News archive 2005, Towards Healing

New child protection policy or the Catholic Church in Ireland: ‘Our Children, Our Church’, is published by the Irish Episcopal Conference, the Conference of Religious of Ireland and the Irish Missionary Union

PRESS RELEASE

19 DECEMBER 2005

New child protection policy for the Catholic Church in Ireland:

Our Children, Our Church,

is published by the Irish Episcopal Conference, the Conference of Religious of Ireland and the Irish Missionary Union

– The welfare of the child is paramount – Archbishop Seán Brady
– Mr Justice Anthony Hederman to chair new National Board for Child Protection

At a press conference today (19th December 2005) in Veritas House in Dublin,
representatives of the Irish Episcopal Conference, the Conference of Religious
of Ireland, and the Irish Missionary Union launched Our Children, Our Church,
the new child protection policy for the Catholic Church in Ireland.

Speaking at the launch the Archbishop of Armagh, and President of the Irish
Episcopal Conference, Dr Seán Brady said: “We want children to feel that they
have been treated at all times with the dignity, respect and care they deserve
by the community of the Church. Indeed, a fundamental principle of Our Children,
Our Church
is that, in all decisions made and actions taken in response to
allegations and suspicions of child abuse, the welfare of the child is paramount.
While the rights of all parties in such a situation shall be respected, the
welfare of the child should always be the first and paramount consideration.
This principle is wholly consistent with the Gospel view that the child is
at the heart of the kingdom of God.

“A key factor in determining the effective implementation of Our Children,
Our Church
will be the creation by the Sponsoring Bodies of a National Board
for Child Protection. This Board will be made up of parents and professionals
from child care, psychology, theology, law, academia, education and business.
It will have overall responsibility for ensuring that the Church’s policies
and procedures, as outlined in Our Children, Our Church, are implemented,
monitored and publicised.”

Archbishop Brady continued, “Clearly, a critical role will be played by the
Chair of this National Board. For that reason I am pleased to announce today
that former Attorney General and Supreme Court Judge, the Honourable Mr Justice
Anthony Hederman, has agreed to be the first chair of the National Board. We
are all indebted to Mr Justice Hederman for his willingness to undertake this
important role.”

“In the New Year we will have a separate launch of the Northern Ireland edition
of the document. This edition will take account of the latest legislative and
policy developments in Northern Ireland, notably in regard to the new vetting
procedures known as POCVA, as well other legislative and policy differences
which exist between the two jurisdictions.”

Sr Evelyn Greene, representing the Conference of Religious of Ireland, said at
the launch: “Under Our Children, Our Church, the National Board will establish
a single National Office for Child Protection to implement its policies and
decisions. This of itself will bring a new level of coherence and consistency
to the Church’s policy in this area and is an expression of the commitment of
the different elements of the Church’s life and ministry to work collaboratively
to ensure the safety and welfare of children within the Church.

“Throughout the document the fundamental Gospel Principles which should underpin
the work of child protection, and the response of the Church to child abuse,
are highlighted.”

Also speaking at the launch, the Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise and Chair of
the Steering Group, Dr Colm O’Reilly, said: “Importantly, the National Board
will publish national statistics in relation to child abuse involving Church
personnel, thereby ensuring consistency of criteria for such statistics and
providing further levels of transparency.

“The National Board’s Office for Child Protection will have a Chief Executive
and supporting staff, and it will replace the two existing child protection
offices operated by CORI and the Irish Episcopal Conference.

“Critically, Our Children, Our Church ensures that the decision about to how
to proceed with an allegation or suspicion of child abuse is made by a
professionally qualified person with experience in this field rather than
by the bishop or religious superior.”

ENDS

Notes for Editors
– See attached chronological summary of child protection publications
and initiatives.

– The Working Group to develop a comprehensive child protection policy for
the Irish Catholic Church held its first meeting on 5th June 2003. Led by
management consultant Ms Maureen Lynott, the Group was established by the
Irish Bishops’ Conference, the Conference of Religious of Ireland and the
Irish Missionary Union. Members of the group included experts in education,
health, child protection, social work, law enforcement, victims’ rights
representatives and theologians.

– The Steering Group of the Working Group on Child Protection Policy represents
its three sponsoring bodies: the Irish Bishops’ Conference; the Conference of
Religious in Ireland and the Irish Missionary Union.

Our Children, Our Church is published by Veritas. Veritas is an agency of
the Irish Episcopal Conference and is its official publisher.

Further information:

Mr Martin Long, Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Ms Brenda Drumm, Communications Officer (087 233 7797)

Chronological order of publications and initiatives taken by the Irish Bishops’
Conference in relation to child protection:

1994 – Irish Catholic Bishops’Advisory Committee on Child Sexual Abuse by
Priests and Religious convened under the Chairmanship of Most Rev. Laurence
Forristal, Bishop of Ossory. Its purpose was to identify guidelines for
Church policy in instances or suspicions of child sexual abuse by a priest
or religious. The membership of the Committee included representatives from
the professions of Psychiatry, Paediatrics, Law, Canon Law, Clergy, Religious
and Communications.

1996 – Publication of Child Sexual Abuse: Framework for a Church Response
(commonly referred to as: ‘The Green Book’) see www.cpo.ie. This report
recognizes the paramount need to safeguard the welfare of children. It
emphasizes the need for a strong commitment to prevention through a range
of measures to reduce the risk of such abuse in the future.

1997 – National Resource Group established, under Chairmanship of Bishop
Forristal. Its key terms of reference were:
– to serve as a resource for the Catholic Church in Ireland in responding
to the issue of Child Sexual Abuse by priests and religious;
– to facilitate the implementation of the recommendations of the
“Green Book”.
Throughout 1997 the National Resource Group provided training programmes
for all personnel appointed by dioceses – delegates, deputy delegates,
support persons and priest advisors.

1998 – The National Resource Group organised a Consultation Seminar for
English speaking Episcopal Committees dealing with Child Sexual Abuse –
representatives of the Episcopal Conferences of eleven countries participated
(Dundrum, Co Tipperary 18-21 May).

1999 – Bishops’ Committee on Child Abuse established under the chairmanship
of Bishop Eamonn Walsh to liaise with the Government proposed Commission
to Inquiry into Child Abuse (Laffoy Commission). Membership of the Committee
included representatives from the professions of psychology, canon law,
counselling, education, clergy and religious.

2001 – January – The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland is commissioned by
the Bishops’ Committee on Child Abuse to conduct a research project to examine
the impact of clerical child sexual abuse on: (i) victims and their extended
families; (ii) perpetrators and their extended families; (iv) colleagues;
(v) parishes and the wider community. The results of this extensive study:
Time to Listen, were published in December 2003.

2001 – July – The Child Protection Office of the Irish Bishops’ Conference
is established. See www.cpo.ie.

2001 – September – The Bishops’ Committee on Child Protection was established
under the chairmanship of Bishop Eamonn Walsh and it replaces the Bishops’
Committee on Child Abuse.

2002 – April – The Bishops’ Conference announce a nationwide independent audit
into handling of all complaints of child sexual abuse by diocesan priests or
religious in diocesan appointments as far back as 1940.

2002 – July – Judge Gillian Hussey was appointed as chairperson of the Catholic
Church Commission on Child Sexual Abuse (Hussey Commission).

2002 – September – Judge Hussey announces the members of her Commission which
were drawn from the professions of social work, psychology, law, law enforcement,
criminology, and a social historian.

2002 – December – Judge Hussey decides to cease the work of this Commission
following the announcement by the Minister for Justice for the: “preparation of
a scheme for a statutory basis for a new mechanism for investigating into matters
of significant and urgent public importance”. It was the Minister’s intention
that such a scheme would include the handling of clerical sexual abuse. Thus,
Judge Hussey believed her Commission would be duplicating the work of the State.

2003 – June – The Working Group on Child Protection, chaired by management
consultant Ms Maureen Lynott, is established by the Bishops’ Conference, Conference
of Religious in Ireland and the Irish Missionary Union to develop a comprehensive and
integrated child protection policy for the Irish Catholic Church. Members of the group
included experts in education, health, child protection, social work, law enforcement,
victims’ rights representatives and theologians.

2003 – August – A set of good practice guidelines entitled Working with
Children and Young People in the Catholic Church Community in Ireland are
developed by the Bishops’ Child Protection Office in collaboration with its
Committee on Child Protection. These guidelines were distributed to all
dioceses and religious congregations. See www.cpo.ie.

2003 – December – Publication of Time to Listen, Confronting Child Sexual Abuse by
Catholic Clergy in Ireland. This report was the first occasion internationally
in which the Catholic Church had commissioned independent research into clerical
child sexual abuse. The study not only assessed the impact of abuse on victims
and abusers, but it also examined these effects on their families, colleagues
and on wider society. See: www.catholiccommunications.ie.

2004 – The Bishops’ Child Protection Office commences its National Training
Initiative in St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. 20 participants from nine
dioceses start their training as child protection trainers.

2005 – January – The members of the Working Group on Child Protection
(formerly the Lynott Group which disbanded in September 2004) unanimously
agree to be associated with the draft new policy and procedures for the
protection of children.

2005 – February – The Irish Bishops’ Conference launch: Towards Healing, a Lenten
pastoral reflection on child sexual abuse. Towards Healing was distributed
throughout dioceses and parishes on the island of Ireland. It was also sent
to groups representing victims of child sexual abuse.

2005 – 4th December – First group of child protection trainers (19 graduates)
receive their certificates from Archbishop Seán Brady. The Irish Bishops’
Conference national training strategy was established in 2003 to implement
policies and procedures within dioceses for the protection and welfare of
children that would be wholly in keeping with statutory guidelines in this
area (Children First, Department of Health and Children, 1999 and Cooperating
to Safeguard Children, DHSSPS, NI) and in order to prepare for the introduction
of Our Children, Our Church. A core aspect of the national training strategy
involves trainees undertaking a course based at St Patrick’s’ College, Maynooth,
leading to an Open College Network Certificate called: “Keeping Safe: Training
the Trainers’ Programme”. Following their accreditation, trainers will act
as training facilitators in their own dioceses and provide information and
support in developing safe practice procedures for dealing with young people
within parishes. A further 25 are currently in training, 21 from dioceses
and four from CORI.

2005 – 19th December – Publication and launch of Our Children, Our Church.

Further information:
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)

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