Monday, February 04, 2008

In Eire, "Papergate" Rages On

From the Irish Times, more on the document squabble that's got Dublin's prelates on the front pages:
The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, said yesterday he was surprised to learn of Cardinal Desmond Connell's legal challenge against a Government-backed commission of inquiry into allegations of sexual abuse in the Dublin archdiocese.

He said he hoped the matter could be dealt with "expeditiously" by the courts and was glad to see the judge wanted to do that. "I have put huge personal commitment into establishing the truth [ in the matter of clerical child sex abuse] and to putting measures in place for the protection of children."

He was speaking as new evidence emerged of disagreement between Archbishop Martin and Cardinal Connell over dealings with the commission.

The Irish Times has learned that the two men have been in communication for months over the handling of confidential files being sought by the Dublin Archdiocese Commission of Investigations.

It is understood the commission proposed to the archdiocese last September that retired Supreme Court judge Brian McCracken be invited to adjudicate on whether or not documents Cardinal Connell asserted were privileged to him had such legal status.

Since then the cardinal has complained to the commission that he had not been informed of discussions between it and Archbishop Martin about documents over which the cardinal was claiming privilege. The cardinal felt he had been treated unfairly in the matter but this was rejected by the commission.

Speaking last night at Dublin Castle at a Government reception hosted to honour Cardinal Seán Brady on his recent elevation to the College of Cardinals, Archbishop Martin said: "Truth is not served by polemics on any side. It must all be about people who are abused."

Meanwhile, Cardinal Brady restated the Irish Catholic Bishops' commitment "to establishing the truth about what happened in the past". Explaining that it would be "very imprudent" of him to comment on the legal action being taken by Cardinal Connell while it was still before the courts, he said, in response to direct questions, that he regretted all distractions in the pursuit of truth where clerical child sex abuse was concerned.

At the same time "justice must be ensured for all", he said. He too hoped the matter "would be dealt with as quickly as possible". He also said that, contrary to rumour, the matter of legal privilege had not been discussed at the quarterly meeting of the Irish Bishops' Conference in December.

Earlier yesterday Archbishop Martin said he was unclear as to the exact nature of the case being taken by the cardinal. Speaking at an event at Dublin City University, he described the issue as a relatively small matter and a "single roadblock" that could be overcome.

He said there was nothing to suggest that the Vatican was offering anything other than support for the position adopted by him in dealing with the commission.
...and among the national bench, "puzzlement" reigns:
Catholic Bishops in Northern Ireland are said to be "puzzled" by the latest developments where former archbishop Cardinal Desmond Connell and his successor, Archbishop Dr Diarmuid Martin, are at odds over some 5,000 documents to the inquiry into abuse in the Church.

It is understood Archbishop Martin agreed last June to release the documents to the Commission - but the Cardinal's lawyers claimed in the High Court in Dublin last week that the Archbishop was not legally entitled to do so.

Today's legal challenge will decide whether or not the documents are legally confidentiality.

It is believed that Cardinal Connell's decision to go to court on the issue has taken the rest of the Bishops, including Dr Martin, by surprise and in the North there is said to be a general " puzzlement" at the latest turn.

It is felt that there has been a significant breakdown in communications in the Dublin Archdiocese, and that the recent developments will not help the image of the Catholic hierarchy in its drive to make the church more open and more accountable in dealing with sexual abuse.
SVILUPPO: In today's Independent, word of a Roman meeting featuring the successor's "plea" to his predecessor:
ARCHBISHOP Diarmuid Martin flew to Rome at the weekend and made a dramatic face-to-face plea to Cardinal Desmond Connell not to block the publication of secret Church files.

The Irish Independent has learned Archbishop Martin travelled to attend a private wedding in the city.

But he also used the occasion to visit Cardinal Connell, who is recovering after falling last week, at the Pontifical Irish College.

The Archbishop urged his predecessor to reconsider his High Court attempt to prevent the Dublin Diocesan Commission of Investigation from examining files relating to his handling of complaints against paedophile priests.

During the visit, Archbishop Martin told Cardinal Connell he had received emails from victims of abuse who were very hurt at his court action.

"The Cardinal was in some pain and the discussion was brief," a spokesman for Archbishop Martin told the Irish Independent.

"The Archbishop expressed his concern to the Cardinal that his decision to go to the High Court could have far reaching implications.

"Archbishop Martin is concerned that the hard work put in by many people, in the interest of the truth about the abuse of children by clergy, and in the area of an expanded church protection, could be overshadowed by the Cardinal's action."

Senior Church sources last night indicated Cardinal Connell's response will not be clarified until he has consulted his own legal team.

However, the gulf between the two senior Catholic prelates appeared to widen yesterday as Archbishop Martin instructed a separate set of lawyers to represent his interests, a move that signals the Dublin Archdiocese will also become party to the litigation.

Speaking earlier, the former Vatican diplomat admitted he was taken "by surprise" at Cardinal Connell's move to restrict access to diocesan files he had already handed over to the Commission.

"He simply called me and told me that his legal advisors had unanimously advised him to go to the High Court," Archbishop Martin said.

"He was not able to tell me the details of that, because that was a question that is still a little bit unclear, exactly what the nature of this case is."

Archbishop Martin said he hoped the legal action did not overshadow the work already done in the diocese to stamp out abuse.