By Douglas Dalby (New York Times)
December 20, 2011
DUBLIN — A senior Roman Catholic prelate in Ireland said Tuesday that the church would arrange for victims of clergy sexual abuse in one diocese to meet with the bishop who was in charge of it when hundreds of abuse complaints were kept secret.
The meetings, the first of their kind in the Irish abuse scandals, would be similar to meetings between bishops and abuse victims that have been held in the United States.
The prelate, Archbishop Dermot Clifford, who now leads the Diocese of Cloyne, discussed the planned meetings in an interview on RTE, the state television network. He repeated an apology to victims, saying the church's failure to report accusations of abuse to the police was misguided.
"I suppose they didn't see the thing as a crime," Archbishop Clifford said of priests in the diocese. "They saw the thing more as a sin than a crime, and probably weren't advised strictly enough as to where their duties lay when an allegation came to them."
The victims are to meet with the Rev. John Magee, who resigned as bishop of Cloyne in 2009, and with Msgr. Denis O'Callaghan, now retired, who was responsible for child protection in the diocese, Archbishop Clifford said.
The announcement followed the publication on Monday of a previously withheld chapter of a major report on clergy sexual abuse in the Cloyne Diocese, a mainly rural area in southern Ireland. The report, most of which was published in July, held Father Magee and Monsignor O'Callaghan largely responsible for the failure to deal appropriately with complaints against 19 priests, some of them lodged as recently as 2008.
Only one of the 19 priests has since been convicted. The report said Monsignor O'Callaghan "stymied" the child protection policies the church promised to put in place.
The findings caused a furor in Ireland, culminating in a speech in Parliament by Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who accused the Vatican of enabling the cover-up of clergy sexual abuse, a charge denied by the Holy See.
The newly published Chapter 9 of the Cloyne report deals with accusations by 13 people against a priest referred to by the pseudonym Father Ronat. It says that a complaint against him that was filed with the police in 2003 "seems to have been put in a drawer and forgotten about until raised by this investigation," and that the church ignored repeated complaints that the priest was hypnotizing young people who went to him for guidance.
The minister of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald, said she was "deeply disturbed" by the newly published material.
"My thoughts are with the complainants in this chapter and their families, all of whom must be commended for their courage and perseverance," Ms. Fitzgerald said. "It is clear that the priority of the church authorities in Cloyne was the protection of the institution of the church and not the protection of children."
Maeve Lewis of One in Four, a victims' advocacy group, said Tuesday that the justice system in Ireland "consistently fails victims" of sexual crimes, citing "low reporting rates, high attrition rates and the retraumatization of the very small numbers of victims whose cases go to trial."