“Some of the results of the latest tranche of Reviews of Religious Congregations carried out by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland leave me seriously concerned. It is appalling to read reports in the Reviews concerning the delays by some major religious congregations in fully implementing the long-established standards and guidelines of the Irish Church. The National Board Reviews indicate that in some cases this process only really only got underway in 2013.
For almost twenty years now, the Catholic Church has espoused what is called a “one-church-policy” to child safeguarding, involving common norms and common commitment by dioceses and religious congregations. The failure of any single Church organization to implement the common norms casts a shadow over the credibility of the entire Safeguarding efforts of the Catholic Church. Survivors trying to regain their confidence in the Church will be disillusioned once again. The many lay men and women who work voluntarily in Church safeguarding structures in our parishes must feel disheartened.
Failure of any Church organisation to implement fully and robustly the agreed clear norms is a direct affront to the desire of Pope Francis, repeated only one week ago, when he wrote that:
“Families need to know that the Church is making every effort to protect their children. They should also know that they have every right to turn to the Church with full confidence, for it is a safe and secure home”
The Reviews note that improvements have been made especially by the current leadership of the congregations concerned. The failures and delays that have emerged point, however, to the need to ensure greater systems of accountability of Church authorities in the area of child safeguarding. The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, noted clearly in the past days as one of its priority concerns, noting that “Part of ensuring accountability is raising awareness and understanding at all levels of the Church regarding the seriousness and urgency in implementing correct safeguarding procedures,”
In a statement in December 2008, I said I was “extremely concerned at the fact that within a purported “one-Church-policy” there may in fact be a wide diversity in the interpretation and application of agreed procedures. This is of particular 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 in the Archdiocese of Dublin”.
A “one-Church-policy” means that all constituents not only refer to common norms, but that they all interpret and apply the norms in the same way.
The Dublin Diocesan Child Safeguarding Service monitors the observance of the diocesan norms in parishes run by religious congregations and provides them with training and advice. It is my intention to meet with the superiors of all the religious congregations working in parishes in the Archdiocese of Dublin to verify once again the commitment of all these congregations to scrupulously applying the diocesan child safeguarding norms in every aspect of parish life..
The National Board for the Safeguarding of Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland is to be congratulated for rendering an invaluable service through its Reviews and my hope is that the Board will soon be able to complete the current cycle of the audit process with the participation of every congregation.
Further Information Annette O Donnell, Director of Communications