Ireland's Cloyne Report was released today and it offers another spit-take inducing portrait of a hierarchy in dysfunction, well after it could offer any reasonable excuse to be, regarding sexual abuse committed by clerics. In fact: "The context of this report differs significantly from the context of the Commission’s Report into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin" since "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 ... 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."
Clerics in Coyne and the Vatican, which was singularly uncooperative with Irish investigators, once again do make a good showing in the pages of the report. (According to the commission, the Papal Nuncio replied to its request for information by saying he was "unable to assist you in this matter.") The commission reviewed how authorities handled allegations of abuse against 19 clerics in the Cork diocese. It did not evaluate whether or not child sexual abuse actually took place but "the manner in which complaints were dealt with by Church and State authorities."
The report charges that as recently as 2009 the diocese was ignoring its own guidelines on child protection and lays the blame for this failure on Cloyne Bishop John Magee. That's perhaps the highpoint of its assessment of Magee, who is also accused of misleading a previous inquiry and giving a false account to investigators. His personal deportment hewed to perhaps similarly questionable standard in at least one interaction. The commission revealed that allegations were made against Bishop Magee himself in 2008 by an 18-year-old who claimed he was kept in "protracted" embraces by the bishop, who told him he loved and dreamt of him "as a lovely priest" and kissed him on the forehead. The behaviour was deemed inappropriate, but it was not found to be abusive by church and state authorities. Bishop Magee, who officially resigned in March 2010, has served as private secretary to Popes Paul, John Paul I and John Paul II.
The commission reports: "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 [Child Sexual Abuse: Framework for a Church Response] 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 [Denis] 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 commission likewise found the reaction of the Vatican to the framework equally discouraging and "entirely unhelpful to any bishop who wanted to implement the agreed procedures... 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 in fact said 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.' "
In a reaction today, Irish Primate Cardinal Sean Brady said the publication of the report was a "very bad and dark day" for the Catholic Church in Ireland, but added that he had not considered resigning as a result of its revelations. Irish justice minister, Alan Shatter, called its findings "truly scandalous." In a joint statement with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Ms. Frances Fitzgerald, he said, "Perhaps the most shocking aspect of this report is that it is not dealing with terrible wrongs committed in the distant past; instead it examines how the Diocese of Cloyne dealt with complaints made from 1996, the year in which the Catholic Church put in place detailed procedures for dealing with child sexual abuse."
The inquiry was ordered by the Irish government in 2009 after the first round of shock and awe engendered by the devastating Murphy Report, and the same tribunal carried on the work in Cloyne. The Cloyne report refers to priests who are alleged to have abused minors via pseudynms to protect their identity, but Cork Bishop Magee is directly identified since he was the only bishop in the diocese during the period under review. According to the report, of the 163 clerics listed in the Diocese of Cloyne Diocesan Directory for 1996, there have been allegations made or concerns expressed about 12 or 7.6 percent of them and one priest has actually been convicted of child abuse.
The report's findings will no doubt reverberate unpleasantly in the United States and now much of Europe, documenting as it does a "familiar saga of priests sexually abusing children with impunity, protected by senior Churchmen conspiring to cover up the abuse with an astounding indifference to the safety of children."
Between 1996 and 2005, the diocese failed to report nine out of 15 complaints made against priests which "very clearly should have been reported"
While the dioceses ostensibly supported child protection procedures, it was "never genuinely committed to their implementation"
The "diocese put far too much emphasis on the concerns of the alleged offenders"
In most cases gardaí [Irish police] were not informed of child abuse allegations against clergy
Monsignor Denis O'Callaghan "stymied" the implementation in Cloyne of child protection policy and first withheld the identity of a perpetrator from authorities and then attempted to have a particular garda officer investigate it
In what the report said was "clearly and unequivocally" a child sexual abuse case, the Commission says it cannot understand how the Monsignor concluded no sexual abuse had occurred
Finally, 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." Would that the church had indeed adhered to those standards.