News archive 2009, Towards Healing

Safeguarding Children in the Church – statement by Cardinal Seán Brady

PRESS RELEASE
2 January 2009

Safeguarding Children in the Church – statement by Cardinal Seán Brady

The setting up of the independent National Board for Safeguarding Children in 2006 represented an important step in achieving a consistent child safeguarding policy throughout the Church in Ireland. The Board was set up to ensure that lessons already painfully learnt were translated into verifiable and accountable structures of best practice. It plays a critical role in giving public confidence to the commitment of every Bishop, Leader of a Religious Congregation and Missionary Society to put right the mistakes of the past. This includes fulfilling the moral and civic duty on everyone with responsibility for safeguarding children to implement all statutory guidelines on reporting allegations of abuse and working in full cooperation with the relevant statutory authorities. This principle has been at the heart of all agreed Church guidelines since 1996. 

The findings of the recent report of the National Board into the handling of allegations by the Diocese of Cloyne have brought further anxiety to victims of abuse. For many, these findings have brought into question the efforts of thousands of volunteers and trained personnel who are fully committed to implementing statutory guidelines and agreed Church policies on safeguarding children throughout the Dioceses and parishes of Ireland. I realise the extent to which so many people now feel let down, angry and bewildered by recent events.

The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland has demonstrated an ability to investigate rigorously, report courageously and, crucially, to have its recommendations accepted. Everyone is entitled to know that in all Church activities, children will be safe. Everyone is entitled to be reassured that when commitments have been given to implement statutory guidelines and agreed policies for safeguarding children in the Church, these are reliable and trustworthy. The Board is in a unique position to provide such assurance. It must continue its work in cooperation with the statutory authorities and with the full support of everyone in the Catholic Church in Ireland.

I have been in contact with the Chair and CEO of the National Board and I can confirm that the Board will seek a written commitment from every Bishop, every Religious Congregation and Missionary Society to implement all statutory guidelines and the agreed policy of the Bishops’ Conference, the Irish Missionary Union and the Conference of Religious of Ireland.  I give my own assurance that I will immediately sign any such commitment on behalf of the Archdiocese of Armagh.

I have also suggested to the Board that it might explore the possibility of conducting a review of current child safeguarding practice in every Diocese across the island in cooperation with the relevant statutory authorities.

I have further suggested that the Board prioritise the publication of its first Annual Report. This will provide the first public overview and assessment of the standard of implementation of statutory guidelines on reporting and on a one-Church policy throughout the Church in Ireland.

It is vitally important that the National Board continue the work for which it was established. In doing so it has my full support. At all times the welfare of children must be the paramount consideration. This is a Gospel value as well as a core principle of safeguarding policy. For all those with responsibility for implementing child safeguarding policies in a given Diocese, Religious Congregation or Missionary Institute, ability to establish trust and to maintain confidence in their personal commitment to this value of putting children first is critical.

ENDS

Further information:
Martin Long, Director of Communications (086 172 7678)

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