Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Optimist V The Pessimist

The Optimist V The Pessimist

A family had twin boys whose only resemblance to each other was their looks. If one felt it was too hot, the other thought it was too cold. If one said the TV was too loud, the other claimed the volume needed to be turned up. Opposite in every way, one was an eternal optimist, the other a doom and gloom pessimist.

Just to see what would happen, on the twins' birthday their father loaded the pessimist's room with every imaginable toy and game. The optimist's room he loaded with horse manure.

That night the father passed by the pessimist's room and found him sitting amid his new gifts crying bitterly.

"Why are you crying?" the father asked.

"Because my friends will be jealous, I'll have to read all these instructions before I can do anything with this stuff, I'll constantly need batteries, and my toys will eventually get broken." answered the pessimist twin.

Passing the optimist twin's room, the father found him dancing for joy in the pile of manure. "What are you so happy about?" he asked.

To which his optimist twin replied, "There's got to be a pony in here somewhere!"

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Child Sexual Abuse, Catholic Priests and Confession.

At the end of October this year, psychotherapist and social worker Dr Marie Keenan published an analysis of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. In the book, Child Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church (Oxford University Press, New York) - Dr Keenan identifies the problem of child sexual abuse as not just within the individual psychology of the perpetrators, but also within the very makeup of the priesthood and the organisational structures of the Catholic Church. Some may agree, or not.

I was looking forward to reading this book as it had promised to let us hear the voices of some of the priests who had sexually abused children and those bishops who had covered up for them. On both counts the book disappoints, but I was struck by one thing: eight out of the nine offending priests, who participated in Dr Keenan’s research, had disclosed their sexual abuse of children in confession.

The extracts from Chapter 8 below make up most of what the priests and Dr Keenan had to say on the subject matter. I was already steadfast in my belief that the Catholic Church should not be granted any exemption from new child protection legislation that the Irish Government is planning to publish in the coming months, this only serves to reinforce that belief.

The only ones who would have sensed what I was going through were my confessors – they were carefully selected by me, and time and time again I recounted my temptations and falls, my scruples and shame. They after all were bound to a strict code of secrecy. I was known personally to them all. They were my lifelines.

Dr Keenan:
The word ‘secrecy’ is interesting in this man’s account. For all of the clerical perpetrators, the confession made bearable what was for them, at times, a complex site of paradox, contradiction, and ambiguity in which their self identity and performance were at odds, and the performance of integrity was severely undermined.

The anonymity and confidentiality of the confessional became an important avenue for disclosure of sexual and emotional distress and ultimately for disclosure of sexual offending. Eight of them disclosed their sexual offending in the confessional. The confessional became a space for them between the ideal and the reality. It was a secret conversational space, not only of forgiveness but also of ‘externalising’ the issues ‘in safety’.

After each abusive occurrence I felt full of guilt and at the earliest opportunity I sought to confess and receive absolution. While this was well intentioned there is a sense in which it was a mechanical process, but it effected a degree of relief and a feeling of a new beginning. There was always a resolution that it would not occur again – and yet experience should have told me that that was an unrealistic purpose of amendment given my awareness of my inclinations and that opportunity was frequently presented.

There were times of guilt, shame, and fear that I would get caught but I used confession to clean the slate. I minimised everything in this area...convincing myself that I would never do it again, especially after confession. It seemed to ease my conscience that I was truly making an effort to change and to stop...and going to confession and being able to couch it such a way that you know I didn’t have to give the full story, until one day towards perhaps the second last abuse I went to confession and this man absolutely just went for me...he just said to me, ’you know what you are doing is not alone morally wrong, but it is a criminal act’.

In all the times I confessed to abusing a minor I can only remember one occasion when I got a reprimand or advice not to do this again. In a strange way the sacramental confession let us off the hook rather lightly, and perhaps allowed us to realise what was actually happening...Perhaps I minimised in my accounts, but I do not think so. I certainly agonised as to how to present the abuse, and maybe the language used probably veiled the horror of the action. It was not open denial, but maybe it was not unadulterated truth either. The practice allowed us to feel that the disapproval and shame we experienced in telling was only short-lived and never likely to be discussed anywhere except there. Not confronted adequately we experienced only a short duration of guilt and no sense of responsibility for how we hurt others, only the alleviation of our own guilt and shame.

Dr Keenan:
Receiving confession played a role in easing the men’s conscience in coping with the moral dilemmas following episodes of abusing, and it provided a site of respite from guilt. For some of the men it also helped them think that they were making an effort to change. As the men oscillated between a sense of ‘self’ and ‘false-self’ that at times undermined their stability and sense of security, the confessional became a site that provided respite from such a conflicted existence.

The narratives show that their belief in God sustained the participants through some difficult times. They believed that God, who was aware they were struggling to be good, would love them in spite of their weaknesses if they sought forgiveness, were genuinely remorseful, and did their best not to abuse again. God was always available in confession. The men saw themselves as sinners, and they tried to repent. God and the confessional provided the key site of support and hope for them, especially when they were abusing boys. However, the narratives also give rise to some important observations regarding the function of confession. It is notable that only one confessor on one occasion, among the many times that the men disclosed their abusive behaviour in confession, pointed out the criminal nature of the sexual abuse. The very process of confession itself might therefore be seen as having enabled the abuse to continue, not only in how the men used the secrecy and safety of the confessional space to resolve the issues of guilt, but also in the fact that within the walls of the confession, the problem of the sexual abuse of children was contained. While the ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church’ (1994) makes clear that the seal is a fundamental aspect of the theology of the sacrament of confession, and it is not the function of the confessor to judge the confessant, nonetheless no pathway existed for this important information of abuse by clergy, which was emerging in the confessional, to flow back into the system, to alert the Church hierarchy to a growing problem. The fact that the problem was individualised at the level of the confessional is an important feature of abuse by clergy.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Altar Boy, A Story Of Life After Abuse,

Altar Boy, A Story Of Life After Abuse, by Andrew Madden

The Kindle edition of Altar Boy is now available here

[Kindle Edition for Kindle, iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, Android devices, PC, and Mac.]

‘Although I still carry many of the effects of child abuse I no longer consider myself a victim. I’ve done something about it. I’ve turned it around.’

Becoming an altar boy was Andrew Madden's first step toward realising his dream of becoming a priest. It was brilliant – getting to go behind the scenes in a busy parish church, helping on the altar in front of everyone – and he couldn’t wait to be grown up and saying Mass himself. But the day Andrew was molested by his favourite priest, Father Ivan Payne, his love of the Catholic Church was poisoned. Father’s Payne’s abuse lasted for three years, until Andrew was fifteen. But its impact went on and on. Andrew lost direction. He lost self-belief. He lost the capacity to have loving sex. And he lost himself in drink.

In the early '90s Andrew reached a financial settlement with Father Payne. He would go on to become the first Irish victim of sexual abuse by a priest to go public with his story. Altar Boy is the story behind that story.

Altar Boy is a candid, and sometimes searing, account of how abuse can affect a life. It is an articulate, challenging and often damning assessment of the behaviour of the Irish Catholic Church. And it is a story of hope: Andrew Madden’s calm and humane consideration of his own life - and Father Payne’s - shows that victims don’t have to remain victims.

Friday, September 30, 2011

STAY SAFE and SPHE Programmes

From today, teaching of the Stay Safe Programme in Ireland's 3,300 primary schools becomes mandatory. At least 80% of schools had already been teaching the Stay Safe Programme which is great, but nothing less than 100% compliance is acceptable.

Here is some information on the Stay Safe Programme and also the SPHE (Social Personl Health Education) Programme for secondary schools along with some recommendations.


The Stay Safe Programme is a personal safety skills programme for primary schools - both mainstream and special. Its overall objective is to prevent child abuse, bullying and other forms of victimisation. There are 5 modules:

Feeling Safe/Unsafe
Secrets and Telling

Senior Infants 9 lessons 20 minutes each
1st/2nd 9 lessons 30 minutes each
3rd/4th 9 lessons 30 minutes each
5th/6th 5 lessons 30 minutes each

It's recommended that lessons are taught at the rate of one per week. This programme is mandatory as of today 30 September 2011.

STAYSAFE/SPHE (Social Personal Health Education)

Social, Personal and Health Education, as part of the curriculum, supports the personal development, health and well-being of young people and helps them create and maintain supportive relationships. Social, Personal and Health Education in Post-Primary schools is a programme for students in the Junior/Senior Cycle and builds on the experience of all children at Primary level.

There are 10 modules at Junior Cycle:

Belonging and Integrating
Self-management: A sense of purpose
Communication Skills
Physical Health
Relationships and Sexuality
Emotional Health
Influences and Decisions
Substance Use
Personal Safety

All mandatory, 1 class per week.

There are 5 modules at Senior Cycle:

Relationships & Sexuality Education (RSE)
Substance Use
Mental Health
Gender Studies
Physical Activity and Nutrition

RSE is only module which is mandatory. 6 classes per year is mandatory minimum.
Although RSE is mandatory, parents do have the right to withdraw their children from this module.


1. There should be a module in the SPHE programme dedicated specifically to safety, welfare and protection of children at post-primary (as a continuation of the Stay Safe programme at primary level). There is a module on Personal Safety (Junior Cycle) but it does not include child protection issues etc. This module should:

i. inform young people about legal issues re sexual behaviour, consent and what care means.
ii. inform young people about what is appropriate and inappropriate care from a care-giver.
iii. increase young people’s awareness of self- protective skills and abuse.

Evaluation should be built into this module to assess knowledge and skills before and after the lessons. This new module is needed in order to ensure that students who may be withdrawn by parents from RSE still receive the information about protecting themselves.

2. All SPHE Modules should be introduced at senior cycle as a matter of priority.

3. SPHE should be allocated 2 classes per week from First Year to Senior Cycle.

4. Children’s knowledge of SPHE should be assessed by means of a written evaluation and an interview (there is assessment of every other subject on the curriculum).

5. SPHE should be viewed as a specialist area like Guidance & Counselling. Not everyone is suited to teach this subject and yet in many cases teachers find SPHE on their timetables without having agreed to teach this subject. In order to be accepted on to a Guidance and Counselling course, applicants are required to undergo a rigorous interview and personality test. Given the nature of Social Personal & Health Education, there should be similar requirements of SPHE teachers. All teachers should receive a basic SPHE pre-service training as all teachers are involved in social and personal education of young people. A more specialised training should be given to those teachers who will be delivering SPHE as a curricular area.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Opinion Piece Irish Independent 05/09/2011

Though it comes as no surprise, the statement from the Holy See this weekend is indeed a technical legalistic carefully crafted document which seeks to absolve the Cardinals and Bishops of the Vatican of any responsibility for the cover up of the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests. That cover up of course didn’t just occur in Cloyne. Or Dublin. That culture of cover up, despite its horrendous consequences, is typical of a culture of cover up that existed throughout the Catholic Church in Ireland for decades. And not just in Ireland of course.

A grand jury investigation into Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia reported in 2005 that the strategies employed by Catholic hierarchy there to cover up the sexual abuse of children were so similar in nature to tactics reported from other dioceses around the United States that it amounted to the Catholic Church having employed well-orchestrated strategies for decades and in all parts of the United States to keep abusing priests in ministry while minimising the risk of scandal or legal liability.

There have been similar reports too from many European countries over the last few years, including from Germany where Pope Benedict, as Archbishop of Munich, covered up for a priest in 1980. Sadly, as is often the case when abusers are protected, that priest went on to sexually abuse again and was eventually convicted.

In addition to the commonality of practice Cardinals and Bishops engaged in to cover up known child sexual abuse and protect the abusers, there are the 1962 and 2001 Vatican documents instructing Bishops around the world to conduct investigations into allegations of child sexual abuse in secret.

In addition, in respect of Ireland, there is the 1997 letter from the Congregation of the Clergy in the Vatican to the Irish Catholic Bishops which makes it very clear that reporting of any suspected sexual abuse of children to civil authorities gives rise to serious reservations of a canonical nature and that the procedures established by the Code of Canon Law must instead be meticulously followed. The Holy See’s insistence in its statement this weekend that that letter did not serve to deter any bishops from reporting of allegations to civil authorities is simply not true. And no amount of dishonest spin changes that fact.

Though it was clearly wrong for the Vatican to attempt to deter members of the Irish Catholic hierarchy from reporting to civil authorities they really needn’t have bothered because what was newly revealed in the Holy See statement was the fact that Irish Catholic Bishops didn’t take the child protection guidelines any more seriously than the Vatican did in the first place. We are told that Cardinals Daly and Connell clearly understood the difference between a document of the Irish Bishops’ Conference and a document of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Advisory Committee on Child Sexual Abuse by Priests and Religious: they can ignore the latter.

Disingenuous of them not to have made that clear to the rest of us in 1996 when they deliberately gave the impression that from then on, in all cases where it was known or suspected that the sexual abuse of a child had taken place, they would report it to the civil authorities.

And now, instead of a Catholic hierarchy here and in the Vatican explaining to us why anyone should ever believe a word they say ever again, or ever trust them on the issue of child protection, they seem to think the duly elected leader of our country now owes them an explanation for some of the comments he made during his speech in the Dail following publication of the Cloyne Report.

In his speech Taoiseach Enda Kenny spoke of an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an Inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago. I think the Taoiseach was right to articulate the anger so many people in Ireland felt on hearing not only about Vatican and Papal Nuncio non-cooperation with the Dublin and Cloyne inquiries but also our anger at attempts made by the Vatican to get the Irish Government to instruct the Murphy Inquiry on how it should approach the Vatican during the course of that Inquiry. Non-cooperation with an Inquiry is an act of frustration of that Inquiry.

It should also be remembered that the Cloyne Report tells that there was no attempt to implement child protection guidelines in that Diocese until 2008, despite there being a requirement within the State’s child protection guidelines to do so. That too was an unacceptable frustration of attempts in this country, to advance child protection.

Catholic bishops are owed nothing. They should consider themselves lucky that the only reason many of them are not behind bars is because the disgusting and unforgiveable acts they engaged in to conceal known child sexual abuse and protect abusers were not a criminal offence at the time.

Andrew Madden
END 05/09/11

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Holy See Response September 2011

The gimlet eye of the canon lawyer has been busy in the Vatican as publication of the Holy See’s response to the Irish Government regarding the Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne reveals every effort to continue to find ways for the Holy See to absolve itself of any responsibility for the cover up of the sexual abuse of children by priests for decades from one side of the world to the other.

It has been widely reported in recent months that Irish Catholic Bishops were frustrated in their attempts to implement their own child protection guidelines (1996 Framework Document) because the Congregation of the Clergy in the Vatican only considered those guidelines to be a study document. It is interesting to note from today’s Holy See response that members of the Catholic Hierarchy in Ireland also shared the view that those guidelines were not binding on them at all, the only people who seemed to think that Catholic Bishops were implementing child protection guidelines were the Irish Government and the Irish people, and it was disingenuous of Bishops to give that false impression in 1996 and allow it to continue and develop over the following years.

The Holy See continues to insist that the 1997 letter from the Congregation of the Clergy in the Vatican to the Irish Catholic Bishops did not forbid reporting of allegations to civil authorities. This continues to be completely untrue. The 1997 letter makes it very clear that such reporting gives rise to serious reservations of a canonical nature and that the procedures established by the Code of Canon Law must be meticulously followed. Such procedures make no mention of reporting the sexual abuse of children by priests to civil authorities.

The response from the Holy See refers to the absence of mandatory reporting in Irish law. Such absence does not excuse the lengths Catholic Bishops went to conceal known child sexual abuse and to protect and reassign abusers. Nor does it excuse the way Catholic Bishops misled people into thinking they were implementing child protection guidelines when clearly they were not.

It is worthy of note too that while the Holy See has taken note of the Irish Government’s intention to introduce legislation making it a ‘criminal offence to withhold information about a serious offence against a child’, it states that the prescriptions of civil law should always be followed, but it includes the qualification ‘without prejudice to the sacramental internal forum’.

Regardless of the Holy See’s reservations or observations what is important now is the child protection legislation being prepared by both the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence. The wording of such legislation will be very important and every effort must be made to ensure that no undue, unnecessary or unworthy exceptions are facilitated.

END 03/09/2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bishop John Magee

Bishop John Magee

I have just read the statement by Bishop John Magee in respect of the Cloyne Report.

The statement contains repeated apologies for the sexual abuse of children by priests in the Cloyne Diocese and for ‘the failure of the Diocese to effectively manage allegations of child sexual abuse’. It is hard to imagine such empty words being of any comfort or assistance to anyone. The fact that Bishop Magee failed to account in any way for what was revealed in the Cloyne Report does not come as any surprise. Catholic Bishops, in this country and elsewhere, have a track record of not wanting in any way to be held accountable for their actions and inactions as revealed in the various Reports.

These are some of the questions I would like Bishop Magee to have answered:

1. Why did he take little or no active interest in the management of child sexual abuse allegations from 1996 – 2008?

2. Why did he delegate so much responsibility for implementation of child protection guidelines to Monsignor O’Callaghan who did not approve of the requirement to report to civil authorities as contained therein?

3. Why did he respond to a HSE questionnaire in 2007 to the effect that the diocese reported allegations of child sexual abuse to the HSE and/or Garda Siochana in keeping with Children First when this was untrue?

4. Why did he tell the then Minister for Children Barry Andrews that the Framework Document guidelines were fully in place and were being complied with when this was untrue?

5. Why was Dr McCoy not provided with all relevant files when he was conducting a review, on behalf of the Bishops’ Conference, into the Cloyne Diocese in 2003?

6. Why did he tell the Commission of Investigation that he had not seen a copy of that (unfavourable) review until February 2009 when in fact he had been given a copy in 2004? And if he was aware of its contents, why did he ignore them?

7. How does Bishop Magee suppose that anyone have any confidence in Catholic Bishops’ claims to be implementing child protection guidelines today, when all the time that he was assuring people that he was doing so..... he was, in fact, not?

END – 22/08/2011

Monday, August 1, 2011

Senator David Norris

In 1997 Senator David Norris wrote a letter to the Israeli High Court in an appeal for clemency for his former partner, Mr Ezra Nawi Yizhak, who was before the courts having pleaded guilty to the statutory rape of a 15 year old boy. Bishops and others in the Catholic Church, in this country and elsewhere, have protected child molesters and rapists from the criminal justice system and, even worse, left such people in positions where they had access to more children, and all too often, those who the bishops had protected went on to molest and rape more children. The usual apologists for the Catholic Church who try to equate what Senator Norris did with what the Catholic hierarchy did don’t fool me. No opportunity by such people to minimise the Catholic Church’s role in causing the sexual abuse of so many children is lost and no opportunity to give vent to their homophobia is missed.

No gutter too deep either.

Does that mean that there is no problem with Senator Norris’s letter? No it does not.

I haven’t spoken to Senator David Norris since this weekend’s revelations but before I came away on holiday yesterday, I listened to people speaking on radio who have.
I gather that Senator Norris acknowledges that his writing of that letter, in 1997, to the Israeli High Court in an appeal for clemency for his former partner, Ezra Nawi Yizhak, was wrong.

I’m glad to hear it, because it certainly was wrong.

I’m sure I’m right in saying that at least two Government ministers in recent years have had to resign from office in circumstances where they sought to intervene, in some way or other, on behalf of people who were the subject of the criminal justice system, or who were seeking to help others who were the subject of the criminal justice system.

If the same standard is to be applied to Senator Norris then it is not possible to support the view that he could hold the highest office in the land having intervened the way he did. Neither could anyone else who made similar interventions.

But my concerns about the letter go further, because Senator Norris went a lot further than just pleading for clemency. Most of Senator Norris’s pleading is on technical grounds some of which I would have to take issue with. In fact it’s more than that. What Senator Norris sought to do, whether he realised it or not, was to minimise what Mr Yizhak had done. His motivation seems to have been to try and secure a non-custodial sentence for Mr Yizhak. Unfortunately that doesn’t make it okay.

Serious offences, including statutory rape, require a custodial sentence. I don’t support calling for a non-custodial sentence in a case of this nature on the basis that the perpetrator pleaded guilty and I am surprised to read the claim in Senator Norris’s letter that in this jurisdiction such a mitigating fact would very likely result in a non-custodial sentence.

I have long been on the record as saying that possession of images of child sexual abuse should automatically attract a custodial sentence, so I can’t support a non-custodial sentence for statutory rape.

I am also perturbed to read Senator Norris refer to Mr Yizhak's guilty plea as unwise; if Mr Yizhak committed the offence then it is only right and proper that he should admit his guilt at the earliest opportunity to save the young boy, who was the victim in this case, any further distress that may be caused by further court proceedings including a trial.

Senator Norris also raised the issue of consent in mitigation by referencing studies which apparently argue that in some cases where the victim can be considered the instigator or at least a willing participant, a sentence towards the lower end of the range would be appropriate. I cannot in all conscience support the use of such an argument in mitigation by Senator Norris.

Senator David Norris was wrong to write that letter and I think in these circumstances he should withdraw from the nomination process to become President of Ireland.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme (Sarah’s Law)

Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme (Sarah’s Law)

The management of sex offenders in the community post-conviction/release is an important dimension to child protection and I believe that one measure that would enhance such management is the introduction of a Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme, otherwise known as Sarah’s Law.

The Gardai and the Probation Service have some responsibility for monitoring known sex offenders who are living in the community but there is a limit to how much they can do to keep children safe and every effort must be made to deal with any risk that offenders pose. Approximately half of the sex offenders released this year, in Ireland, or due for release in the coming few years are or will be subject to Post Release Supervision Orders.

Electronic tagging of some offenders is another tool that the Gardai and the Probation Service should have at their disposal to enhance their management of known sex offenders. Restrictions on an offender’s right to consume alcohol is another, some offenders only act out on their desires having consumed alcohol. Random unannounced visits to an offender’s home would also be a useful way to monitor a known offender’s activities. Currently none of these options is available to Gardai or the Probation Service.

However in addition to giving statutory bodies more powers to help keep children safe I think the case can be made for giving parents, guardians and others access to another facility to assist in helping to keep children safe, and that is the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme, otherwise known as Sarah’s Law.

The Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme was piloted to great effect in the Britain. The pilot scheme was started in 2008 and involved four police forces in Warwickshire, Cambridgeshire, Cleveland and Hampshire. The British Home Office said the pilot test was very successful because it had protected 60 children. Nearly 600 inquiries made to the four police forces involved led to 315 applications for information and 21 disclosures about registered child sex offenders. A further 43 cases led to other actions, including referrals to children's social care and 11 general disclosures were made regarding protection issues linked to violent offending.

As a result of this the Scheme is now being rolled out in all police forces in England and Wales.

So how does it work in?

The Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme means anyone can ask for a police check on someone they are worried about by simply calling or visiting their local police. To actually make an application, they will need to visit the local police station in person where they are asked to show produce some ID, tell the police what their relationship to the child is and explain why they want to have a particular person checked.

The scheme is for anyone who wants to find out if someone in contact with a child has a record of child sexual offences. They could be a family member, friend, neighbour or anyone that’s worried about a child.

The majority of child sexual offenders are known to their victims. They are often a friend of the victim’s family, a friend of the victim, or a member of the victim’s family.

If the check shows a record for child sexual offences, or other offences that might put the child at risk, the police may share this information. However, this information will only be shared with the people best placed to protect the child. This will usually be the child’s parent, carer or guardian. The information might not be shared with the person who made the enquiry.

I think the introduction of a Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme in Ireland would be a serve as another very useful measure to help protect children.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cloyne Report

In 1996 the Catholic Church in Ireland published its new guidelines Child Sexual Abuse: Framework for a Church Response (the 1996 Guidelines). It was widely reported at that time that all allegations of child sexual abuse against Catholic priests that were brought to the attention of any Diocese in the country would be reported to the civil authorities from that point on. I did my best to point out at that time that what the 1996 Guidelines actually said was that where it was known or suspected that a priest or religious had sexually abused a child the matter should be reported to civil authorities. I was concerned at the time that the qualification of knowing or suspecting that abuse of a child had actually taken place was a loophole that would be taken advantage of. On reading the Murphy Report some 14 years later I could see that my concerns were well founded.

In addition, more recently it was learned that only 1 year after the Guidelines were published, the Vatican let it be known to the bishops that if the Guidelines were applied the consequences could be highly embarrassing for them. That same correspondence also stated that the 1996 Guidelines were only a study document and that the procedures followed must instead be those in accordance with canon law.

At no time did Irish Catholic bishops move this information into the public domain, quite the opposite. Even after publication of the Murphy Report bishops continued to claim that their covering up of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests ceased in 1996 on publication of the new Guidelines, even though the Murphy Report itself contained many examples of this being completely untrue.

Now we have publication of the Cloyne Report: a representative sample of allegations of child sexual abuse made against 19 Catholic priests in the Diocese of Cloyne over the 13 year period 1996 - 2009. The Report found allegations against 33 priests.

So how did the Catholic Church in Cloyne handle these allegations? Were all allegations reported to civil authorities as people were led to believe in 1996?

No they were not. We learn in this Report that the response of the Diocese of Cloyne to complaints and allegations of clerical child sexual abuse in the period 1996 to 2008 was inadequate and inappropriate. The principal feature of this Report can be simply expressed. The Diocese of Cloyne accepted the Framework Document and promised to implement it. It did not do so. On the contrary, Bishop Magee appears to have taken little real interest in its implementation for 12 years. He allowed the authority of the diocese in this regard to be exercised for that period by others, in particular Monsignor O’Callaghan. Monsignor O’Callaghan acted in what he perceived to be the best interests of the Church. Bishop Magee told the Minister for Children that the Framework Document guidelines were fully in place and were being fully complied with. This was false. The same must be said of his assurances to the HSE given in 2007.

It is clear to the Commission that the Diocese of Cloyne, while ostensibly supportive of the procedures outlined in the Framework Document, was never genuinely committed to their implementation. The main person involved, Monsignor O’Callaghan, clearly was not fully supportive of the procedures. It is, therefore, not surprising that the procedures were never properly implemented. Bishop Magee must take primary responsibility for the failure to implement the procedures.

During all of this time, Catholic bishops were hiding behind the 1996 Guidelines or their subsequent replacements. This has implications for child protection and safety today in the context of the Catholic Church. The Church’s current procedures Safeguarding Children are derived from and compliant with the State’s child protection guidelines Children First. But as today’s Report clearly shows, publishing guidelines is no proof that they are being implemented at local, diocesan or national level. Catholic bishops did set up the National Board for Safeguarding Children: a primary objective of the Board for 2010 was to conduct a review of each Diocese in the country to ensure that the Church’s current child safeguarding policies and practices were appropriate. However we learned in May of this year from the National Board’s Annual Report that this process was stopped, after a review of only 3 Dioceses had taken place, because the bishops would not co-operate, citing data protection concerns. The Data Protection Commissioner however has confirmed that there is no data protection concern that hinders the bishops’ from co-operating with the National Board’s review.

It came as no surprise to me to read in the National Board’s Annual Report that as part of the agreement, which only now has apparently secured the bishops’ co-operation, the National Board will not comment publically on what it finds in its review of any Diocese: the introduction of any such information into the public domain is possible only with the consent of the bishops. It is totally unacceptable that the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church cannot move any child protection concerns or findings into the public domain without the consent of Catholic Bishops. Imagine HIQA being similarly constrained by the HSE. A genuine data protection concern would have been resolved with a genuine data protection solution, not one where bishops get to control a National Board while at the same time trying to pass it off as independent.

I don’t mean to give the impression that I have huge confidence in any review process set up by the Catholic Church. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia was investigated by a Grand Jury Investigation and its Report, published in 2003, made very similar reading to the Murphy Report, with the same tactics employed there to conceal known child sexual abuse by catholic priests. Yet despite those revelations and the fact that the Catholic Church in the United States set up national and local review boards to appraise their child protection and reporting practices, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia still went on to leave a further 37 priests in ministry despite credible allegations of child sexual abuse having been made against them, and the review boards were completely unaware of this because this information had been successfully hidden from them.

Here in Ireland, with the publication of the Cloyne Report, it is proven yet again that the Catholic Church is not an organisation that can be trusted with the safety, welfare and protection of children. I have no doubt that at a local level there are people working hard to make sure that child protection practices are to a high standard within their parishes, but we don’t know how widespread good or bad practice is at parish level.

A second Grand Jury in Philadelphia, this year, made several recommendations but I want to draw your attention to their final recommendation:

Report sexual abuse allegations directly to law enforcement authorities. The horrors inflicted … by sexual predators not only wound bodies, rob innocence, and betray faith. They also violate laws. As crime victims, those injured by sexually compulsive priests should do what victims of criminals in any other profession should do – contact law enforcement authorities.

In some circumstances, introducing law enforcement into the equation might also help change the calculations both of sexual predators and those who would grant them revered positions with access to children.

With occasional exceptions, Catholic Bishops cannot be trusted with allegations of child sexual abuse.

Andrew Madden
Author Altar Boy, A Story of Life After Abuse

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

NBSC Annual Report 2010

The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church today published its Annual Report for 2010.

A primary objective of the Board for 2010 was to conduct a review of each Diocese in the country to ensure that the Church’s current child safeguarding policies and practices were properly handled. It is with considerable concern that I read in today’s Report that this process was stopped after a review of only 3 Dioceses because the Bishops’ Conference, the Conference of Religious of Ireland and the Irish Missionary Union (the Sponsoring Bodies) apparently received legal advice to the effect that they should not co-operate with this review, despite the fact that those same organisations were responsible for setting it up in the first place. This non-cooperation has impaired the work of the Board in respect of this review for almost a year and has only now been resolved.

It is shocking to read in today’s Report that as part of the agreement which secured the Sponsoring Bodies co-operation the National Board will not comment publically on what it finds in its review of any Diocese or other Church authority: the introduction of any such information into the public domain is possible only the consent of the head of the Diocese or authority. It is totally unacceptable that the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church cannot move any child protection concerns or findings into the public domain without the consent of Catholic Bishops.

It is also of great concern to read that the National Board’s ability to track the national picture of safeguarding in the Catholic Church was adversely affected throughout the year by reporting deficits by the Dioceses and other Church authorities.

In response to today’s revelations I urge the Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald to introduce legislation to put the Children First Guidelines on a statutory basis as a matter of absolute urgency. This should be speedily followed by the introduction of a system of independent audit of compliance with Children First.

End 11/05/2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Archdiocese of Dublin – Safeguarding Children

Archdiocese of Dublin – Safeguarding Children

I welcome today’s publication of Child Safeguarding and Protection - Policy and Procedures by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. Preventing any child from coming to harm is just as important as doing the right thing once a concern about a child, or someone who may be a danger to children, has been raised. In this regard I welcome the commitment to create and maintain safe environments for children who are involved with Church activities by providing relevant training to all Diocesan staff and volunteers, developing materials to assist parishes and Diocesan agencies and carrying out audits of parishes and agencies to ensure they are compliant with best practice.

I also welcome the commitment within the Dublin Archdiocese to ensure that all Child Protection Policies and Practices are compliant with the State’s Children First Guidelines, this indeed is a requirement of Children First.

I note that it is practice in the Dublin Archdiocese to report ‘all child protection concerns to the HSE and An Garda Siochana’ – nothing short of this standard is acceptable from any Diocese in the country, and it would be of some use if each Catholic Diocese in Ireland could confirm that this standard is shared.

It is worth pointing out that the State’s Child Protection Guidelines, Children First are still only guidelines, there is no legal requirement on anyone to follow them and this is a situation which has to change. In this regard I welcome the commitment of Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald to introduce legislation to put the Children First Guidelines on a statutory basis and to introduce Certification in Children First. I would also welcome the introduction of a system of independent audit of compliance with Children First.

END - 14/04/2011

Monday, March 28, 2011

Child Welfare and Protection Agency (CWPA)

I very much welcome today’s announcement by Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald TD that a body dedicated to the protection and safety of our children is being set up and that such responsibilities are to be removed from the HSE.

In a speech I gave in March 2010, published here, I said:

.... the HSE..... its inability to work in its current structure is plain for all to see..........the safety, welfare and protection of children must no longer be left in the hands of an organisation so obviously unfit for purpose. A new Department of Children, with a Minister who knows what he or she is doing, is a must for any new Government interested in seriously addressing the current broken system.

I am so pleased to see that the new Government has moved so speedily to establish the Department for Children and that work to create a new dedicated agency (Child Welfare and Protection Agency (CWPA)) whose exclusive function will be to deliver child welfare and protection services is underway.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Irish Catholic Bishops

STATEMENT - Andrew Madden

Irish Catholic Bishops – Towards Healing and Renewal

I wish to take the opportunity to respond to the document published today by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference to mark the first anniversary of the publication of the Pastoral Letter of Pope Benedict to the Catholics of Ireland last year.

It is disappointing but by no means surprising that there is not a single reference to the role the Catholic Bishops played in causing the sexual abuse of so many children by covering up for the priests carrying out that abuse. Instead the role of Bishops is once again glossed over with such terms as ‘The inadequate response by some Church leaders’ and ‘so many in leadership failed to give priority to the love and care of children in their response to such heinous crimes’.

Last year I was one of those survivors who asked that any bishops who had played any part in the cover up of child sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests resign their positions. To me that was an important early step I had hoped for from the Catholic Church in the response, not only to the publication of the Murphy Report, but to the Bishops’ own statement in December 2009, that they recognised that the culture of cover up as revealed in the Murphy Report indicated a culture that was widespread in the Catholic Church.

Some time ago Pope Benedict used the term ‘the filth in the Catholic Church’ to describe priests who had sexually abused children - I don’t think it is too much to ask of a Church that looks to rebuild confidence and trust in itself and its current child protection measures that it at least put forward a leadership free of the filth that is those who covered it up.

END 19/03/2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Diarmuid Martin - Children's Rights - Government

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said in a speech at the Mater Dei Institute for Education earlier this week that giving the state greater responsibility for children will not automatically ensure improved child protection and increased childrens’ rights. He went on to say that it is not the state’s job to bring up children: it is the job of parents and that the measures needed to address the challenges of improving child protection will require huge effort and go way beyond the creation, simply, of new structures.

I can’t help wondering who these comments were meant to be aimed at. Everyone I know who has a genuine interest in advancing the safety, welfare, protection and rights of children already knows that no one single measure will move that agenda of work along effectively and efficiently.

The wording that will be presented to the Irish people to vote on in a referendum on Children’s Rights is unlikely to have anything to do making it the State’s job to bring up children, far more likely to be about ensuring that where the parents of any child fail in their responsibility towards such child, the State as guardian of the common good shall, by proportionate means, as shall be regulated by law, endeavour to supply or supplement the place of the parents, regardless of their marital status – quite different to bringing up all the children of the State.

Apart from a referendum on Children’s Rights, there is of course a huge amount of work to be done and it is refreshing, to say the least, to have a government in place that not only recognises this fact but has committed to doing much of that work and has started well. The appointment of a Minister for Children with full cabinet status is a very welcome start. The commitment to divest the HSE of all responsibility for the child protection system and put that work directly under the responsibility of the Minister and Department for Children is also very welcome. Placing Children First on a statutory basis and introducing a system of independent audit of compliance with Children First is another necessary step the Government has agreed to. Sarah’s Law is Fine Gael policy, another important child protection measure as is ensuring proper implementation of the StaySafe/SPHE programmes in all schools.

The Children’s Rights Referendum is not a panacea for advancing the safety, welfare, protection and rights of children, but most people who are genuinely interested in that agenda already know that.

END 16/03/2011

Sunday, February 20, 2011



Last Thursday I welcomed the measures Fine Gael published under the broad agenda of the Safety Welfare Protection and Rights of Children in their Election Manifesto 2011.

I also said I would welcome publication of proposals for the Child Care/Protection System given Fine Gael’s welcome plans to abolish the HSE.

Today Fine Gael have published some more details which I do very much welcome.

These include:

Making the Minister for Children directly responsible for child care and protection services (removing these services from the HSE).

Creating a new dedicated agency called the Child Welfare and Protection Agency (CWPA) whose exclusive function will be to deliver child welfare and protection services.

Incorporating the Differential Response Model (DRM)of child protection into the delivery of services provided by the Child Welfare and Protection Agency.

Ensure that no social worker will engage in unsupervised front-line child protection work unless they have a minimum of 2 years experience.

Provide absolute protection for whistleblowers.

Require the monthly publication of up to date figures on the number of children who are in care, in emergency care or missing from care.

Require certification in Children First for those working with children.

Not allow the principle of confidentiality which is meant to protect children be used as a barrier to the transparency required in the public interest.

These measures in addition to those published last Thursday in the Fine Gael Election Manifesto would contribute hugely to advancing the agenda of the Safety Welfare and Protection of Children in my opinion.

Thursday, February 17, 2011



I very much welcome the commitments Fine Gael have included in their Election 2011 Manifesto with regard to the Safety, Welfare, Protection & Rights of Children. I have been calling for many of these measures to be introduced by Government for quite some time and I am hopeful that a new Government will come into office ready to implement these measures without undue delay – this country’s failure to cherish and protect children must not continue any longer.

I have listed some of the commitments Fine Gael have made below, I have included the introduction of Sarah’s Law which is not in the manifesto but I understand this is also Fine Gael policy. I am also very pleased to see that the Fine Gael Manifesto highlights homophobic bullying in schools as a problem needing particular attention – children are entitled to be educated in a safe environment and a homophobic ethos which validates homophobic bullying is not acceptable in any of our schools.

Given Fine Gael’s policy to abolish the HSE I also look forward to the publication of more details from them about how child protection within the care system is to be reformed and managed after the HSE is abolished.


REFERENDUM: As a priority Fine Gael will ensure children’s rights are strengthened through a Constitutional referendum.

CHILDREN FIRST: Fine Gael will put the Children First national guidelines on the protection and welfare of children, that apply to individuals and agencies dealing with children, on a statutory footing so that they are effectively and consistently implemented throughout the State.

VETTING: We will enact legislation to facilitate the use of soft information in vetting individuals working with children. We will also seek a review of the Garda Vetting Unit with a view to improving application processing times.

STAY SAFE PROGRAMME: We will require all schools to effectively implement the mandatory Stay Safe Programme.

REFORMING CHILD PROTECTION SERVICES: Fine Gael will fundamentally reform the delivery of child protection and welfare services to achieve a better and more effective service for children that is fully accountable to the Dáil. We will enact legislation that will significantly increase the power and function of the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

SARAH’S LAW: Parents and Guardians should be able to register a concern with authorities about any individual who has access to their children about whom they are genuinely worried. In some cases it should be possible for them to be told if such an individual is a known sex offender or not. This measure is already being rolled out in the UK, having being piloted to great effect; the pilot scheme in four counties saw one in ten calls to police uncover evidence of a criminal past. Out of 315 applications for information from concerned parents, details of 21 paedophiles were revealed. These were sex offenders known to the authorities who were putting themselves in a position of having access to children again, and they were stopped because those parents could register their concerns and access this information.

TAGGING SEX OFFENDERS: In 2011, nearly 100 sex offenders will leave prison, only 22 of whom will have had rehabilitative therapy. Fine Gael will provide for electronic tagging for high risk sex offenders on their release from prison to reduce the risk of reoffending.

ANTI-BULLYING POLICY: We will encourage schools to develop anti-bullying policies and in particular, strategies to combat homophobic bullying to support students.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Safety Welfare Protection & Rights of Children

Some of the ideas that I would like to see a new Government advance in the interests of the Safety Welfare Protection & Rights of Children

Hold the Children’s Rights Referendum preferably with a wording as close as possible to that published by Joint Oireachtas Committee in February 2010.

Introduce legislation to put the Children First Guidelines on a statutory basis with failure to comply being a criminal offence and also introduce system of independent inspection of audit and compliance with Children First Guidelines.

Remove responsibility for the Child Care System from the HSE and have that service reformed and delivered by people working under the aegis of Minister for Children.

Empowering children with knowledge, confidence and language is an important part of the child protection process. The STAY SAFE and SPHE programmes within schools are a significant part of this.

• All teachers should receive a basic SPHE pre-service training as all teachers are involved in social and personal education of young people.

• There should be a module in the SPHE programme dedicated specifically to Child Safety, Welfare and Protection at post-primary level.

• Children’s knowledge of SPHE should be assessed regularly.

There is urgent need for Garda Vetting of people working with children to be extended to facilitate the passing on of soft information, organisations working with or providing services to children have called for this to be done for many years but to no avail.

Parents and Guardians should be able to register a concern with authorities about any individual who has access to their children about whom they are genuinely worried. In some cases it should be possible for them to be told if such an individual is a known sex offender or not. This measure is already being rolled out in the UK, having being piloted to great effect; the pilot scheme in four counties saw one in ten calls to police uncover evidence of a criminal past. Out of 315 applications for information from concerned parents, details of 21 paedophiles were revealed. These were sex offenders known to the authorities who were putting themselves in a position of having access to children again, and they were stopped because those parents could register their concerns and access this information.

Review the In Camera rule in respect of court proceedings under the Child Care Act 1991. This rule was intended to protect children but instead protects a system which fails them.

Sex offenders who have served their sentences are generally released into the community without supervision, though some may be under the supervision of the Probation Service. There is an urgent need for changes to this system to be made ...

• A multi-agency approach to the support and monitoring of released offenders must be developed along with a more stringent regime of signing on procedures with regular personal visits to Garda stations by released offenders.

• Secondly, those responsible for monitoring sex offenders should have the powers and the resources to make regular unannounced visits to the homes of released sex offenders.

• Thirdly, monitoring of sex offenders should include electronic tagging, curfews and other restrictions, for example an offender who only ever abuses children after he/she has taken alcohol should have it as a condition of their release that they don’t consume alcohol.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Full text Vatican Letter 1997

Dublin, 31 January 1997

Strictly confidential

Apostolic Nunciature In Ireland N. 808/97

Your Excellency,

The Congregation for the Clergy has attentively studied the complex question of sexual abuse of minors by clerics and the document entitled "Child Sexual Abuse: Framework for a Church Response", published by the Irish Catholic Bishops' Advisory Committee.

The Congregation wishes to emphasize the need for this document to conform to the canonical norms presently in force.

The text, however, contains "proceedures and dispositions which appear contrary to canonical discipline and which, if applied, could invalidate the acts of the same Bishops who are attempting to put a stop to these problems. If such procedures were to be followed by the Bishops and there were cases of eventual hierarchial recourse lodged at the Holy See, the results could be highly embarrassing and detrimental to those same Diocesan authorities.

In particular, the situation of 'mandatory reporting' gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and a canonical nature".

Since the policies on sexual abuse in the English speaking world exhibit many of the same characteristics and procedures, the Congregation is involved in a global study of them. At the appropriate time, with the collaboration of the interested Episcopal Conferences and in dialogue with them, the Congregation will not be remiss in establishing some concrete directives with regard to these Policies.

For these reasons and because the abovementioned text is not an official document of the Episcopal Conference but merely a study document, I am directed to inform the individual Bishops of Ireland of the preoccupations of the Congregation in its regard, underlining that in the sad cases of accusations of sexual abuse by clerics, the procedures established by the Code of Canon Law must be meticulously followed under pain of invalidity of the acts involved if the priest so punished were to make hierarchial recourse against his Bishop.

Asking you to kindly let me know of safe receipt of this letter and with the assurance of my cordial regard, I am

Yours sincerely in Christ,

+Luciano Storero
Apostolic Nuncio

To: Members of the Irish Episcopal Conference
- their Dioceses

Monday, January 17, 2011

RTE/WYB - Vatican Inv in Cover Up

I have never believed that the Catholic bishops cover up of the sexual abuse of children by priests was something unique to the Catholic Church in Ireland, nor have I believed that such acts of cover up were unknown to the Vatican.

The Murphy Report found that the child sexual abuse by priests was covered up by the Archdiocese of Dublin and other Church authorities. Each of Dublin’s four Archbishops from McQuaid in the 1970s to Connell in the 1990s knew of the abuse, many auxiliary bishops knew and the vast majority of priests who were aware of particular instances of abuse simply chose to turn a blind eye. The welfare of children, which should have been the first priority, was not even a factor to be considered in the early stages. The medical profession was misled about what the Church knew about abusing priests and even when the Church was advised not to re-assign such priests, the advise was ignored. Catholic Church assurances that paedophile priests were being monitored were completely untrue and other children paid the price.

The Ferns Report found that notwithstanding the extremely unfavourably medical reports provided, priests were appointed to curacies in that Diocese and continued in positions without any effective monitoring or control. Bishop Comiskey agreed with the Ferns Inquiry that the proper response to an allegation of child sexual abuse against a priest was to remove him from active ministry pending the determination of the allegation. Notwithstanding this belief, no priest was stood aside from active ministry during the episcopacy of Bishop Comiskey and no precept was issued preventing any priest from saying Mass and partaking in religious ceremonies. Priests were moved out of the Diocese in some cases but no child protection measures were put in place to ensure that children in the Diocese to which the accused priest was sent were not placed in danger.

The Grand Jury Report into the Archdiocese of Philadelphia found that Cardinals Bevilacqua and Krol were aware that priests in the Diocese were perpetrating massive amounts of child molestations and sexual assaults. In many cases the same priests were reported again and again and Archdiocese leaders employed deliberate strategies to conceal known abuse. The Report says that they chose to protect themselves from scandal and liability rather than protect children, going on to say that Cardinal Bevilacqua was motivated by an intent to keep the record clear of evidence that would implicate him or the Archdiocese. The tactics used to achieve this included conducting non-investigations designed to avoid establishing priests’ guilt, transferring known abusers to other parishes where their reputations were not known, misleading parishioners about the reason for a priest’s transfer, harbouring known abusers from other dioceses (like Archbishop Ratzinger did in Munich in 1980), making concerted efforts to prevent reports of abuse to law enforcement, manipulating medical records to keep abusing priests in ministry, interfering with medical evaluations, inventing limited ministry which they documented but did not enforce and intimidating victims and witnesses in an attempt to silence them.

The Grand Jury Report into the Archdiocese of Boston found that the widespread sexual abuse of children by priests was due to an institutional acceptance of abuse. Again top Archdiocese officials knew the extent of the problem for many years, but their response was to maintain secrecy, fail to report allegations to civil authorities, fail to co-operate with law enforcement when allegations were being investigated, fail to conduct thorough investigations, place children at risk by transferring abusing priests to other parishes, place children at risk by accepting abusing priests from other Dioceses (like Archbishop Ratzinger did in Munich in 1980) and fail to supervise priests known to have sexually abused children. In language almost identical to the Murphy Report the Boston Report concludes that for at least six decades three successive Archbishops, their Bishops and others in positions of authority within the Archdiocese operated with tragically misguided priorities. They chose to protect the image and reputation of their institution rather than the safety and well-being of the children entrusted to their care.

The Philadelphia Report also noted similar behaviour by Bishops and Cardinals in other Dioceses in the United States and found that this amounted to the Catholic Church having employed well-orchestrated strategies for decades and in all parts of the United States to keep abusing priests in ministry while minimising the risk of scandal or legal liability.

Tonight’s broadcast of the RTE Would You Believe documentary Unspeakable Crimes, shows yet again that Catholic bishops covering up the sexual abuse of children by priests did so with the full knowledge of the Vatican: while this further confirms the Vatican’s involvement in the cover up, it does not absolve Irish Catholic Bishops of responsibility for their own actions and decisions. It does however demonstrate very clearly that the Vatican sending Cardinals to Ireland to conduct an ‘Apostolic Investigation’ is, as I said before, self-serving, window-dressing nonsense.