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Report raps Irish diocese on sex-abuse policies

December 19, 2008

Vision Book Cover Prints

An independent review board has issued a stinging critique of Church leaders' response to sex-abuse allegations in an Irish diocese. "Children have been placed at risk of harm within the Diocese of Cloyne through the inability of that Diocese to respond appropriately to the information that came to it regarding child protection concerns involving the clergy," concluded the National Safeguarding Board for Children (NSBC). The NSBC report was delivered to diocesan leaders and government officials in June of this year; it was released on December 19 by Cloyne's Bishop John Magee, after Irish health minister Barry Andrew came under fire for his failure to publicize the report's findings.

Bishop Magee noted that a more recent follow-up report by the NSBC noted "so much progress has been made" since the release of the original report, with diocesan policies offering greater protection for children; the follow-up report praised the diocese for its cooperation in the process. Bishop Magee underlined the determination of the diocese to address the problem, saying: " There can be no place in the Church, or in wider society, for those who have perpetrated such vile acts and who have betrayed the sacred trust placed in them."

The original report found that the diocese had not responded effectively to reports of sexual abuse by clerics. "There was no evidence that risk had been appropriately identified or managed, thereby potentially exposing vulnerable young people to further harm," the NSBC said. When priests were accused, the report said, diocesan officials "apparently focused on the needs of the accused priest. There is no documentary evidence that the ongoing risk to vulnerable children was discussed or considered at any time by them."

The NBSC report took aim specifically at the leadership of Bishop Magee, who has headed the Cloyne diocese for 21 years. "The Bishop is the responsible person in these matters," the report noted. "The responsibility to take action and to make decisions can not be delegated from the Bishop to other bodies, regardless of what level of expertise it is assumed they hold." Before his appointment to the Cloyne diocese, Bishop Magee had served at the Vatican as a personal secretary to three Popes: Paul VI, John Paul I, and John Paul II.


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