Cloyne report: A detailed guide

Cloyne The Bishop's Residence in Cloyne, County Cork

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Cloyne is in the Republic of Ireland, and covers most of mid, east and north Cork. Its centre is the picturesque costal town of Cobh, which used to be known as Queenstown, from where millions emigrated around the time of the Irish Famine. Led by Judge Yvonne Maguire, the Cloyne report examines child safe-guarding measures within the diocese up until 2009. Here's a detailed guide of its main findings:

What is the Cloyne report?

The report (officially known as the Commission of Investigation, Dublin Archdiocese, Catholic Diocese of Cloyne) has examined how allegations of sexual abuse of children in the diocese were dealt with by the church and state.

Led by Judge Yvonne Murphy, the same commission produced a report into the Dublin diocese in November 2009.

The commission's remit was extended to include Cloyne in January 2009 after a report by the church's own child protection watchdog - the National National Board of Safeguarding Children (NBSC) - was published in December 2008.

Commissioners were not tasked with establishing whether child sexual abuse took place or whether there was a basis for suspicions or concerns.

The inquiry was ordered to look at child protection practices in the diocese and how it dealt with complaints against 19 priests made from 1996, the year in which the Catholic Church put in place detailed procedures for dealing with child sexual abuse.

What is different about this report?

This is the fourth report into abuse in the Catholic Church in Ireland, after the diocese of Ferns report in 2005, the Ryan report detailing abuse in residential institutions in May 2009 and the Dublin Archdiocese report in November 2009.

This 400 page report is different because of the more recent timeframe; there were clear guidelines in place when these allegations of abuse were being made.

It will be difficult reading for Bishop John Magee who stood down in March 2009 after serving as bishop of Cloyne since 1987.

What does the report say?

  • The report found that Bishop John Magee falsely told the government and the health service that his diocese was reporting all abuse allegations to authorities. It also found that the bishop deliberately misled another inquiry and his own advisors by creating two different accounts of a meeting with a priest suspecting of abusing a child, one for the Vatican and the other for diocesan files.
  • It discovered that, contrary to repeated assertions on its part, the Diocese of Cloyne did not implement the procedures set out in the church protocols for dealing with allegations of child sexual abuse. It said the greatest failure was that no complaints, except one in 1996, were reported to the health authorities until 2008.
  • In one case outlined in the report the diocese's second-in-command, Monsignor Denis O'Callaghan, withheld the identity of a perpetrator from the authorities and attempted to have a particular garda officer investigate it.
  • It said the disturbing findings are compounded by the fact that the commission found that the Vatican's response to the church guidelines was entirely unhelpful and gave comfort and support to those who dissented from the guidelines. It said this was "wholly unacceptable".
  • The commission said that the Papal Nuncio replied to a request for information relevant to its investigation by saying he was "unable to assist you in his matter". The Nunciature said it did not determine the handling of cases of sexual abuse in Ireland and would not be in a position to assist.
  • While the commission considered that most gardai who were involved in investigating the complaints outlined in the report carried out their tasks well and did so while treating the complainants with compassion and dignity, the commission are very concerned about the approach adopted by gardai in three cases. The report is to be refered to the Garda Ombudsman to examine these cases.
  • The Department of Health claimed privilege over a number of documents relevant to the investigation. The report noted that the Diocese of Cloyne, in particular Archbishop Clifford and Bishop Magee, fully co-operated as did the gardai and the health service.
  • The Commission said the it offered its "deep regret and sympathy" to the victims of "this awful abuse". It continued "but those things alone amount to little more than rhetoric unless, once and for all, we embark on a comprehensive course of action to make sure that the state is doing all it can to safeguard children."

How has the government responded?

The Irish government said it expressed its "deep sorrow" to all the survivors of abuse and "for any past failings on the part of the state and its agencies". The Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has published a new bill, that if passed would make it a crime to withhold information about a serious offence against a child or an intellectually disabled person. If found guilty of breaking the Heads of the Criminal Justice Bill a person could be jailed for five years.

Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald, said she plans to publish a new "Children First" national guidance document on Friday. She said a raft of measures will be in place, including imprisonment and fines, for failure to comply with the child protection code.

She said: "Never again will someone be allowed to place the protection of their institution above the protection of children."

How have the police responded?

The Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has appointed Assistant Commissioner John O'Mahoney to examine the report to see whether, in addition to action already taken, any further action can be taken against the abusers referred to in it. He will also look at how complaints were handled and investigated by church and state authorities.

Mr Callinan said: "It is a matter of regret to me that people did not receive the appropriate attention and action from the gardai to which they were entitled."

How has the Catholic Church responded?

Cardinal Sean Brady said the publication of the report was "another dark day in the history of the church" and expressed his shame and sorrow at what happened in Cloyne. Cardinal Brady said the environment for children within the church is a totally different one to that of the past.

He said all dioceses now have safeguarding personnel in each of the 1,386 parishes and that all allegations of abuse have been reported to the statutory authorities in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Monsignor Denis O'Callaghan, who was criticised for trying to protect an accused priest's identity, said he was sorry that he became emotionally and pastorally drawn to the plight of the cleric. He said it was never his intention to add to the immense burden being carried by those who had already been abused.

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