National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

Irish prelate focuses on positive work on sex abuse

 | 

WASHINGTON -- The Irish archbishop who gave the government 70,000 church documents concerning clergy sexual abuse of minors said he was concerned that the presentation of a recent report by Ireland's child safety watchdog might discourage the church's child protection workers.

Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said he was concerned that the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church presented its report May 11 by emphasizing negative things, not the progress being made.

"I'm actually worried that the manner in which the national board decided to present as their primary dimension of their report, negative aspects, will have damaged -- not the credibility of the bishops, but the confidence of the people who are working in the diocese like mine."

After the discovery of thousands of cases of clergy sexual abuse, most of them from the 20th century, thousands of volunteers were trained in child protection, and each Dublin parish now has someone monitoring the situation.

"If they (volunteers) feel that their time is being wasted, when in fact it isn't, I think that could be damaging," Archbishop Martin told Catholic News Service May 16.

At a Dublin news conference presenting the board's third annual report, Ian Elliott, chief executive of the safeguarding board, expressed frustration about getting information from church officials, although he acknowledged that concerns over data protection had been resolved.

October-24,-2014-cover_web.jpgGet this special NCR 50th anniversary offer! Subscribe to NCR by Nov. 15 and get a 50th anniversary issue. This special issue is available exclusively to subscribers. Learn more.

Archbishop Martin told CNS he was disappointed that the board presented concern over data protection as "a form of obstructionism on the part of the bishops, the religious and the Irish Missionary Union."

The board, set up in 2006, was established as one step removed from the church to give it independence, but that meant it was a third party. Archbishop Martin said it was actually the board's lawyers that discovered this created a problem.

"Irish data protection law doesn't allow you to pass sensitive personal data to third parties," he told CNS. "We had to find -- and it took a long time -- to find a formula which would permit us to do that in certain circumstances, but it places heavy restrictions on all parties about revealing identities. This means that carrying out the review (of abuse cases) has been delayed, and the review will inevitably be unsatisfactory because of the restrictions that are placed -- not by the bishops or the religious or by the board -- but by the law.

"In the case of immediate and direct risk to children, data protection measures don't apply," he added.

He also expressed concern that the board's report indicated that it had had problems receiving information from the bishops within the past year.

"Every known allegation in the past year had been adequately presented to the police and to the health service," Archbishop Martin said, adding that "this is enormous progress compared to the past." He said he thought it was more important that allegations be presented to the competent authorities than to the safeguarding board.

The archbishop called "a gross misrepresentation of the truth" a report that Elliott's board launched a new training program and the bishops refused to finance it.

The bishops decided each diocese should pay for training, "which I believe is a more effective way of doing it," he said, adding that they also provided a financial administrator to help manage the training.

NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at Disqus.com/verify.
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

 

Feature-flag_GSR_start-reading.jpg

NCR Email Alerts

 

In This Issue

October 10-23, 2014

10-10-2014.jpg

Not all of our content is online. Subscribe to receive all the news and features you won't find anywhere else.