The Irish Times – Saturday, December 17, 2011

PATSY McGARRY, Religious Affairs Correspondent, and MARY CAROLAN

THE REMAINING sections of the Cloyne report into the sexual abuse of children by priests can now be published, the High Court ruled yesterday. The President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, directed the report could be published in full.

Parts of the Commission of Investigation’s report into child sexual abuse allegations in the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne, mainly in chapter nine, were redacted when it was published on July 13th last.

The redaction order was made after the High Court was told publication of the material at issue could prejudice ongoing criminal proceedings.

Lawyers for the Minister for Justice had requested the redaction order remain in place until yesterday when Mr Justice Kearns was told there was now no impediment to publication as the proceedings in question had been completed.

The Cloyne report dealt with the handling by church and State authorities of child sex abuse allegations in the diocese of Cloyne between January 1st, 1996, and February 1st, 2009.

The report consists of 27 chapters and relates to 19 priests against whom complaints were made.

However, at the request of Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, publication of the redacted sections of the report was delayed until Monday to allow counselling services be put in place to assist people who may be upset by the content.

Earlier yesterday the Department of Justice had indicated that redacted sections of the report would be published yesterday.

Chapter nine deals with the complaints made against “Fr Ronat”, a pseudonym for the priest concerned. At 42 pages it is the longest chapter in the Cloyne report and much of it has been in the public domain since publication of that report last July.

In chapter nine the commission concluded that the manner in which Cloyne’s church authorities addressed complaints against Fr Ronat “clearly illustrates the failure of the diocese of Cloyne to deal properly with allegations of child sexual abuse up to the year 2008”.

Failures in the handling of complaints against Fr Ronat rested “mainly on Bishop Magee and Monsignor O’Callaghan. However, at least three priests of the diocese appear to have ignored complaints. Bishop Magee mainly left the handling of complaints to Monsignor O’Callaghan and did not exercise his authority over Fr Ronat in any effective way,” it said.

Bishop Magee resigned as bishop of Cloyne in March 2010, while Msgr O’Callaghan was vicar general in the diocese and its delegate on child protection matters.

According to chapter nine complaints made to the diocese about Fr Ronat “were not reported to the gardaí when they should have been. They were not reported to the health board/HSE by the diocese until 2008.”

It found “there were no proper church investigations of the complaints”. A canonical process ordered where Fr Ronat was concerned in 1995 “was effectively stalled for 14 years and does not seem to have been completed”.

The commission did “not accept that there was any real restriction on his [Fr Ronat’s] ministry” and that when the priest was finally removed from ministry “he continued to wear clerical dress. This meant that, again, there was no public knowledge of his real situation,” it concluded.

It found that where a 1995 complaint against Fr Ronat was concerned the diocesan advisory committee, whose role was to offer guidance to the bishop on dealing with such complaints, “was much more concerned about causing scandal than about protecting children”.

It continued “it is the commission’s view that the actions of the committee in this case do not show concern for the protection of children”.

Where State authorities were concerned, according to chapter nine there was “no evidence that the HSE made any inquiries about Fr Ronat when notified by gardaí of a complaint against the priest in May 2005”.

 

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