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Sunday, December 4, 2016
Text: Archbishop Michael Neary's Cathedral homily in Tuam
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 The following homily was given by Archbishop Michael Neary yesterday. Statistics regarding child abuse issues in the Diocese of Tuam are published in the notes. This has been a difficult week for the Catholic Church. It has been difficult for those who have suffered abuse, for you the laity, my fellow priests and bishops and for all those with a love for the mission of the Church. In our own Diocese of Tuam we have had an extra challenge to deal with this week. As you are already aware, this week, I requested a priest of the diocese to stand aside from his ministry pending the outcome of investigations. This is one of the most significant decisions a bishop has to make, but I would now like to explain to you, insofar as I am able to at this time, the reasons behind this decision: I first became aware in late summer, through the Gardai, that a priest of the diocese was subject to an allegation of criminal misconduct towards an adult and that it was under investigation. The vital consideration which first required to be addressed was public safety and whether it was prudent to allow the priest to continue in ministry. Following consultation with various sources, including the Garda Síochána, I was satisfied that a public safety issue had not been shown to exist. Therefore I did not request the priest to stand aside. However, the balancing exercise that led to this decision was altered when, on Thursday last, the confidentiality of the Garda investigation was breached in a newspaper article. It was apparent then that all serving priests of the diocese could now come under suspicion. I therefore made this difficult decision in the interests of fairness for those immediately involved in the investigation and all who were potentially affected through the newspaper report. I believe that this decision was also in the best interests of the Parish concerned. It is again important to emphasise that what is being investigated is an allegation which has not been established as either true or false. The priest's agreement to stand aside does not connote guilt on his part. The publication of the Ferns Report on Tuesday last has been an important milestone in the evolution of child protection in this country and particularly in the context of our Church. I would like to apologise again to all those people, and their families, who have suffered lasting hurt through abuse by priests. As priests they should have been protecting and nurturing the talents of these young people. The betrayal of trust is horrendous. Today the Church is ashamed of its past failings regarding child protection. I pray for those who have suffered abuse, that they will be able to achieve healing and peace in their lives. I pray also that those who have abused will realise the terrible harm they have done and will seek pardon for their sins. In relation to the Diocese of Tuam, I feel that it is important for me to assure you of the following. The procedures that are in place in our diocese to protect children are of a very high standard. This standard is acknowledged as such by both the Garda Síochána and the local health authorities. This is not to say that there is not more work to be done in this area. Since its publication in 1996, the diocese has implemented the guidelines on responding to child sexual abuse as set out in Child Sexual Abuse: Framework for a Church Response. These guidelines recognise the paramount need to safeguard the welfare of children and they emphasise the need for a strong commitment to prevention through a range of measures to reduce the risk of such abuse in the future. In 2004, I commissioned an independent review of the quality of our responses to all complaints and allegations of sexual abuse by priests in the diocese. This review was undertaken by Dr Kevin McCoy who is an independent social care consultant and was formerly the Chief Inspector of Social Services Inspectorate in Northern Ireland. Dr McCoy's review went back to 1940. The outcome of this review was that sexual abuse complaints are being managed very well and in accordance with best practice. In keeping with my record as Archbishop, and as an expression of my determination to protect children, I welcome, without hesitation, the suggested State audit into the Church's handling of complaints of this nature. The Garda Síochána and the health authorities will continue to be made aware of all allegations received in this diocese. In the light of the recommendations contained in the report of the Ferns Inquiry, I intend to provide a copy of Dr McCoy's report on the management of sexual complaints in the diocese, to the Garda Síochána and the health authorities, in order that it may inform an Inter-Agency Approach when dealing with these most serious matters. I wish to avail of this opportunity to invite anyone with a concern regarding sexual abuse to contact: - our diocesan office at Archbishop's House; - the Bishops' child protection website at: http://www.cpo.ie - An Garda Síochána or the health authorities. In all of this I am guided by the example of Jesus, who said: "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs". [Mark 10:14] Notes: Statistics regarding allegations of child sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Tuam The following is a summary of statistical information regarding child sexual abuse allegations in the Archdiocese of Tuam: For the purposes of this exercise the term "allegation" is used in a broad manner so as to include information, from whomsoever received, which suggested that a child may have been sexually abused or at risk of such abuse. It does not necessarily mean that a reasonable suspicion ultimately emerged that child sexual abuse had occurred. Every allegation which has been made against a living priest is known also to the Gardai. No priest is currently in ministry who is the subject of an investigation involving child sexual abuse or about whom there has been reasonable suspicion that child sexual abuse may have occurred 1. Number of priests of the Archdiocese of Tuam against whom allegations have been made: 19 (of whom 6 are now deceased). The earliest date of alleged abuse is 1940. 2. Number of priests of other dioceses against whom allegations have been made and who held appointments or did supply (i.e. occasional ministry) in the Archdiocese of Tuam: 7 (of whom one is deceased). 3. One allegation has been made against a priest whom it has not been possible to identify. Of the forgoing: Ø Eight priests (living at the time the complaint was received) have stood aside from ministry following a reasonable suspicion that child sexual abuse may have occurred. Ø Two priests about whom, following a Garda investigation, a decision not to prosecute has been taken by the DPP. Ø Four priests have been the subject of criminal charges in respect of offences within the realm of child sexual abuse. Ø Three priests have been convicted of charges within the realm of child sexual abuse. Eight civil actions involving child sexual abuse have been brought, of which 7 have been settled involving compensation payments amounting to EU327,000.00. The total sum paid in related legal fees to date is EU170,000.00. Source: Irish Catholic Media Office
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