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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Paddy O’Kane of Derry reflecting on the Cloyne Report

Our hearts go out to the people of Norway in their trauma. This horrible incident was the big story last week together with the worsening situation in the Horn of Africa where famine has been officially declared. Incidentally we are having a collection here after Masses next weekend for Trocaire and if you wish to contribute, c/o Holy Family, I will pass it on.
The other news stories of the last few weeks were about the end of the News of the World,[not the end of the world!], the Euro crisis and the Cloyne Report. The first was caused by irresponsible journalism. The second by irresponsible banking. The third by an irresponsible bishop.
The hacking into mobile phones by news reporters caused such an angry back- lash that the paper had to close, especially when advertisers walked away. A system based on self regulation expects people of integrity to set their own moral guidelines.
The deregulation of banking protocols which started with the Thatcher/Reagan era led to a monetary crisis which was fed by greed. A banker once told me that when her conscience was worrying her about giving loans to people who would struggle to repay them, she was told ‘ everyone is doing it and just think of your big bonus’!
But of these three it is the Cloyne report that upset me most. there has been a lot of anger over the past twenty years directed against the church and its handling of the abuse crisis. Rightly so – it was a shameful mess. Likewise many people have walked away. Empty pews everywhere. Many too have indeed stayed loyal but the pain has been felt by all. The Irish Bishops in 1996 set up a list of guidelines to be followed by every diocese. It also set up a ‘watchdog committee,’ under Ian Elliott to ensure that each diocese did in fact live up to these rules. The fact he is not a Roman Catholic makes him even more independent. This committee found the diocese of Cloyne in breach of these guidelines and led to the state inquiry of which the results have brought shame on the Irish church. ‘How can you trust the bishops?’ has been the cry. The fact has been overlooked that it was the bishops’ own employee, acting on their behalf, who brought the issue to light. For that they deserve some credit and the integrity of Ian Elliott should reflect on those who employ him.
Secondly it must be acknowledged to their credit that they refused pressure from Rome and set out procedures, even stricter than those proposed by the Irish State. So it is unfair to blame them all for the gross misbehaviour of one of their own. Yes, one bishop has been found to have acted in an irresponsible manner, to put it mildly, by his fellow bishops and this has led to his resignation. He has had to ‘carry the can’ for his diocesan committee of priests and lay people who in their arrogance chose to disobey these procedures and were backed in doing so by Rome!
Mons. O’Callaghan was a popular professor in Maynooth. We held him in high esteem. He was a fellow member of the beekeeping club. I find it hard to understand how he acted so irresponsibly and arrogantly. The interference of the Vatican gave this committee the support not to be bound by the guidelines, downgrading them merely to ‘a working document’. Five years later Rome changed its attitude but the Cloyne diocese continued to act differently from every other diocese. It has led to a bitter clash between the Irish State and the Vatican, even a call for the Nuncio to be expelled.
The victims prefer to be called ‘survivors’. Those survivors in Cloyne diocese have had to suffer more than they should because of the high handed position taken by their diocese. The reporting to the police of nine out of nineteen suspected cases of abuse did not happen. This obligation to report is central to the bishops’ guidelines. The bishop and his committee ‘’positively misled Ian Elliott in his investigation’’, the Cloyne report adds.
Mandatory reporting has been the law in the North for some time. Survivors groups in the South have been calling for this for a long time but previous governments have dragged their heels on this issue. I must add I was dismayed to learn that Social Services in the South are still resisting this legislation because it will drastically increase their workload! Now at last, in spite of objectors like this, the law will change, thank God.
Voluntary compliance has been ended. As with the media and banks, self-regulation expected too much in some cases. Integrity is not found everywhere. The lack of this integrity in the church, of all places, has made it a difficult time for many to be a Catholic .Let me add that I can honestly say that these guidelines have been rigorously applied here in the diocese of Derry. The good work done by Bishop Hegarty and his team must be acknowledged.
Recent Sunday Gospels , whether about the weeds among the wheat or the mixed catch of fish are timely reminders of the sinfulness of the human condition. Just as there is a struggle within each of us between good and evil, so is there the same struggle in every human institution whether banking, politics, the media or the church. This is not an excuse, rather a reminder of our need to repent and our need for redemption through the grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

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