Wednesday, 20 July 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
notes the publication of the report by the Commission of Investigation into the handling by Church and State authorities of allegations and suspicions of child sexual abuse against clerics of the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne;
expresses its dismay at the disturbing findings of the report and at the inadequate and inappropriate response, particularly of the Church authorities in Cloyne, to complaints and allegations of child sexual abuse;
welcomes the publication of the Children First National Guidance 2011, the full and consistent implementation of which will be given priority, and welcomes the approval by Government for the preparation of legislation to require statutory compliance with the Children First National Guidance;
welcomes the publication of the provisions concerning the Criminal Justice (Withholding Information on Crimes against Children and Vulnerable Adults) Bill 2011 and welcomes the announcement made that the heads of the National Vetting Bureau Bill 2011 will be published by the end of July 2011 and furnished to the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality for a consultative process; and
The revelations in the Cloyne report have brought the Government, Irish Catholics and the Vatican to an unprecedented juncture. It is fair to say that after the Ryan and Murphy reports, Ireland is, perhaps, unshockable when it comes to the abuse of children. However, the Cloyne report has proved to be of a different order because for the first time in this country a report on child sexual abuse exposes an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago. In doing so the report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection and elitism that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day. The rape and torture of children were down-played or managed to uphold the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and reputation. Far from listening to evidence of humiliation and betrayal with St. Benedict’s “ear of the heart”, the Vatican’s reaction was to parse and analyse it with the gimlet eye of a Canon lawyer. This calculated, withering position is the polar opposite of the radicalism, humility and compassion on which the Roman Church was founded. Such radicalism, humility and compassion comprise the essence of its foundation and purpose. This behaviour is a case of Roma locuta est: causa finita est, except in this instance nothing could be further from the truth.
The Cloyne report’s revelations are heart-breaking. It describes how many victims continued to live in the small towns and parishes in which they were reared and abused. Their abuser was often still in the area and still held in high regard by their families and community. The abusers continued to officiate at family weddings and funerals. In one case, the abuser even officiated at a victim’s wedding. There is little that I or anyone else in the House can say to comfort that victim or others, however much we wish to. However, we can and do recognise the bravery and courage of all the victims who told their stories to the commission. While it will take a long time for Cloyne to recover from the horrors uncovered, it could take the victims and their families a lifetime to pick up the pieces of their shattered existence, if ever they do.
One day after the publication of the report the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade met the Papal Nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza. The Tánaiste left the archbishop clear on two things: the gravity of the actions and attitude of the Holy See and Ireland’s complete rejection and abhorrence of same. The papal nuncio undertook to present the Cloyne report to the Vatican. The Government now awaits the considered response of the Holy See.
The people, including the many faithful Catholics who, like me, have been shocked and dismayed by the repeated failings of church authorities to face up to what is required. They deserve and require confirmation from the Vatican that it does accept, endorse and require compliance by all church authorities here with the obligations to report all cases of suspected abuse, whether current or historical, to the State’s authorities in line with the Children First national guidance which will have the force of law.
Clericalism has rendered some of Ireland’s brightest and most privileged and powerful men either unwilling or unable to address the horrors cited in the Ryan and Murphy reports. This Roman clericalism must be devastating for good priests, some of them old, others struggling to keep their humanity, even their sanity, as they work hard to be the keepers of the church’s light and goodness within their parishes, communities and the condition of the human heart. Thankfully for them and us, this is not Rome. Nor is it industrial school or Magdalene Ireland, where the swish of a soutane, smothered conscience and humanity and the swing of a thurible ruled the Irish Catholic world. This is the Republic of Ireland in 2011. It is a republic of laws, rights and responsibilities and proper civic order where the delinquency and arrogance of a particular version of a particular kind of morality will no longer be tolerated or ignored.
As a practising Catholic, I do not say any of this easily. Growing up, many of us in here learned that we were part of a pilgrim church. Today, that church needs to be a penitent church, a church truly and deeply penitent for the horrors it perpetrated, hid and denied — in the name of God, but for the good of the institution.
Through our legislation, through our Government’s action to put children first, those who have been abused can take some small comfort in knowing that they belong to a nation — to a democracy — where humanity, power, rights and responsibilities are enshrined and enacted always for their good; where the law — their law, as citizens of this country — will always supersede canon law that has neither legitimacy nor place in the affairs of this country.
This report tells us a tale of a frankly brazen disregard for protecting children. If we do not respond swiftly and appropriately as a State, we will have to prepare ourselves for more reports like this. I agree with Archbishop Martin that the church needs to publish any other and all other reports like this as soon as possible. I note the commission is very positive about the work of the National Board for Safeguarding Children, established by the church to oversee the operation by dioceses and religious orders. The commission notes that all church authorities were required to sign a contract with the national board agreeing to implement the relevant standards and that those refusing to sign would be named in the board’s annual report. Progress has been in no small measure due to the commitment of Mr. Ian Elliott and others.
There is some small comfort to be drawn by the people of Cloyne from the fact that the commission compliments the efforts made by the diocese since 2008 in training, in vetting personnel and in the risk management of priests against whom allegations have been made. Nevertheless, the behaviour of Bishop Magee and Monsignor O’Callaghan show how fragile even good standards and policies are to the weakness and willful disregard of those who fail to give the right priority to safeguarding our children.
If the Vatican needs to get its house in order, so too does this State. The report of the commission is rightly critical of the entirely unsatisfactory position which the last Government allowed to persist over many years. The unseemly bickering between the Minister of State with responsibility for children and the HSE over the statutory powers to deal with extra-familial abuse, the failure to produce legislation to enable the exchange of soft information, as promised after the Ferns inquiry, and the long period of confusion and disjointed responsibility for child protection within the HSE, as reported by the commission, are simply not acceptable to me nor in a society which values children and their safety.
For too long Ireland has neglected some of its children. Just last week, we saw a case of the torture of children within the family come before the courts. Just two days ago, we were repulsed by the case of a Donegal registered sex offender and school caretaker, which involved children and young adults reduced to human wreckage. This raises questions and issues of serious import for State agencies.
We are set to embark on a course of action to ensure the State is doing all it can to safeguard our children. The Minister, Deputy Shatter, is bringing forward two Bills, first, to make it an offence to withhold information relating to crimes against children and vulnerable adults, and, second, at long last, to allow for the exchange of soft information on abusers.
As Taoiseach, I want to do all I can to protect the sacred space of childhood and to restore its innocence, especially for our young teenagers, because, regardless of our current economic crisis, our children are, and always will be, our most precious possession of all. Safeguarding their integrity and innocence must be a national priority. This is why I undertook to create a Cabinet ministry for Children and Youth Affairs. The legislation, Children First, proposes to give our children maximum protection and security without intruding on the hectic, magical business of being a child.
The then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said: “Standards of conduct appropriate to civil society or the workings of a democracy cannot be purely and simply applied to the Church”. As the Holy See prepares its considered response to the Cloyne Report, I want to make it clear, as Taoiseach, that when it comes to the protection of the children of this State, the standards of conduct which the Church deems appropriate to itself cannot and will not be applied to the workings of democracy and civil society in this republic — not purely, or simply or otherwise, because children have to be and will be put first.
Deputy Micheál Martin: It is appropriate that the motion before the House is signed by party and group leaders because the only acceptable reaction to this report is unity between us all to condemn the actions it exposes, support the victims and affirm our joint commitment to action. The report is very moving for me because I intimately know many of the communities which have been affected by this abuse. They are strong communities with a great spirit. They have vibrant sports clubs and family facilities. The Church has always played a significant role. It has been respected and valued by both people of faith and the wider community.
The undeniable facts in this report show a different picture of the Catholic Church in Cloyne. Abusers were allowed to use their status as clergy to carry out the most appalling crimes and the church’s leadership in the diocese and in Rome showed a callous disregard for safety and the rights of the most vulnerable members of its flock. This was done not simply to avoid scandal. It went much further and involved a wilful refusal to respect basic moral and legal responsibilities.
The abuse of children should never take place, but where it does, simple humanity requires swift and resolute intervention. We do not need regulations to understand this fundamental morality. However, a significant framework of regulation and legal sanctions has been in place for a long time. No person within any organisation, be it public or private, has any excuse for not knowing exactly what to do when there is even a general suspicion of child abuse. The intervention of church authorities in undermining child protection rules in recent years is nothing short of an outrage and a betrayal of those who look to them for moral leadership.
When the evidence of their failures were exposed, the reaction of key Church authorities has given little assurance that they understand the scale and depth of the outrage felt by ordinary people. This is not something that can be dismissed as a plot by a secular elite against a church. In fact, most of the strongest views I have heard come from people who have great faith in the spiritual teachings of the church.
In my meeting last year with the papal nuncio, I made it clear that the Irish State expected the Vatican’s full co-operation in the investigation into abuse in the Cloyne diocese and in all other investigations. Its defensiveness and focus on the institutional interests of the church rather than those of the children abused by its clergy and shielded by its leaders will continue to cause great damage.
We should acknowledge the stand of some church leaders, most especially Archbishop Martin. The church will only retain a place of importance in our society if his colleagues follow him in his impressive commitment to acknowledging and addressing the failure of the church over too many years.
It showed what is probably the darkest chapter in our history as an independent State. Thousands of children who had the right to expect their State to protect and nurture them were abused in the most appalling ways within mostly church controlled institutions. The report has highlighted how the problem of abuse and institutional cover-up is not only a concern of the past but is also not something anyone can be complacent about.
The Ryan report emerged because of a brave group of survivors who many years into their adult lives were determined to get justice and support healing. I met many of them before and after I proposed the establishment of that commission of inquiry. I did not want to add a partisan note to the debate but I was struck by what the Taoiseach said about the previous Minister and Government. The survivors of the Goldenbridge institutions had been refused access to the then rainbow Government and officials for several years and it was only the television documentary that gave them a profile in the public arena. They had been denied a response from the State for many years before we proposed the establishment of that commission. I admire very much their courage, integrity and continued commitment to many survivors.
I also initiated the first inquiry into abuse in a church diocese in Ferns. Mr. George Birmingham did an outstanding job on that. We did not expect there would be further shocking revelations from the dioceses of Dublin and Cloyne. The significance of the Cloyne report is that many of the victims of abuse are much younger than those covered by the Ryan report and, in many cases, they are clearly only beginning to come to terms with the abuse they suffered. It is right that we thank the commission of investigation for carrying out a difficult assignment with sensitivity and thoroughness. I welcome the general measures proposed for dealing with what has been outlined in the report. Our consideration of the legislation should be thorough and fast. Equally, where there is a need for further forensic investigations, particularly in regard to other dioceses, they should be carried out.
Deputy Dara Calleary: I endorse the motion and the contributions of the Taoiseach and Deputy Martin. The motion and the report send a strong message of support to those who suffered abuse. However, on this occasion there is an even stronger message of condemnation of those who perpetrated the abuse and the strongest message should be directed at those who covered it up in Cloyne, the Vatican and elsewhere. They, in full knowledge of the horrendous impact of abuse arising from previous commissions of inquiries, cases and disclosures and in full knowledge of the fact that it was either happening within their own organisation or in their area, proceeded with contempt for survivors and victims, contempt for their own church and the members and colleagues who serve it and contempt, in the case of the Vatican, for the laws of an independent nation state with, ultimately, a shared contempt for the truth. That contempt had its foundations in one aim — the protection of friends and colleagues, a protection given and offered to the cost of victims and survivors, the church and, ultimately, the truth.
We have been here previously. All-party motions were tabled on the Ryan, Ferns and Murphy reports and we expressed similar sentiments then, yet we are back in the House again. The most shocking aspect of the Cloyne report is that we are here at all. This abuse did not happen 50 or 60 years ago in a different era. The report covers how abuse allegations were handled between 1996 and 2009. It explicitly states:
This was only 15 years ago and the report covers the period after that covered by the Ferns report. The Ferns report, published in 2005, found that bishops at that time placed the interests of individual priests ahead of those of the community in which they served, yet this practice continued unabated in Cloyne. The Murphy report has also shown this was also the practice in the Dublin archdiocese for a 30-year period. This gives us three dioceses with three similar practices of cover up.
As the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs stated last week, we cannot say with certainty that the same is not true in every other diocese. That certainty is needed. Victims and survivors need that certainty to get the peace they deserve. The country needs certainty to move on and the vast majority of priests and members of the Catholic Church who were not part of this need that certainty. It must be ensured that the HSE audit of the 24 dioceses is published in September. The church must get its act together and finalise its audit. Surely at this stage, given the time expended on this, it is not too much to ask that the audit be published by the end of this year. Publication of the audits will allow us for the first time to establish the scale of abuse throughout the county and we will only then be able to say with certainty that we can begin the process of moving on.
However, there is one caveat. The manner in which the Vatican interfered in the Cloyne diocese is appalling and the report is direct about this. According to the authors, the response of the Vatican to the framework document “can only be described as unsupportive especially in relation to reporting to the civil authorities. The effect was to strengthen the position of those who dissented from the official stated Irish Church policy”. Those who dissented were not interested in the protection of the children. The response from the Vatican was in the interest of the protection of friends and colleagues at the expense of children.
It is exactly one week since the publication of the report by the Government and the Vatican has yet to issue a formal response. Its only response was through a spokesman this morning who, in a personal capacity, said there was nothing in the advice given by the nuncio in 1997 to encourage bishops to break Irish laws. He said the Vatican’s advice on child protection policies could not be interpreted as an invitation to cover up abuse. Does the Vatican take us, the people of Ireland, for fools? The Congregation for the Clergy of the Vatican told Irish bishops that the framework document was “not an official document of the Episcopal Conference but merely a study document. It further stated it contained “procedures and dispositions which appear contrary to canonical discipline and which, if applied, could invalidate the acts of some Bishops who were attempting to put a stop to this problem. If such procedures were to be followed by the Bishops and there were cases of eventual hierarchical recourse lodged at the Holy See, the results could be highly embarrassing and detrimental to those same Diocesan authorities”.
This is the most damning line. There is no indication of any concern on the part of Vatican for the children who were abused. While the Vatican authorities might not have encouraged bishops to break the laws, they encouraged them to put the reputation of the church before the protection of children. They were more worried about embarrassment than the damage of abuse. In how many other dioceses did the Vatican interfere in the manner it did in Cloyne? We need to ascertain this to truly believe the forthcoming audits. Will the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs consider compelling the HSE to include this in its audit because we will be unable to believe other audits unless this is included?
The legislative response will come before the health and justice committees. I propose that consideration be given to establishing a joint sub-committee of both committees so that spokespersons in both portfolios can be involved. I welcome the indication that the criminal justice (withholding information on crimes against children and vulnerable adults) Bill will be introduced in September. Given the discussion that has developed around this issue in recent days, August might be used for consultation on it so people with genuine concerns will have an opportunity to put forward their views to the justice committee in a dispassionate manner. Heads of the legislation may be ready by the end of the month. If so, consultation would be possible in August.
Developments in the vetting bureau are also welcome. I acknowledge the efforts made by the Minister for Justice and Equality in addressing the backlog in the Garda vetting system. However, unless the resources issues at the bureau are addressed, our shared ambition to introduce vetting legislation will amount to nothing.
We cannot again gather on another report to express our disgust and anger at what has happened. Archbishop Martin has challenged the Catholic Church by stating it can never rest until the last abuse victim has found peace. We, too, must put legislative building blocks in place and not rest until we have done our bit to give the victims peace.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: While Sinn Féin supports the motion, we would have preferred to see the stronger language contained in a previous draft employed. The motion expresses how the House deplores the Vatican’s intervention which contributed to the undermining of the child protection frameworks and guidelines of the State and Irish bishops. Previously, the motion expressed condemnation. We in Sinn Féin still express condemnation of this scandalous intervention.
The events in Cloyne documented in the report may span a considerable period, but they did not take place 100 years ago. There was still abuse in Cloyne while preparations for the commencement of the deliberations of the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children were under way. It continued up to a couple of years ago.
This is a 400-page document that shows that 17 years after the Brendan Smyth debacle brought down the then Fianna Fáil-Labour Party Government in 1994, the official Catholic Church has learned nothing. While the State has neglected its duties by failing to put mandatory reporting requirements in place earlier, in Cloyne Bishop John Magee held Canon Law superior to the civil law of the land. That disposition directly led to the abuse of more children through not adhering to correct reporting procedures and, thereby, placed more children at risk.
How many inquiries do we have to go through before real action is taken on this dreadful neglect? We have seen the Murphy, Ferns and Cloyne reports. The Catholic Church still controls many of our schools. As stated, this report investigates incidents which only took place a short number of years ago. I shudder to think of the real facts, the full story. Will more reports and inquiries on the lack of adherence to reporting protocols have to be commissioned?
The papal nuncio refused to answer queries from a commission of inquiry and claimed diplomatic immunity. The same papal nuncio still has the role of issuing Vatican instructions to the bishops in this country. I expect that if a school system operated and directly controlled by a third party state in Ireland consistently failed to report allegations of child sexual abuse against its teachers and ancillary employees to the Garda, that state’s ambassador would be required to answer questions. If he or she failed to do so, he or she would be asked to leave. The church is not above the law and it is high time it stopped thinking it was. Fr. Federico Lombardi may claim his recent remarks were made in a personal capacity, but this is the disingenuous double-speak that must come to an end.
Bishop John Magee had no interest in protecting the children of Cloyne and fobbed off his responsibility to Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan who equally had no interest in reporting the abuse of children to the authorities. Bishop John Magee actively and knowingly lied to the Government, the health service and the Garda. He concealed information on the crimes committed by the priests in his diocese. He actively engaged in the reckless and, at times, wilful endangerment of children.
There are prosecutions to be faced by those who perpetrated crimes against children, either through directly abusing them or being complicit in the cover-up of their abuse. Nothing less, I fear, will bring to an end this lurid regime.
Two thirds of complaints made between 1996 and 2008 were not reported to the Garda and no complaint was passed to the Health Service Executive during this period. While Members of this House, including the current Ministers for Children and Youth Affairs and Justice and Equality, were sitting in a committee room deliberating on the rights of children, Bishop John Magee was still not reporting allegations of abuse.
The cardinals may have apologised for this report, but that is not good enough. The official church has disgraced itself in the handling of this most serious of issues. It is absolutely disgusting and goes right to the top. The bishops, with the Vatican, played a major role in aggravating the level of abuse of children in Ireland. The Cloyne report, measured in its tone, has found the Vatican’s reaction to the 1996 framework document was “entirely unhelpful” to any bishop who wanted to implement it, while giving any bishop the individual freedom to ignore it. We now need cast-iron guarantees from the church authorities that they will adhere to the civil law when it comes to the mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse when it is introduced with immediate effect. They have a moral obligation to do so. However, moral obligations on members of the clergy in Cloyne have not worked well in the past. Accordingly, we also need cast-iron guarantees from the State that if any more flagrant breaches of the law which we have seen on many occasions in the past must be held to account.
For the Vatican to state the framework document of 1997 was merely a study document rather than an official document was nothing short of an insult to the survivors and victims of abuse. It stated it had “serious reservations of a moral and canonical nature” about the document. It is now up to it to state exactly what it meant by having moral reservations about reporting allegations of abuse or the actual knowledge that some Cloyne clerics were child molesters.
The Vatican, through the papal nuncio, refused to explain to the commission of inquiry in 2005 why the updated guidelines were not recognised officially by the church. Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan actively obstructed the implementation of these guidelines in Cloyne. It is this complete and unreserved disregard that some senior voices in the church have for child protection in this case that is hard to stomach. There have now been three statutory inquiries into abuse in church dioceses in Ireland in which child protection procedures were found wanting. Will there be more?
Only in 2009 Cardinal Seán Brady said Bishop John Magee was “dependable and reliable” and that he did not need to resign. This was a man who had been found by the church’s own national board for safeguarding children to be presiding over practices that were both inadequate and actually dangerous. It is a scandal.
Many have said we can learn from all of these reports. It is hard to see how so many reports highlighting similar failures can all have different lessons from which we can learn. In looking at the lessons of the Cloyne report, will the Minister agree we can teach others? Last December the Executive in the Six Counties announced the setting up of an inquiry into historical institutional abuse in the North. A cross-departmental working group set up to examine how an inquiry would proceed reported to the Executive almost a fortnight ago. A decision will be made on how to investigate crimes committed in institutions, those run by the Catholic Church and State-run institutions, in the autumn. The Minister will also be aware that several dioceses, including Raphoe, Derry, Clogher and Armagh, stretch across the Border. In looking at possible future inquiries in other dioceses, it may be useful to co-ordinate with the initiative under way in the Six Counties. Members of the Northern Executive may also benefit from the experience of Members, victims groups and wider civil society as to how the inquiries into abuse in the Twenty-six Counties have been handled. Several meetings with individuals have taken place. We may benefit from having a more structured or formal approach.
If the Vatican has demonstrated contempt and disregard for the concerns of the State and the abuse investigations, it is only in keeping with the arrogance with which it approaches the mechanisms for the protection of international human rights. The Vatican was due to submit its second report under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1997. Fourteen years on, it still has not done so. It was supposed to submit its first report under the UN Convention against Torture in 2003. Eight years on, it still has not done so.
In countries and continents across the world the Catholic Church, acting as a religious organisation when it suits its interests and as a state with all the protections that entails when it suits, has covered up the abuse and torture of hundreds of thousands of innocent children and young people. While many of these cases may have occurred in the past, the cover-ups are taking place today. The determination to avoid accountability is therefore today’s crime.
As a candidate country for the United Nations Human Rights Council and one struggling to deal with the legacies of generations of abuse, Ireland should be able to show leadership on the international stage by calling on the Vatican to stop acting like a rogue state and live up to the commitments it has made by signing and ratifying binding international human rights treaties. As a Catholic, it is my strong belief that my church should not be a reluctant convert to the protection of human rights and children. Surely it should be in the global vanguard in respect of these issues. That it is not saddens and offends. This must change.
The Vatican has behaved disgracefully. Its ambiguous nature, claiming to be a state and expecting to be treated thus internationally but without the burden of its agents having to adhere to national laws in other states, has meant it has received preferential treatment under a succession of Irish Governments. The persistent attitude of acting solely in the interests of self-protection is fundamentally anti-Christian. It is sad to note there is a real likelihood that those who for so long have been ordained with this doctrine of complicity and silence will not easily abandon such habits. That said, it is important to reflect that there are many good priests in all dioceses of the Catholic Church.
When Israel compromised Irish passports it was taken to task. Hundreds of children and young people have been raped and abused by members of an institution controlled by the Vatican. Their actions led to the amplification of the devastating emotional and psychological consequences of abuse. Are we to truly believe this is a matter of just a few bad eggs? It is striking that the Cloyne report found there were concerns raised about almost 8% of the 163 priests serving in the diocese in 1996. It is ten years since the State’s official apology for its role in abuse yet the response by the relevant authorities in the report was demonstrably wholly inadequate. The church failed to uphold child protection procedures and repeatedly failed to report complaints to the Garda. Meanwhile, the Garda failed to fully investigate complaints. The State must apologise again to the victims of abuse for its failings.
The report details one case where, despite Garda assurances, the commission found no evidence of police investigations into allegations by two women against a single priest. The commission stated it was concerned and does not accept there was a proper investigation into the complaints against the priest named as Father Corin. I welcome the joint statement issued by the Ministers for Justice and Equality and Children and Youth Affairs on the publication of the report wherein they express “profound sorrow” regarding the failures of the State. While this motion may be about Cloyne, the State still has questions to answer regarding its procedures. There is an overwhelming sense of déjà vu with all of this.
Only this week, as Deputies are aware, we heard of a case in County Donegal where the owners of a school premises continued to employ a man convicted of sexually assaulting a young male despite the Garda expressing concern about the matter. I am informed that the owner of the school was in court when the individual in question was convicted on a litany of sample rape and abuse charges, including the making of child pornography. The head of the school stated the keys of the building were taken from him when the school authorities learned of his conviction. Despite this, the individual in question continued to do odd jobs around the school premises. Michael Ferry should never have been allowed to set foot inside the walls of a school or any premises that catered to the needs of children and young adults ever again. How many other similar cases are there across this country? Either way, this case shows a wretched failure of procedure within the school in question and demonstrates the need for the Government to bring forward the publication of the national vetting bureau Bill and establish the long awaited child welfare and protection agency. I ask the Government to resource these bodies accordingly and ensure they are effective and capable of carrying out their responsibilities. Procedures, as we have seen ad nauseam, are of no use unless implemented. I wish the Ministers for Justice and Equality and Children and Youth Affairs well in ensuring these measures are put in place at the earliest opportunity.
I was horrified and sickened to read the findings of the Cloyne report. That abuse was not reported in the Diocese of Cloyne is utterly reprehensible. I call on the Government to break off diplomatic relations with a state that, at its worst, shields paedophiles. The papal nuncio should be expelled without delay due to the Vatican’s massive deceit, the office of papal nuncio stripped of the title of Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and our ambassador immediately withdrawn from the Vatican. If any foreign government conspired with Irish citizens to break the law here, the ambassador of the country in question would be expelled. In this case, the Vatican, a sovereign state, has refused to co-operate with the investigation into a criminal conspiracy against children here. It instructed our citizens, who are its priests and bishops, not to comply with Irish law and our law was broken as a result. We would not tolerate such behaviour by any other government or state.
Ireland has a legitimate claim that the Vatican State has breached the legal principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states. The Holy See is party to various conventions, including the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, which requires that:
Earlier this month, the Vatican went to great lengths to make its new financial watchdog agency more independent and ensure all Vatican financial transactions comply with European Union and international anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing laws. What about the criminals who inflicted such terrible suffering on children here? Surely the violation of children and sheltering of abuse perpetrators by the church should take precedence over suspicious financial transactions. I urge the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs to use every channel available to challenge the failure of the Vatican State to report on its compliance as a party under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child since 1997 and the United Convention against Torture since 2003. I draw the Tanaiste’s attention to Articles 6 and 19 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the failure of the Holy See to ensure on its part, in conjunction with Irish authorities, that all cases of sexual abuse are reported. Furthermore, a clear statement as to the primacy of the convention over canon law is required. I urge the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs to set a timeframe for a response from the Vatican without delay and, once received, to place such response before the Dáil.
Deputy Catherine Murphy: I was angry on reading the Cloyne report, mainly because it shows that the culture has not changed for many senior figures in the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. It takes great courage to come forward to give testimony and I applaud those who did so. For years they were not believed, fobbed off and treated as though they were in a confessional, which was wrong. The law of the State, it appears, was subverted in favour of the Vatican. For too long in this country we have outsourced sexual morality to the Roman Catholic Church. It was an institution that was placed in a privileged position. What is really horrific about the report is that even after all the revelations there were people within the church who still did not get it. The culture of protection is still alive in the church, and many are still in denial.
I am not religious myself, however, I have watched the way Archbishop Dermot Martin has been sidelined on the issue. He is one of the few who have given me any confidence that the protection of children is an absolute and there must be no ifs, buts or maybes. That is the approach he has taken. His obvious alienation sends out the most appalling message, namely, that those who question his approach are more likely to take the approach of Monsignor O’Callaghan, who said “Why should we take it on ourselves to report when the complainant does not want it done”. I do not know how he could have failed to understand that the requirement was there to protect other children. He seems to have been completely trusted by Bishop Magee, who on page 6 of the report said he was shocked to discover in 2008 that the framework document was not being implemented. After all that has been revealed in recent years, how could Bishop Magee detach himself in that way?
On page 24 of the report we are told that Bishop Magee sent out a circular in 2003 which heralded a series of meetings to be held for all priests of the diocese to discuss the persistent crisis in the church in regard to child sexual abuse. It is even more outrageous that he did not supervise those he appointed to act on his behalf when complaints were made.
I welcome the announcement that a statutory reporting requirement will include a legal duty on State agencies to share relevant information and co-operate in the best interests of the child. After all, it is the responsibility of the State to ensure systems are in place that are capable of handling complaints in a comprehensive manner. I am not at all confident the system is sufficiently robust. Social workers have complained that they are being blamed although there are not enough of them in place to deal with matters that arise. I am also appalled by the complaints being made about how people are being treated in the lower courts. I hope the issue will be addressed in the context of the Cloyne report.
Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan: I am struck that this time last week we were discussing residential institutions redress which was about the institutional abuse of children. I described it as one of the darkest moments in our history. This week we have the report into the Catholic diocese of Cloyne, which accentuates further that darkness. What is it about the institutions in this country — the church and the State — that they have this ability to treat children and young people so cruelly either in carrying out abuse or allowing it to continue? Other nations have had their dark moments: the Jewish nation has had the Holocaust and Cambodia has its “Killing Fields”. We have had the systematic abuse of young people — abuse that is sexual, physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual — carried out by those in authority in the church, the State and within families. While we may not have had the death toll involved in those other disasters there is a part of every young person that dies when they are abused.
It is noted in the report that there were reservations about some priests while in training. They were obviously attracted to the position because it gave them such scope when it came to abuse. The concern for the welfare of the abuser above that of the abused, as one victim put it, and damage limitation rather than a genuine wish to help unreservedly was evident. When the church did have clear guidelines in place on the duty to report to the Garda and the health authorities that was not done. Inadequate records were kept and the tendency was to keep the complaint within the church. I acknowledge that at times the complaints were handled properly. Again, we acknowledge the complainants who came forward to give evidence. It is harrowing to read their statements. We also note the reference to the Vatican in the report. There is widespread sexual abuse of young people by clerics not just in this country but in America and other countries with horrific effects. It is equally heartbreaking for those in religious life who are as appalled as we are by what was done by other people of the cloth.
The Cloyne report stated: “The standards which were adopted by the church are high standards which if fully implemented would afford proper protection to children.” The key word is “implement”. It continues to say that the standards set by the State are less precise and more difficult to implement so the State cannot afford to take the high moral ground when cases are being investigated concerning 200 young people who died in State care. The Donegal report has emerged this week and last week there was the case of a family who was abused.
I welcome that the proposed Bill also includes crimes against intellectually disabled persons, the national vetting bureau and Children First guidelines. We have all the measures now, but I agree with the Ombudsman for Children that we must have the resources to match.
Deputy Mick Wallace: I agree that the Government is correct to be critical of the Vatican but I regret the change of wording from the original text. The word “condemn” has been downgraded to “deplore”. The dictionary definition of condemn is to declare to be reprehensible, wrong or evil usually after weighing evidence and without reservation, whereas deplore means to feel or express grief, to regret strongly, to consider unfortunate or deserving of deprecation. I much prefer the use of condemn in this situation. There is no excuse for the behaviour of the Vatican. I am not in favour of expelling the papal nuncio simply because it is more important to keep the lines of communication open rather than out of respect, as the Vatican has been deplorable.
The Government must reassess the church-State relationship. The church has played too big a part in the fabric of the State. The sooner they are divided the better for both parties. The Government should focus on the conduct of State officials and Departments in this case such as the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs which is strongly criticised in the report:
At the same time the Office of the Minister for Children was overly and unnecessarily concerned about the delivery of the Elliott report to it in July 2008. When Mr. Elliott sent the report to the office, officials seemed to be more eager for it to go to the HSE. The Minister seemed to be eager to absolve himself of any influence or responsibility in the area. It would be interesting to get answers on why that was the case. The commission makes it clear that the official who asked Mr. Elliott to withdraw his report, redraft it in a nicer way and softer manner and send it to the HSE was more concerned with protecting the Minister from involvement than dealing with the serious issue of concern, namely, the clear and certain knowledge of the failure of the diocese of Cloyne to implement child protection guidelines.
The terms of reference of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin required the Minister for Health and Children to refer any Catholic diocese which was not compliant with either the recommendations of the Ferns report or church guidelines on child protection to the commission for investigation. It was not the responsibility of the HSE or Ian Elliott, it was the responsibility of the Minister, who along with his officials appeared to have wanted to avoid it at any cost.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: The pain and suffering of people who have been victims of abuse by church institutions is just too horrific to describe. In that context the catalogue of abuse, and cover-up by the church authorities of it, and failure to act is an absolute outrage. While this motion constitutes a good start in being so critical of the church authorities, Members must go considerably further. First, as Deputy Halligan stated, the papal nuncio undoubtedly should be expelled until the church issues a clear and unequivocal statement that it will give precedence to civil law, that is, the law of the State, on these matters over canon law or its own concerns to defend its reputation or any other self-interest it may have. In addition, the church and the State should be forced into some form of truth and reconciliation forum in which the victims of abuse by the church and other institutions within the State should be given the opportunity to confront the authorities of the institutions that abused them, to have their own voices heard and to articulate their demands on what they need in respect of redress.
While the church authorities have, rightly, been criticised, the Minister also must consider the issue of the failure of the Garda to report complaints of abuse to the health boards, as well as the fact that in some cases, gardaí were assessing whether priests about whom complaints had been made were an ongoing risk to children. The Garda has no qualification to assess whether alleged abusers are an ongoing risk to children as that is a matter for the health authorities. The role of the Garda is to use different criteria to assess whether legal prosecutions can be taken. In other words, when one talks of mandatory reporting, the key question is to what authority is one reporting and for what purpose. Reporting should not be to the Garda alone, as I heard the Minister mention on radio today, although it certainly should be reported to. Reporting also must be to the health authorities, which must consider the interests of the child. Consideration must be given to whether a legal prosecution can be taken and to the best interests of the child, as well as to what measures must be put in place to secure those best interests.
As has been agreed and as the wording of the motion suggests, many of these problems would not have occurred had the Children First guidelines been in place, had they been implemented fully by all agencies and bodies and had they been respected by church institutions and everyone else. Therefore, I greatly welcome the Government’s commitment to put in place and give legislative force to the Children First guidelines. However, it is clear these guidelines cannot be implemented fully and properly unless the resources are provided to so do. This goes far beyond the commitment to an additional 250 social workers, as many other types of supports, resources and staffing issues also must be addressed. This comes at a time at which the public sector recruitment embargo is slaughtering staff numbers in many of the areas which it would be necessary to resource fully and this point must be considered. If children are to come first, the resources must be put in place to ensure they do.
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