Keep the Faith, Change the Church.

VOTF National Statement: Is Catholic Church in Ireland Backpedaling on Child Protection?

Boston, Mass., Jan. 23, 2014 -- The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland appears to be backpedaling from earlier strict stances on child protection. Voice of the Faithful® in Ireland cites two examples.

First, Sean O’Conaill of VOTF in Ireland pointed out that Ian Elliott, CEO of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland for the past six years, has alleged that “over the past four years, there has been a successive reduction in the NBSCCC budget.”

Now retired, Elliott has published an article in this month’s issue of St. Patrick’s College’s monthly The Furrow, in which he said, “History has shown that the effective monitoring of (child protection) practice within the Church requires independence, and adequate resources. I would argue that to site investment within individual church authorities, and to starve the national Board of the support that it requires, is running the risk of a lapse back to poor risk management or possibly worse. I see no justification for it other than a desire to limit the role of the Board by covert means.”

“This is truly an alarming statement,” O’Conaill said. “Already, well informed Irish Catholics,” he continued, “have deep misgivings about the lack of strong structures of accountability for their bishops, especially on the issue of child protection. what Elliott warns about is a weakening of the limited accountability system that he established for bishops and religious congregations in Ireland.”

Second, O’Conaill indicated, the Church in Ireland has gone forward with development of spiritual support services for survivors after only token early meetings with survivors. This was done despite survivors having outlined the need to be “fully included in the development and delivery of such services” during meetings with the Irish bishops in 2008 and again in 2010 … On both occasions we felt sure that the bishops attending had heard this central message of the need to involve survivors in the development of pastoral support for themselves.”

Pastoral support for survivors is under the purview of Toward Peace, a program established in 2009 following from priorities the Irish bishops established to respond to survivors. O’Conaill quoted the bishops’ news release distributed at the end of their December 2013 meeting: “It is planned to launch Toward Peace in 2014.”

“We know of no survivor who heard of, or who attended any of the early meetings on this theme of spiritual support for survivors, who was subsequently fully involved in the development of a spiritual support service’ for survivors, or who has any idea of what this now forecast service ‘Toward Peace’ will provide – despite recent requests for information.

“Most importantly, we know of no survivor who is awaiting this soon-to-be launched ‘Toward Peace’ service with any trust or confidence – given the lack of transparency, the exclusion, the discourtesy and the condescension implicit in their experience of its development. These characteristics are diagnostic of the Catholic clericalism that has continued to delay their healing since their initial experiences of clerical sexual abuse – and are entirely incompatible with properly respectful and sensitive pastoral care, as well as with an understanding of the Church as the people of God.”

O’Conaill’s point is further elucidated by coverage of this issue in the Jan. 20 edition of the Irish Independent, “Survivors of Abuse Hit Out at Church Support Service.”

Two examples may not indicate a trend, but the situation bears watching.

Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org

Contact: Nick Ingala, 781-559-3360, nickingala@votf.org