Review of Safeguarding Practice in the Clonfert Diocese – 5 September 2012
I thank you for attending this formal launch of the official Review of Safeguarding Practice in the Clonfert Diocese and which was undertaken by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI).
The NBSCCCI review, on which this report is based, was carried out on 16th and 17th November 2011. The main purposes for the audit are to highlight deficiencies, make recommendations and to demonstrate openness and accountability on the part of the Diocese of Clonfert. I accept the review in its entiry and the diocese has rectified the deficiencies noted by the review and has implemented all eight of the formal recommendations in the nine months since last November.
From the outset I wish to directly address, and apologise to, survivors of abuse and to your loved ones. Today is another day of deep pain for those who have suffered. I utterly condemn the actions of the two priests who sexually abused in the diocese in the past. They betrayed a sacred trust and their crimes are reprehensible.
In addition, I wish to apologise for my own previous lack of understanding of the sinister and recedivist nature of the child abuser, and the life-long damage that this destructive behaviour has on victims. Most of all – whilst I did notify the civil authorities at the time of these complaints – I profoundly regret and apologise for moving the priests concerned to different parishes thereby placing others at serious risk. Both these parish changes occurred in the early to mid-1990s before the 1996 publication of Child Sexual Abuse: Framework for a Church Response, the first Catholic Church guidelines for the handling of abuse issues. Whilst no further abuse has been reported, this act was a grave mistake on my part. I operate very differently now and will contunue to do so in the future.
The Catholic Church in Ireland has established the ‘Towards Healing’ (formerly Faoiseamh) counselling and support service to assist survivors of institutional, clerical and religious abuse. I encourage those who have suffered, and your loved ones, to avail of the services of this agency.
Today, I can assure everyone that the Diocese of Clonfert is absolutely committed to ensuring a culture of child safety throughout the local Church. This safety is underpinned by a system of accountability to civil authorities, the review process of the NBSCCCI and through the existence of well-trained local parish safeguarding representatives throughout the diocese. The diocese published Safeguarding Children – Clonfert Diocese Policies and Procedures last January. It consists of:
- a full document for priests and Local Safeguarding Representatives (LSRs) in each parish
- a summary booklet for every household in the diocese
- three posters with the seven basic standards laid down by the NBSCCCI, a reporting flow chart and a list of Diocesan, HSE and Garda contact personnel have been displayed in every church and every parish hall
- a child-friendly leaflet to every pupil in primary or post-primary schools of Clonfert with a suggestion that it be kept in a safe place for quick reference.
All of these resources have been submitted to the Office of the National Director for Children and Families as part of a separate Health Service Executive assessment of child safeguarding practices in the Catholic dioceses of Ireland.
All the priests of the diocese, all sacristans and choir directors and all the LSRs have completed basic training in relation to child safeguarding. Furthermore, we have extended this training to our voluntary staff for the Lourdes pilgrimage. The diocese is committed to continuous updating of training and to reviews of all published material at least once every three years.
On behalf of the Diocese of Clonfert I wish to thank Ian Elliott and his National Board team for undertaking this thorough safeguarding review of the diocese and for the office’s ongoing support and advice. I also wish to acknowledge the professionalism and collaboration of the local Garda Síochána and HSE personnel, with whom we work, to maintain a best practice child safeguarding environment for Clonfert. I also acknowledge the sterling role of our priests and the faithful for your ongoing support during these difficult times for the Church.
I urge anyone with a Church-related child safeguarding concern to contact the gardaí, the HSE, the NBSCCCI or our diocesan delgates, whose name and contact details are:
Fr Ciarán Kitching (090) 967 6151 or Ms Mary Gormley (087) 288 2500
Finally, I wish to reiterate my regret for the terrible damage caused by these two priests. Whilst their evil and criminal actions cannot be undone, I can, at least, seek to assure you that the current safeguarding procedures and practices in the diocese are sufficiently robust to ensure that such abuse will not take place again.
Bishop John Kirby
5 September 2012
Notes to Editors
- Towards Healing is a counselling and support service for survivors of institutional, clerical and religious abuse and it is funded by the Catholic Church. This telephone helpline service is offered to survivors regardless of where they are living and can consist of face-to-face psychotherapy as well as support for family members of survivors. This service will be available today Wednesday from 11.00am to Thursday at 1.00am and from 8am Friday until 1.00am the following morning. The telephone numbers are (ROI) 1 800 303 416 and UK (including Northern Ireland) 0800 096 3315.
- Bishop John Kirby, Bishop of Clonfert, was born in October 1938. He was ordained a priest on 23 June 1963 and ordained Bishop of Clonfert on 9 April 1988. Bishop Kirby is chairman of Trócaire, the overseas aid agency for the Catholic Church in Ireland.
- The Patron Saint of the Diocese of Clonfert is Saint Brendan whose feast day is celebrated on 16 May. The diocese includes portions of Counties Galway, Offaly and Roscommon. Saint Brendan’s Catheral is located in Loughrea. The dicoese has a Catholic population of 36,000 and the diocese has 24 parishes and 47 churches.