this was published a month ago by the diocese of Cloyne:
    Actions taken by Diocese in response to Report
    Bill Meagher, a former child care manager with the HSE, has been appointed as Diocesan Designated Officer/Delegate for Safeguarding of Children. Fr John McCarthy has been appointed as Deputy Diocesan Designated Officer/Delegate
    The Diocese manages allegations, suspicions and concerns in accordance with the guidelines issued by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church
    There is full cooperation and sharing of information with the Garda and the HSE
    We have established an Advisory Panel to discuss cases involving priests currently in ministry where clarity is lacking on the nature of suspicions raised and/or the course of action to be followed. Its membership is in line with the National Board for Safeguarding of Children guidelines
    An Advisor has been appointed to each priest out of ministry in line with National Board guidelines. Advisors have undergone appropriate training.
    The Cloyne Diocesan Safeguarding Children Committee has made the completion of training all priests in active ministry its priority. All priests have now been trained in Safeguarding Children.
    Training and Garda vetting of retired priests who are available for ministry in the Diocese is almost complete. There is a four month turn-around time in processing vetting applications by the Garda Vetting Unit.
    Working in tandem with the training, Garda vetting applications for all priests in Cloyne have been submitted for processing, and most have been completed.
    Each parish has now a trained representative in place, while most parishes generally have two. Some have three and more.
    As a result of the training, there have been information sessions or Child Awareness meetings held at parish level for those who work alongside children in their Church community.
    The Committee designed and circulated a draft parish checklist or self-audit tool. That was in turn sent to all parishes.
    Subsequently, Members of the Committee set about visiting all the 46 parishes. The Committee had a Resource Pack to help each parish implement safeguarding policies and procedures.
    The analysis of this audit of parishes has begun and should be completed in the near future.
    During this time, a subcommittee was established. It dedicated itself to producing a new revised edition of the safeguarding children policy for the Diocese of Cloyne. This was a formidable and considerable task. The resulting comprehensive document allows for referencing child safeguarding matters e.g policy statement, procedures, codes of behaviour and so forth. This policy document has been approved by the National Board for Safeguarding of Children in the Catholic Church
    It has now been distributed to all priests and is in the process of being distributed to all parish representatives.
    From the Safeguarding Children in the Diocese of Cloyne Policy, came the Parish Policy, which addressed the need for an easily readable manual that could be widely distributed in the parishes.
    The response to the purchasing of noticeboards dedicated solely to the display of the Churches Safeguarding Contact Details was significant.
    In each church a record is maintained of all persons present in the sacristy area for any occasion. This includes altar servers, priests, sacristans, readers, Eucharistic ministers and any other church personnel.
    Structures have been put in place to reach out to every corner of every parish in the Diocese so that people will have full and adequate information on safeguarding of children. It will be clearly demonstrated how to act where suspicions arise and where allegations are being made, the contact details to obtain advice and assistance and the means of transmitting vital information

  3. I appreciate the fact that you are asking Bishop Magee to go further than he did in his apology to the victims of abuse and their families. I suggest that the ACP might also go further in criticizing apologies by prelates on these matters. I’d suggest something like the following: “Something much more straightforward — a full engagement by the bishops in necessary reform measures — is needed in order to convince the general public of the real sincerity of the Church in dealing with the problems of clerical sexual abuse.” As far as I’ve read, Bishop Magee did not indicate that the diocese would handle abuse allegations more honestly in the future, so his was not even a complete apology. Apologies are important, but actions bespeak compassion better than any words.

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