July 14th, 2011
05:11 AM ET

Irish report damns Catholic Church abuse response

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

The Catholic Church in Ireland did not take serious steps to stamp out child abuse by priests even after the scandal blew up worldwide and the Irish bishops put rules in place to stop it, a new report says.

The report demolishes claims by the Catholic Church there that policies it put in place in 1996 have enabled it to get a handle on the problem.

The Church's explanation that it was on a "learning curve" in handling allegations of abuse "could not have had any basis or relevance in Cloyne," said the report, which focuses on the diocese of Cloyne around Cork in southern Ireland.

Ireland's top churchman, Cardinal Sean Brady, called the report "another dark day in the history of the response of Church leaders to the cry of children abused by Church personnel."

Ireland's Foreign Ministry summoned the Vatican representative in the country, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, for talks with Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore on Thursday following the publication of the report.

The report accuses Bishop John Magee, who was responsible for policing abuse in his diocese, of not backing the policy himself and failing to take action against abusers.

"Magee took little or no active interest" in child sex abuse cases for 12 years after the new policy was put in place, the report says, and Monsignor Denis O'Callaghan, who ended up in de facto charge of policing abuse "did not approve of the requirement to report to the civil authorities," the comprehensive report says.

Allegations of abuse within the diocese of Cloyne were so worrying that the Church appointed a special administrator to oversee it.

That archbishop, Dermot Clifford, said he accepted the findings of the report and "humbly apologized" to victims and their families.

And he expressed horror that the church did not act on its anti-abuse policies.

"It appalls me that, up to 2008, 13 years after these procedures were put in place, they were still not being implemented in the Diocese of Cloyne" Clifford said in a statement.

Clifford said Magee and O'Callaghan "accepted full responsibility and apologized for their failures."

Pope Benedict XVI accepted Magee's resignation as bishop of Cloyne in March 2010.

The report also details allegations against Magee himself.

A man referred to by the pseudonym "Joseph" reports that Magee held him in "protracted" embraces, asked him if it "felt good," kissed him on the forehead, told him that he loved him, and said he had dreamed about him.

"Joseph" considered the attention paternal at the time, he told the report's authors, but later reconsidered in light of reports into abuse and raised the issue with another priest.

"I began to think that maybe it wasn't as innocent as I originally thought or assumed it was," he says. He says the events occurred when he was 17 and 18 years old.

The priest to whom Joseph complained reported the matter to the church's own child protection authorities, who considered it "inappropriate" but ruled it did not constitute abuse.

They did not report it to the police but did tell Magee about the accusation and reported it to church officials as high as Cardinal Brady and the Vatican's representative in Ireland, the report says.

Joseph took the issue to the police, who also told him it did not constitute abuse, the report says.

The Vatican also failed to back Irish anti-abuse rules introduced in 1996, saying they were not official policy, according to the report, which was released Wednesday.

While it focuses on the diocese of Cloyne, it follows four earlier independent reports into abuse by Catholic priests and officials in Ireland going back decades.

The 421-page report, which is partially redacted, details complaints against 19 clerics in the diocese between 1996 and 2009.

CNN's Carol Jordan and Journalist Peter Taggart contributed to this report.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Catholic Church • Ireland • Scandal • Sex abuse

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