Questions to answer on sex abuse

  • 25 April 2006
  • test

Allegations that Bishop Donal Murray stonewalled on sex abuse inquiries. By Colin Murphy

The Bishop of Limerick, Donal Murray, was said by the Church's then child protection officer, Paul Bailey, to have "stonewalled" inquiries into the activities of a paedophile priest. This claim was made in a letter written by the late Peter McCloskey to Paul Bailey in which Peter McCloskey purported to document what was stated at a meeting between them in January 2004.

That meeting was attended by Colm O'Gorman of "One in Four", the support group for victims of sexual abuse. Colm O'Gorman said he specifically remembers Paul Bailey saying at that meeting in January 2004 that Bishop Murray had stonewalled inquiries about the priest in question. Colm O'Gorman also said he had put it to Paul Bailey at that January 2004 meeting that essentially what Paul Bailey was saying was that the Child Protection Office was just "window dressing" for the Irish Bishops' Conference. Colm O'Gorman said Paul Bailey "indicated that he didn't disagree with that".

We put the claims in Peter McCloskey's letter to both the Bishop of Limerick, Donal Murray and Paul Bailey. Paul Bailey said in a response (see panel, page 11) that he disputed several of the claims made in Peter McCloskey letter of 3 June 2004 and so disturbed was he by the false claims made in the letter that he lodged with his solicitor a "comprehensive dossier" of his involvement with Peter McCloskey's case and a "detailed contradiction of those aspects of Peter's letter with which (he) differed". He said he did not reply directly to Peter McCloskey because he had been advised that to enter controversy with Peter McCloskey at that time would be unhelpful in the context of Peter McCloskey's recovery.

The office of the Bishop of Limerick, Donal Murray, responded to us by saying the Bishop had agreed with members of Peter McCloskey's family on Sunday 23 April that they would make no further comment on the case for the time being. He was therefore not responding to the questions we put to him (see panel on this page).

Peter McCloskey committed suicide at the beginning of April this year, after mediation talks with the Diocese of Limerick broke down.

Paul Bailey met with Peter McCloskey in the One in Four office on 21 January 2004. The meeting was to discuss Peter McCloskey's attempts to gain information from church records on the priest who had abused him, Denis Daly (who had died in 1987).

According to Peter McCloskey's letter, Paul Bailey said his attempts to get information from the Bishop of Limerick, Donal Murray, had been met with the same response as Peter McCloskey's own efforts – "that of being stonewalled and receiving no information".

Paul Bailey, according to the letter, went on to express his "frustration at the manner in which the Irish Bishops were being non-responsive to (his) suggestions and advice", Peter McCloskey wrote.

Peter McCloskey described how Colm O'Gorman, who was present at the meeting, put it to Paul Bailey that the Child Protection Office was "nothing more than window dressing on behalf of the Bishops' Conference".

Paul Bailey "agreed that (he) felt that such was the case", and went on to express his "overall frustration at the lack of resources and personnel at (his) disposal", Peter McCloskey wrote.

Peter McCloskey said he was abused over a period in 1980, while serving as an altar boy in the local parish, Christ the King at Caherdavin, Limerick, by Fr Denis Daly. Ordained in 1951, Denis Daly had initially worked as a priest in Sydney, Australia, before moving to England and then home to Ireland. (See article, page 12.)

Seeking information about Denis Daly's record as a priest, Peter McCloskey wrote to the church authorities in Sydney in 2003.

He was told by the chancellor at the Sydney archdiocese, Brian Rayner, to direct his inquiries to the Child Protection Office of the Irish Bishops' Conference in Maynooth, headed by Paul Bailey.

Meawhile, the Director of Professional Standards at the Sydney archdiocese, Michael Salmon, had written to Paul Bailey with a brief description of information in the Sydney files on Denis Daly. This stated that Denis Daly "ran foul of the New South Wales police service" in 1963, and had to leave the state, after what was described as a "moral lapse".

At their meeting in January 2004, Peter McCloskey asked Paul Bailey whether he had any information on Denis Daly and whether he had been in contact with the Australian authorities. According to Colm O'Gorman, Paul Bailey said he had established that Denis Daly had been in Sydney and in Sacramento, California, but that he did not have any information on Denis Daly's record. Paul Bailey made no mention of the information which had been sent to him by the church authorities in Sydney, Colm O'Gorman said.

Peter McCloskey then travelled to Australia, in February 2004. He met with Michael Salmon at the Sydney archdiocese. According to Peter McCloskey, Michael Salmon said he had contacted Paul Bailey seeking direction from the Bishop of Limerick as to what he could tell Peter McCloskey. Michael Salmon told Peter McCloskey that Paul Bailey had told him "he was authorised to give (Peter McCloskey) a verbal summary of what they had discovered from their archives", but that Peter McCloskey "was not to receive any hard copies of anything".

However, by his own account, Peter McCloskey persuaded Michael Salmon to give him a copy of the letter he had written to Paul Bailey (in August 2003) about Denis Daly.

Peter McCloskey then succeeded in obtaining a copy of the document on which this letter was based, a summary of the file on Denis Daly which had been prepared by the archdiocesan archivist.

The Archdiocese of Sydney has refuted Peter McCloskey's account of his meetings in Sydney. The current chancellor of the archdiocese, Fr John Usher, said: "no restrictions were ever placed on us by the Irish authorities in relation to Peter McCloskey and his complaint... At no stage were the diocesan authorities in Limerick consulted about this meeting or about the information shared with Mr McCloskey."

Following his return from Australia, Peter McCloskey spent a period in the acute psychiatric unit in Ennis and attempted suicide.

According to Peter McCloskey's letter, he was telephoned twice on 1 June 2004 by Paul Bailey. These conversations prompted his letter to Paul Bailey, which was dated 3 June 2004. In the course of their conversations, Peter McCloskey wrote, Paul Bailey acknowledged not to have told him at that January 2004 meeting what he knew then about Denis Daly. Peter McCloskey wrote that he wished "to applaud (Paul Bailey's) courage in coming forward and telling me the truth". p

Paul Bailey responds

When I was Executive Director of the Child Protection Office, I was active, compassionate and committed to the protection of children and to the facilitation of healing for adults damaged as children by clerical sex abuse. In the course of my employment, I never engaged in the "stonewalling and deception" (your words) of any person who suffered sexual abuse. I hope and believe that I acted with integrity and compassion in all responses which I made during my time in that position and I include in this the responses which I made to Peter McCloskey. Peter's letter to me dated 3 June 2004 did not accurately record my responses in a number of serious respects. I was naturally concerned about this when I received the letter. I took legal advice about the inaccuracies and lodged with my solicitor on 24 June 2004 a comprehensive dossier of my involvement with Peter's complaint and a detailed contradiction of those aspects of Peter's letter with which I differed. Many of the points you have highlighted in your fax of today were dealt with by me in this dossier. As will be apparent to you Peter's letter had been circulated to at least 25 people. It was my belief, and the advice I received was, that to enter controversy with Peter in these circumstances at that time would be unhelpful in the context of Peter's recovery.

Peter McCloskey's family and Bishop Murray have embarked on a civilised private process which may bring understanding and healing. I will fulfill any request made of me in that context. However, publicly revealing information about Peter's case in order to defend myself would do nothing but bring damage to that process. Being required to reveal it, in answers to accusatory questions at six hours notice to meet your deadline is, first of all, impossible, and, secondly, carries no benefit to anybody.

This is an edited version of Paul Bailey's response to our queries

The Diocese of Limerick responds

Tony Mullins, former secretary of the Diocese of Limerick, responded to our queries on behalf of the Diocese, as follows.

On Sunday, 23rd April, 2006, Bishop Murray had a lengthy meeting with Mrs. Mary McCloskey, mother of the late Peter McCloskey and Joseph McCloskey, brother of the deceased. At that meeting, it was agreed that there would be no further statements from either Mrs McCloskey or Bishop Murray for the time being.

We are very conscious of the deeply felt sensitivities in this tragedy and despite the serious questions that you raise, we are committed to our word in not making further comment.

After that meeting on 23 April, Mary McCloskey, Joseph McCloskey and the Bishop of Limerick, Donal Murray, released a joint statement, as follows:

Bishop Donal Murray wishes once again to acknowledge that he completely accepts the truth of Peter McCloskey's experience of clerical child sexual abuse.

The Diocese of Limerick acknowledges that there was a failure on its part to properly inform itself as to Fr Denis Daly's suitability for ministry in the diocese and the appropriateness of allowing him to minister in the diocese. The Diocese accepts that the information available at that time should have prevented Fr Daly from taking up ministry in Limerick.

Peter was a man of extraordinary honesty, integrity and courage. His commitment to the truth demands that all involved work to fully examine and address the grave issues which have been raised as a result of Peter's tragic death. All involved acknowledge that this will be a challenging and at times uncomfortable process but we affirm our commitment to work together to that end.