Cloyne report published
The Report by Commission of Investigation into the handling by Church and State authorities of allegations and suspicions of child sexual abuse against clerics of the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne was published today (13 July). The report describes the handling of allegations, complaints, suspicions and concerns about child sexual abuse in respect of 19 clerics. The inquiry which forms the basis of the report was ordered by the Government in 2009 and the findings submitted to the Minister for Justice and Law Reform in December 2010. Extracts from its introductory chapter are below, and you can read the report in full at the end of the piece, or download it here.
(It should be noted that priests are referred to throughout the report by pseudonym.)
The context of this report differs significantly from the context of then Commission’s Report into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin. It deals with allegations made in the period after 1996, the year in which the Catholic Church in Ireland put in place detailed procedures for dealing with child sexual abuse and two years after the State had been convulsed by the Fr Brendan Smyth case. This meant that the so-called ‘learning curve’ which it was claimed excused very poor handling of complaints in other dioceses in the past could not have had any basis or relevance in Cloyne.
Dealing with allegations of child sexual abuse
The Commission’s main task was to consider whether the response of the Church and State authorities to complaints and allegations of clerical child sexual abuse was “adequate or appropriate” and to establish the response to suspicions and concerns about clerical child sexual abuse. In assessing how the diocesan and other Church authorities dealt with complaints, the Commission has judged them by the standards set in their own documents – the Framework Document and Our Children, Our Church.
The Framework Document was issued in 1996. Our Children, Our Church was issued in 2005. It did not significantly change the procedures set out in the Framework Document, in particular, there was no significant change in respect of reporting to the State authorities. Similarly, the Commission has assessed the response of the State authorities by the standards they set for themselves in the 1995 Notification of Suspected Cases of Child Abuse between Health Boards and Gardaí and subsequently in Children First. The Commission acknowledges that the standards which were adopted by the Church are high standards which, if fully implemented, would afford proper protection to children. The standards set by the State are less precise and more difficult to implement. The Commission’s assessment of the health authorities is limited by the fact that, prior to 2008, they were notified of complaints in only two cases – once by the diocese in 1996 and once by the Gardaí in 2005.
The Church procedures for dealing with child sexual abuse
The document entitled Child Sexual Abuse: Framework for a Church Response, generally known as the Framework Document, was agreed by the Irish Bishops’ Conference in 1996 which was at the start of the period covered by the Cloyne investigation. This document contained a detailed and easy to implement set of procedures for handling allegations, suspicions and concerns about clerical child sexual abuse. Bishop Magee wrote to all the priests in the Diocese of Cloyne in early 1996 informing them that he had adopted the procedures contained in the Framework Document. He stated:
“It is hoped that the enclosed report will serve the purpose of assisting Diocesan and Religious authorities in dealing appropriately with allegations of child sexual abuse which involve Priests or Religious”.
Despite Bishop Magee’s stated position on the implementation of the Framework Document, the reality is that the guidelines set out in that document were not fully or consistently implemented in the Diocese of Cloyne in the period 1996 to 2009. The primary responsibility for the failure to implement the agreed procedures lies with Bishop Magee. It is a remarkable fact that Bishop Magee took little or no active interest in the management of clerical child sexual abuse cases until 2008, 12 years after the Framework Document was adopted. As a result of this vacuum, the diocese’s functions in the matter of clerical child sexual abuse were, by default, exercised by others. The principal person involved was Monsignor O’Callaghan. He did not approve of the procedures set out in the Framework Document. In particular, he did not approve of the requirement to report to the civil authorities. He was totally familiar with the reporting requirements set out in the document and he implemented them in the Fr Corin case (see Chapter 10). He did not do so in many other cases.
The reaction of the Vatican to the Framework Document was entirely unhelpful to any bishop who wanted to implement the agreed procedures (see Chapter 4). The Congregation for the Clergy told the bishops of Ireland that the document was “not an official document of the Episcopal Conference but merely a study document”. The Congregation further stated that it contained:
“procedures and dispositions which appear contrary to canonical discipline and which, if applied, could invalidate the acts of the same Bishops who are attempting to put a stop to these problems. If such procedures were to be followed by the Bishops and there were cases of eventual hierarchical recourse lodged at the Holy See, the results could be highly embarrassing and detrimental to those same Diocesan authorities.
In particular, the situation of ‘mandatory reporting’ gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and a canonical nature”.
This effectively gave individual Irish bishops the freedom to ignore the procedures which they had agreed and gave comfort and support to those who, like Monsignor O’Callaghan, dissented from the stated official Irish Church policy.
Bishop Magee’s position on the Framework Document
In evidence to the Commission, Bishop Magee said that he was fully committed to the implementation of the Framework Document and was shocked to discover in 2008 that it was not being implemented. The Commission considers that this response is totally inadequate. It became clear during the course of this investigation that Bishop Magee had, to a certain extent, detached himself from the day to day management of child sexual abuse cases. Bishop Magee was the head of the diocese and cannot avoid his responsibility by blaming subordinates whom he wholly failed to supervise.
While Bishop Magee must take ultimate responsibility, in practice the implementation of the Framework Document was stymied by Monsignor O’Callaghan. His limited and incomplete compliance with it is described in this report.
Implementing the Framework Document in the Diocese of Cloyne
Contrary to repeated assertions on its part, the Diocese of Cloyne did not implement the procedures set out in the Church protocols for dealing with allegations of child sexual abuse. The main failures were:
(a) The failure to report all complaints to the Gardaí;
(b) The failure to report any complaints to the health authorities between 1996 and 2008;
(c) The failure to appoint support people;
(d) The failure to operate an independent advisory panel.
(a) Reporting to the Gardaí
The greatest failure by the Diocese of Cloyne was its failure to report all complaints to the Gardaí. Between 1996 and 2005, there were 15 complaints which very clearly should have been reported by the diocese to the Gardaí. This figure of 15 does not include concerns and does not include cases where the allegations were already known to the Gardaí (although some of these also ought to have been reported). Of these 15, nine were not reported. The most serious lapse was the failure to report the two cases in which the alleged victims were minors at the time the complaint was made.
One of the most unusual and unacceptable aspects of the diocese reporting to the Gardaí was the reporting by Monsignor O’Callaghan of the complainant’s name but not the perpetrator’s name in the Fr Caden case (see Chapter 21). The attempt by Monsignor O’Callaghan to have a particular garda deal with this case was correctly disregarded by the garda superintendent.
Monsignor O’Callaghan always had reservations about reporting to the civil authorities. In June 2002, in a letter to a canon lawyer, he stated:
“On the issue of reporting to civil authorities I have always been of your mind and endorse everything you say. I am convinced that reporting should have been left to the complainants. Our role in the whole process has been compromised by taking on direct reporting as part of our remit. Why should we take it on ourselves to report when the complainant does not want it done? This commitment on our part also seriously compromises our relationship with the priest against whom allegations have been made.”
He failed to understand that the requirement to report was for the protection of other children.
(b) Failure to report to the health authorities
In 1996, Monsignor O’Callaghan did report complaints against one priest to the health board. After that, no complaint was reported to the health authorities until 2008. The requirement to report to the health authorities was one which the Church imposed on itself and which the Diocese of Cloyne ought to have implemented in respect of all complaints whether historical or not and whether or not the Church had any confidence that the health authorities would do anything about these complaints. It was the failure to report to the health authorities which set off the sequence of events which led to the Elliott report (see Chapter 6) and ultimately to the establishment of this Commission.
(c) Failure to appoint separate support people
Given the diocese’s knowledge of clerical child sexual abuse and its effects on complainants it was wrong of the diocese not to put in place a proper support system for complainants independent of the delegate. The Commission accepts that pastoral care was provided for a number of complainants in that counselling was paid for by the diocese. In one case, however, counselling support was withdrawn from a complainant without any notice which only added to the grief of that complainant.
Monsignor O’Callaghan assumed a number of roles in relation to child sexual abuse in the diocese. At various times he was not only the delegate, but he acted as a support person to some priests and some complainants. This was unsatisfactory and made a number of complainants sceptical about his role within the diocese. A proper system of supports for both complainants and priests, as was mandated by the Framework Document,should have been put in place by Bishop Magee. Monsignor O’Callaghan has acknowledged to the Commission that he:
“should have struck a better balance in the ministry of pastoral care. I regret now that I did not intervene to counter the choice of the legal route when just settlements should have been made earlier with survivors. I regret also that I tended to show favour to accused priests vis-à-vis complaints in some cases. I realise now that in some instances I became emotionally drawn to the plight of accused priests and in this way compromised my care of some complainants. I now realise that the ministry of pastoral care best operates where roles are distinct in dealing with complainants and accused.”
In its Report into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin, the Commission stated that it accepted that the current archdiocesan structures and procedures for dealing with clerical child sexual abuse were working well.
However, it went on to say that it was concerned that those structures and procedures were heavily dependent on the commitment and effectiveness of two men – the Archbishop and the Director of Child Protection. The Commission warned that “institutional structures need to be sufficiently embedded to ensure that they survive uncommitted and ineffective personnel”. The Diocese of Cloyne was unfortunate in that the structures were never embedded because it had an uncommitted delegate/director of child protection and an ineffective bishop for the period 1996 – 2008.
The principal feature of this report can be simply expressed. The Diocese of Cloyne ostensibly accepted the Framework Document and promised to implement it. It did not do so. On the contrary, Bishop Magee appears to have taken little real interest in its implementation for 12 years. He allowed the authority of the diocese in this regard to be exercised for that period by others, in particular Monsignor O’Callaghan. Monsignor O’Callaghan acted in what he perceived to be the best interests of the Church. The Commission accepts that he was personally kind in many respects to some complainants but kindness is not enough when dealing with criminal activity or with people who have been abused.
He refused to accept the Framework Document as a proper ecclesiastical policy. He preferred a ‘pastoral approach’ and felt that the relatively rigid procedures of the Framework Document interfered with this approach. He did not appear to accept that the Framework Documentexpressed the standard that the Irish Church had set for itself in relation to child sexual abuse. He frustrated its implementation and was primarily responsible for the limited and incomplete compliance with it described in the report.
Those who thought like Monsignor O’Callaghan had their positions greatly strengthened by the Vatican’s reaction to the Framework Document.
This response, discussed in Chapter 4, can only be described as unsupportive especially in relation to reporting to the civil authorities. The effect was to strengthen the position of those who dissented from the official stated Irish Church policy.
In the Commission’s view, Bishop Magee was responsible for allowing Monsignor O’Callaghan to be in charge of the diocesan policy on child sexual abuse for many years without supervision. The extent of the inertia of the bishop which made these things possible is remarkable. Furthermore his attitude prevented the proper implementation even of canonical procedures.
He told the Minister for Children that the Framework Document guidelines were fully in place and were being fully complied with. This was false. The same must be said of his assurances to the HSE given in 2007.
Even though the diocese invited an external examination of its procedures in 2004, nothing happened. This, again, was because of the lack of commitment of the delegate and the ineffectiveness of the bishop. Change did not occur until the uninvited external examination conducted by Mr Elliott forced Bishop Magee to face the reality that his diocese was seriously deficient in its dealing with clerical child sexual abuse. It seems to the Commission that continuing external scrutiny is required to ensure that the improvements which the diocese has made and continues to make will remain in place.