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Former Cloyne vicar general: I should have resigned

Catholic World News - August 24, 2011

The former vicar general of Ireland’s Cloyne diocese has conceded that he should have resigned in 1996, since he was unwilling to enforce the sex-abuse policies adopted by the Irish hierarchy.

Msgr. Denis O’Callaghan said, in a letter to the Irish Catholic, that he objected to the mandatory reporting of sex-abuse charges, which was an important aspect of the bishops’ guidelines. That requirement, he said, conflicted with the “Christian duty of pastoral care” for accused priests. He pointed out that in some cases, mandatory reporting would have required taking action against priests who were elderly and/or terminally ill. “The literal guidelines did not allow for any discretion to bishops and their delegates,” he said.

Msgr. O’Callaghan—who had handled sex-abuse complaints for Bishop John Magee--reported that the Murphy Commission, which issued a scathing report on the failure of the Cloyne diocese to report sex-abuse charges, was aware of his “commitment to pastoral care.” He complained that the commission’s report nevertheless concentrated on the failure to follow the mandatory-reporting rule.

“In hindsight, I accept that I should have resigned on the point of principle from my role as delegate once I came to realize the implications of the 1996 guidelines for the overriding duty of pastoral care,” the former vicar general wrote.

In his letter to the Irish Catholic, Msgr. O’Callaghan consistently used the term “pastoral care” to refer to his efforts to help accused priests. He did not mention “pastoral care” for abuse victims or for young people who might be endangered by the continued public ministry of priests with a history of abuse.

Archbishop Dermot Clifford of Cashel, who has served as apostolic administrator of the Cloyne diocese since Bishop Magee resigned under fire in 2009, agreed that Msgr. O’Callaghan should have resigned in 1996.

However, the archbishop expressed his distaste for the stand taken by the former vicar general, saying that Msgr. O’Callaghan’s approach was “not a sufficient response to allegations of child sexual abuse.” He urged Msgr. O’Callaghan to “refrain from any further public comment on this controversy as it will only cause further distress and hurt to survivors of child sexual abuse and their families.”

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  • Posted by: jeremiahjj - Aug. 24, 2011 10:14 PM ET USA

    Shoulda, coulda, woulda. This is the oldest excuse in the world -- 'Had I just known, I would have done (this or that)." Irreparable harm has been done to Holy Mother Church and I would hate having to explain to God what I did. On that day there won't be any "Had I just knowns." It will be each of us standing naked and unclothed before the Supreme Judge of the Universe and only two words will work: Mercy, Lord!

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