Archbishop Diarmuid Martin statement on first annual report of National Board for Safeguarding Children

24 Feb 2009

24 February 2009

Statement of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin on the occasion of the Publication of the First Annual Report of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin welcomes the publication today of the first Annual Report of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCC) and especially the publication of the Standards and Guidelines document: Safeguarding Children.

These documents constitute a significant step in an ongoing process of commitment by the Catholic Church in Ireland to ensure that the best possible child safeguarding processes are in place and are being monitored.  This is a hopeful sign for the future and Archbishop Martin expresses his appreciation for the work achieved by the National Board and by its CEO, Mr. Ian Elliott.

Archbishop Martin notes that his concerns about a different interpretation of the norms by various Church bodies, outlined on December 23rd last, seem to remain and would appear to be confirmed by the report of the NSBSCCC, which states that “it became clear that there is still variation in interpretation”.  The new Standards and Guidance document is thus an important step towards establishing greater unity and coherence in practice.  

It is imperative that any doubts about the coherence and consistency of approach in implementing guidelines are addressed as a matter of urgency.  This is of grave concern for the Archdiocese of Dublin where hundreds of priests from outside the diocese – from other dioceses and religious congregations – play an active role in many aspects of Church life.

Archbishop Martin remains anxious that the planned review of practice in various dioceses by the NSBCCC should contain specific protocols for the Archdiocese of Dublin to verify that the superiors of priests other than those of the Archdiocese of Dublin working in Dublin subscribe to and sustain the same norms and guidelines as those of the Archdiocese.

Archbishop Martin is concerned at the fact that it has not been possible to establish with verifiable statistics from dioceses and congregations the precise number of allegations of abuse made during the period being examined.  The statistics reported-on refer only to the 26 dioceses and no detailed information has been reported-on concerning religious congregations.   The National Board further considers that, as regards the 26 dioceses, “it would be inappropriate and unhelpful to accept the returns [of the dioceses] as a true reflection of safeguarding practice”.  Therefore much remains to be done.

On the other hand, Archbishop Martin is puzzled by the assertion that: “The key issue [our italics] was that some dioceses were being more rigorous than required by civil guidelines or church standards”.

The Annual Report and the Standards and Guidance Document do however constitute a genuine step forward towards a system of monitoring and gathering of reliable statistics regarding all dioceses and congregations, as well plans to assist in the introduction of the structures proposed by the Standards and Guidance Document and to report once again in 2010.

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