Statement by Bishop William Crean, Bishop of Cloyne, on the resignation of Mr Bill Meagher as Designated Liaison Person

04 Sep 2015

I wish to confirm that Mr Bill Meagher, the Designated Liaison Person (DLP) for the Diocese of Cloyne, has resigned his position. I regret Mr Meagher’s decision to resign because he has served the diocese and the survivors of abuse with great dedication and attention to detail, for which the diocese is most grateful.

The circumstances which led to Mr Meagher’s resignation concern a case involving a former priest of the diocese who after a trial and appeal under Canon Law, was dismissed from the clerical state with effect from January 2015. This means that he is not permitted to act as a priest in any way, whether publicly or privately, or to celebrate Mass or any other Sacrament of the Church.

As part of his work as DLP, Mr Meagher, along with the deputy DLP, met with the former priest in June to verify that he was abiding by the agreed Covenant of Care. They were informed by him that he was celebrating Mass privately at his home. At the time the former priest defended this action as being based on the advice of his canon lawyer who, unknown to me, had further appealed the penalty of dismissal from the priesthood to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome.

When this matter was brought to my attention I was certain that this recourse was not legitimate. However I believed that no further action by me was possible until I received notification from the CDF. This led to Mr Meagher resigning as he did not agree with my position.

I immediately sought further advice on the matter which confirmed my conviction that no further appeal was possible. I then wrote to the former priest to reiterate that, as he is dismissed from the priesthood, he cannot act as a priest in any manner whatsoever. I have also communicated the importance of the situation to the CDF. I have since updated Mr Meagher on developments as they have occurred.

I have written to survivors in the diocese to explain my position and to apologise for further distress caused to them. Through the diocesan support persons, arrangements are being made for survivors to meet with me if they so wish.

Father Patrick Winkle, who has been the deputy Designated Liaison Person for the past eighteen months, has now been appointed to act as the DLP on an interim basis. In addition I have, during this interim period, appointed Mr Ger Crowley to advise and support Father Winkle in the work of safeguarding children. Mr Crowley is the Director of Safeguarding with the Diocese of Limerick, and a former Regional Director of Child Care with the Health Service Executive.

I wish to assure the people of the diocese that this specific matter did not involve a risk to children, and that child safeguarding continues to be of paramount importance in the Diocese of Cloyne.

Notes for Editors

· A Designated Liaison Person is someone who has specific responsibility for ensuring effective safeguarding procedures are followed within the diocese. The DLP for the Diocese of Cloyne is Father Patrick Winkle who can be contacted on 086 0368999. For anyone who is affected by clerical abuse please contact Towards Healing, which is an independent organisation providing professional support for people who have experienced institutional, clerical or religious abuse in Ireland. Contact number 1800 303416. Hearing impaired text number only: 085 8022859.

· A Covenant of Care is an agreement between the diocese and a former priest outlining the conditions to be observed by him primarily to ensure the safety of children.

For media contact: Catholic Communications Office, Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678