Cloyne clerical child abuse report delivered to justice minister Dermot Ahern

The report on allegations of clerical sex abuse in the diocese of Cloyne, and the handling of those allegations by church authorities, will be handed to the minister for justice Dermot Ahern today.

The report covers complaints made about 19 priests over a 13 year period from 1996 to 2009.

The report is the latest of several on the handling of clerical sex abuse allegations, following the Ferns report, the Murphy (Dublin diocese) report, and the Ryan report, which looked at residential institutions run by church organisations.

A further report on abuse allegations in the Donegal diocese of Raphoe is expected early in the New Year.

The latest report on Cloyne was prepared by a team headed by Judge Yvonne Murphy.

The minister is expected to hand the report to the High Court, and publish it early in the new year.

A copy of the report will also be sent to gardaí, who may prepare a file for the director of public prosecutions based on its contents.

The report will again increase pressure on the Catholic Church in Ireland over its handling of child abuse cases.

It comes hot on the heels of the publication of a missing chapter in the Dublin diocese into paedophile Tony Walsh, which was withheld because of pending criminal charges.

Dublin archbishop Diarmuid Martin described Walsh as a “serial paedophile”.

And there were further shocks when a leaked US State department memo sent by the Irish ambassador was published on Wikileaks.

The cable revealed the Vatican had complained to Irish authorities that they were asked to hand over Church files to the Dublin inquiry.

Papers obtained by the Sunday Business Post show the government acceded to the Vatican’s request.

A preliminary report in 2008 summarised two child protection cases in the Cloyne diocese.

The preliminary report found child protection practices in the diocese were “inadequate and in some respects dangerous.”

It was complied by Ian Elliot, the chief executive of the National Board for Child Protection.

In the first case, an adult man alleged he was abused as a young boy by a named priest, identified as A. The man had himself become a priest as an adult.

The inquiry found that records of the case were incomplete, and it could not make a conclusion based on the available documentation.

In the second case, Elliott was contacted by Faoiseamh, the child protection helpline for the Congregations of the Religious of Ireland, (CORI), seeking help because they had been contacted by a woman who alleged she was abused by B as a 13-year-old child.

In the first case, Father XY first complained about A in December 2004. At that point he did not identify his abuser, and he was offered counselling.

In May 2005, Father XY identified his abuser to a church official, and four months later John Magee, the bishop of Cloyne, met with A. The alleged abuser then decided to resign his post as a parish priest in the diocese.

On 19 November 2005, six months after learning the alleged abuser’s name, church authorities contacted Gardaí about the case. They identified Father XY in the letter, but not his abuser, and did not say he was a priest.

Reviewing the files on the A case, Elliott noted that “any references to the need to protect vulnerable young people and to act in a timely and effective way to achieve this end” was “glaringly absent”.

Although A held a position which allowed him frequent access to young people in the diocese, senior churchmen made no attempt to identify other possible victims.

In the second case, the woman first complained about B in 1995. The bishop asked a monsignor to carry out an inquiry. On completion, the inquiry report was to be placed in a “secret archive”.

In 1997, a second woman submitted a complaint about B. She alleged he had abused her while hearing her confession during a retreat.

In February 1998, the bishop wrote to B, who worked as a career guidance counsellor, telling him he was not allowed to visit schools or have minors in his home alone. He was still allowed to wear priest’s clothing.

A third woman approached the diocese in November 2005. She alleged she was raped by A on numerous occasions between the ages of 13 and 18. The complaint was reported to the Gardaí.

On 13 January 2006, Monsignor O’Callaghan wrote to Bishop Magee asking how he might respond to the request from the Gardaí investigating the complaints against B.

Elliott noted in his report that there was a policy of minimal cooperation with Garda investigations, and in particular that “no information was to be volunteered in respect of any previous complaints involving this priest.”

The Elliott report found child protection practice in Cloyne was “significantly deficient in a number of respects.”

“Most alarmingly, it fails to focus on the needs of the vulnerable child and the requirement to take preventative actions quickly and effectively to secure their wellbeing,” Elliott wrote.

In addition, information sharing was always limited and approached on a reluctant basis.

Meetings of the diocesan child protection committee focused on the needs of accused priests, not on the needs of victims,and there was no documentary evidence the committee took into account the ongoing risks to vulnerable children.

Action, when taken by the bishop, was inappropriately delayed and minimal. The diocese “failed to act effectively to limit the access to children by individuals against whom a credible complaint of child sexual abuse was made.”