Saturday, January 03, 2009

Primate to Cloyne: Under the Bus

As the fallout from last month's Cloyne Report set off Yuletide shockwaves in the Irish church, the silence of the Isle's primate, Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh, was duly noted.

Also chair of the Irish bishops, it's now clear that Brady was simply delaying to keep the season's focus where it belonged.

Having held his tongue over Christmas, the cardinal unleashed himself yesterday, going full-tilt to assure the nation of his bench's commitment to the protection of young people, along the way giving no quarter to his embattled confrere John Magee -- the Cloyne bishop and former private secretary to three Popes whose mishandling of allegations has gravely undermined public confidence in the hierarchy's decade-long efforts to restore trust, leading to wide calls both for his resignation and, in some quarters, the establishment of an outside authority to enforce the church's implementation of its abuse protocols.

While Magee admitted to "errors" and accepted responsibility for the church-chartered inquiry's findings at his Midnight Mass in the Cork diocese, he has made no indication of any intent to stand down.

As word on the street swirls that the message had papal backup, snips from Brady's statement:
The findings of the recent report of the National Board [for Safeguarding Children] into the handling of allegations by the Diocese of Cloyne have brought further anxiety to victims of abuse. For many, these findings have brought into question the efforts of thousands of volunteers and trained personnel who are fully committed to implementing statutory guidelines and agreed Church policies on safeguarding children throughout the Dioceses and parishes of Ireland. I realise the extent to which so many people now feel let down, angry and bewildered by recent events.

The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland has demonstrated an ability to investigate rigorously, report courageously and, crucially, to have its recommendations accepted. Everyone is entitled to know that in all Church activities, children will be safe. Everyone is entitled to be reassured that when commitments have been given to implement statutory guidelines and agreed policies for safeguarding children in the Church, these are reliable and trustworthy. The Board is in a unique position to provide such assurance. It must continue its work in cooperation with the statutory authorities and with the full support of everyone in the Catholic Church in Ireland.

I have been in contact with the Chair and CEO of the National Board and I can confirm that the Board will seek a written commitment from every Bishop, every Religious Congregation and Missionary Society to implement all statutory guidelines and the agreed policy of the Bishops’ Conference, the Irish Missionary Union and the Conference of Religious of Ireland. I give my own assurance that I will immediately sign any such commitment on behalf of the Archdiocese of Armagh.

I have also suggested to the Board that it might explore the possibility of conducting a review of current child safeguarding practice in every Diocese across the island in cooperation with the relevant statutory authorities....

It is vitally important that the National Board continue the work for which it was established. In doing so it has my full support. At all times the welfare of children must be the paramount consideration. This is a Gospel value as well as a core principle of safeguarding policy. For all those with responsibility for implementing child safeguarding policies in a given Diocese, Religious Congregation or Missionary Institute, ability to establish trust and to maintain confidence in their personal commitment to this value of putting children first is critical.
On Wednesday, the Irish Cabinet is scheduled to consider a state inquiry into the history of abuse in the Cloyne church, and at month's end, word's already out that the final report of the public audit on the scandal's toll in the nation's largest diocese -- Dublin -- will "contain some shocking revelations that could rock church and state to their very foundations."