December 2003 General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference
10 DECEMBER 2003
CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ WINTER MEETING
The Irish Bishops’ Conference held their scheduled General Meeting in Maynooth on
the 9th and 10th of December 2003. Part of the meeting included a presentation
by Ms Maureen Lynott, Chairperson of the Working Group whose remit is to develop
a comprehensive child protection policy for the Irish Catholic Church.
Ms Maureen Lynott gave an update on the progress of the working group, which was
established on the June 5th 2003 by the Irish Bishops’ Conference (IBC), the
Conference of Religious of Ireland and the Irish Missionary Union, in order to
develop a comprehensive child protection policy for the Catholic Church. Ms
Lynott said of the group’s work: “The objective, quite simply, is to publish a
policy in 2004 which will enable the Catholic Church in Ireland to become an
international model of best practice when it comes to preventing child abuse.
By next year, we aim to have not only a central policy but tailored guidelines
to its application, so that policy speedily becomes practice. This is also
happening in Britain and the U.S.”
The IBC also discussed the progress required to action the outstanding recommendations
contained in the research, Time to Listen, Confronting Child Sexual Abuse by Catholic
Clergy in Ireland, which was published last week (see press release of December
4th 2003) and which was undertaken by members of the Health Services Research Centre
at the Department of Psychology of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. The IBC
agreed to study its findings in detail, be guided by its conclusions and informed by
its recommendations. Although over half of the 19 recommendations contained in the
research have already been implemented, it was agreed that Ms Lynott’s group would
now consider how best to implement the balance of the recommendations in practice.
10TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE UN INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF THE FAMILY
The bishops noted that 2004 will be the 10th anniversary of the United Nations
International Year of the Family. The bishops welcomed the intention of the Government
to celebrate this anniversary. The Church intends to mark this event by a number
of initiatives designed to heighten awareness of the importance of marriage and family,
and to support and strengthen family life in Ireland. It was agreed that the bishops’
Commission on the Family and the Welfare of Children – which is part of the Department
of Pastoral Care – will oversee Church initiatives celebrating this anniversary.
STEM CELL RESEARCH
The bishops noted the failure of the EU Council of Ministers on December 3rd last to
agree on guidelines for the funding of stem cell research. The consequential lack
of clarity regarding this issue is of great concern to the IBC. Notwithstanding the
confusion at a political level, the IBC is committed to oppose any proposal which
involves funding the destruction of human embryos.
ASYLUM SEEKERS AND MIGRANTS
The bishops discussed the importance of the timing of the Irish EU Presidency in the
context of the lack of rights for asylum seekers and migrants at a European level,
and agreed to issue a comprehensive statement on this issue in the coming days.
ELECTIONS TO DEPARTMENTS AND CREATION OF A NEW DEPARTMENT
The Irish Bishops’ Conference is the collective term used to describe the formal
meetings held between all 35 bishops, which take place at least on a quarterly basis.
Bishops are represented on the IBC from all 26 dioceses in Ireland (32 counties).
The bishops elected the following Officers of the Episcopal Conference for the
next three years:
* President – Dr Seán Brady (Archbishop of Armagh);
* Vice President – Cardinal Desmond Connell (Archbishop of Dublin);
* Secretary – Dr William Lee (Bishop of Waterford and Lismore);
* Finance Secretary – Dr James McLoughlin (Bishop of Galway).
Up to now the IBC comprised four departments, each chaired by a bishop. This meeting
of the IBC renamed existing departments and created a fifth department dealing with
Pastoral Renewal and Faith Development. The full list of IBC departments now reads,
* Department of Catholic Education & Formation (Dr Donal Murray, Bishop of Limerick);
* Department of Pastoral Care (Dr Christopher Jones, Bishop of Elphin (Sligo));
* Department of Planning & Communications (Dr Patrick Walsh, Bishop of Down and Connor
* Department of Social Issues & International Affairs (Dr Diarmuid Martin, Coadjutor
Archbishop of Dublin);
* Department of Pastoral Renewal & Faith Development (Dr Bill Murphy, Bishop of Kerry).
DATE OF NEXT MEETING
The next General Meeting of the Conference will take place on the 8th, 9th and 10th
of March in 2004.
10th December 2003
For further information please contact:
Director of Communications Martin Long 086 1727 678
Communications Officer Brenda Drumm 087 233 7797