The Irish Bishops’ Conference held a special meeting on 23 January to confirm their collective pastoral responsibilities towards safeguarding children in the Church.
The meeting took place in St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. Representatives of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCC) addressed the meeting on policies and procedures for best practice in safeguarding children.
Bishops discussed their pastoral responsibilities towards safeguarding children in the Church. Issues arising from the NBSCCC’s Report on the Management of Two Child Protection Cases in the Diocese of Cloyne, published by the Diocese on 19 December last, the Reports of the HSE Audit of Catholic Church Dioceses and the statement by the Minister for Children, Mr Barry Andrews TD, both published on 7 January, were discussed in detail.
Bishop John Magee of Cloyne apologised to victims of clerical sexual abuse, to those working with victims and to the general public for the suffering and frustrations occasioned by the failures detailed in the NBSCCC’s report.
Bishops acknowledged that victims who have come forward, and those who are unable to do so for a variety of complex reasons, have once again had their wounds of abuse opened by Church failure. Bishops agreed today to the following:
- To renew their commitment to providing all of the information requested in Section 5 of the HSE audit.
- To sign a written commitment to implement the new safeguarding and guidance materials soon to be published by the NBSCCC, and to cooperate fully with their ongoing monitoring and evaluation.
- To invite the NBSCCC to undertake a review of current practice and risk in the safeguarding of children within their dioceses. It was emphasised that in order to restore confidence and credibility in the Church’s commitment to safeguarding children, every Bishop, every Religious Congregation and every Missionary Society must implement all statutory guidelines in this area, as well as the agreed policy of the Bishops’ Conference, Conference of Religious of Ireland and the Irish Missionary Union.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, while in favour of the review initiative, said that he would only be able to accept a review if it contained specific protocols to verify that the superiors of priests other than those of the Archdiocese of Dublin working in Dublin subscribe to and sustain the same norms and guidelines as those of the Archdiocese.