Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Report on the Cloyne Report: Tommorow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow--Ongoing Cover-Up in the Catholic Church (2)

As my initial posting yesterday indicated, in the subsequent sections of my commentary on the Cloyne report, I want to provide readers with excerpts from the report.  My goal is to point to the heart of what the Cloyne investigation found, so that readers without sufficient time to read the entire report will have a brief summary of its most salient findings—in the words of the Cloyne report itself.  And for those who do intend to read the entire report, this set of excerpts may also provide a valuable framework for viewing the whole, when those readers have the opportunity to wade through the entire document. 

Note my emphasis on “the words of the Cloyne report itself” in the preceding paragraph.  In my view, it is very important to pay careful attention to what happens in this report—in its own words—for a variety of reasons.

In the first place, note that this report is being issued by a secular government that is policing the Catholic church, in a nation historically Catholic—in a nation with a deep and strong Catholic history.  The Irish government has undertaken an internal investigation of the affairs of the Catholic church because it had no other option, if it cared about the well-being of Irish children placed in harm’s way by religious authority figures whose institutional leaders did not intend to protect innocent children.

And this is a point of tremendous importance for those seeking to assess the Cloyne report and understand what this report portends for the future of the Catholic church.  When a secular state with a long Catholic history has no choice except to police the Catholic church, because its own leaders will not police their institution (and, indeed, will lie, obfuscate, stonewall, engage in deceptive p-r campaigns, etc.—anything!—to avoid transparency and accountability), the church is in serious trouble.  It has long since lost the moral high ground.  It cannot any longer have a bright future as an institution that compels moral credibility and convinces people of its fundamental pastoral intent.

And here’s how the Cloyne report takes the moral high ground that the government has been forced by the church’s abdication of moral and pastoral behavior to occupy: it does so soberly, simply, heaping one damning fact on another without commentary on the meaning of those facts.  Until the sheer weight of the damning facts absolutely obliterates the claim of the major players in this sorry morality tale to be speaking the truth . . . .  Until the facts crush any claim of the leaders of the Catholic church to represent the moral side any longer, at this point in history, due to their atrocious handling of cases of clerical sexual abuse of minors.

The Cloyne report doesn’t preach.  It doesn’t engage in the kind of fulminating moral riffs frequently found in ecclesiastical documents.  It simply presents the facts as the Cloyne investigation found them.  It takes the statements of the key players in this sobering morality tale—notably, Bishop John Magee, Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan, and Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza—and places those statements beside the facts uncovered by the Cloyne investigation, and lets readers draw their own conclusions.

And how damning those conclusions are.  What the three reverend gentlemen say.  And then what they do.

The Cloyne report is, I keep stressing, a morality tale.  It is a sharply incised picture of three men occupying powerful leadership positions in a church whose fundamental purpose, we are told, is to reach out to the wounded with pastoral compassion, to protect the least among us, and to proclaim moral truth to the world.  It is a sharply incised picture of who those men profess to be, as they present themselves to the world, and what they then do, when they imagine that the eyes of the world are not on them.

The Irish government becomes our eyes in this report, looking behind all the veils that Catholic officials keep trying to place between themselves and the public, in their handling of the abuse crisis.  The excerpts that follow tell us what the Irish government found when it had no choice—if it cared about the well-being of Irish children—except to pull the veil aside.  I will divide the excerpts into sections on the three major dramatis personae, Magee, O’Callaghan, and Leanza, with a prefatory set of excerpts to set the stage.

There needed to be a record of who Magee, O'Callaghan, and Leanza actually are, beyond/behind their professions about themselves.  The Cloyne report has provided that record for us.  Its words need to be remembered, its pictures of these three powerful clerics kept before our eyes.  This record needs to stand, and it needs our attention, because these three men are not aberrations in the Catholic hierarchy at present.  They are representations of what the leadership of the Catholic church has made of itself at this point in history.
It is not a pretty picture.  But if we care either about the vulnerable or about the church itself, we will look at it carefully and try to figure out what lessons to draw from this picture--lessons for ourselves, in our own connection to this powerful institution that has the ability to do so much good, but has done so much damage to so many in the period of history through which we are now passing.

Dramatis Personae: Setting the Stage

Before I zero in on each of the three significant players in the morality tale told by the Cloyne report--Magee, O'Callaghan, and Leanza--I want to set the stage with a set of excerpts reminding us of what the investigating team faced, as it began to look at the records of the Cloyne diocese from 1996 to 2009.  This section of excerpts reminds us of precisely why the Irish government considered it necessary to undertake this investigation.  As I present the excerpts, I will generally not comment on them; I will, however, highlight significant statements by boldfacing them, noting where I have done this.

First, in its own words, this is why the government commission investigated the Cloyne diocese--though the Irish bishops implemented guidelines for handling cases of clerical sexual abuse of minors in 1996 and Cloyne diocesan officials claimed they were following these, up to 2009, credible allegations of abuse of minors were still being ignored and/or covered up:
The response of the Diocese of Cloyne to complaints and allegations of clerical child sexual abuse in the period 1996 to 2008 was inadequate and inappropriate (boldface added). In 2008, the diocese started to follow the procedures set out in
the Church documents (1.71).

And here's what happened in 2004 when the Child Protection Office of the Irish Bishops' Conference undertook a review of the procedures for handling sexual abuse cases in various dioceses, with Kevin McCoy, former Chief Inspector of the Social Services Inspectorate in Northern Ireland and a member of the group that wrote the Framework Document (1996), leading the process:

The Commission considers it unlikely that he [i.e., Dr. McCoy] was provided with all the files because the first time the relevant files were all brought together was for the purpose of discovery to this Commission in 2009. He said he was told about eight priests against whom complaints had been made. In fact, the Commission has established that there were ten diocesan priests against whom complaints had been made up to 2003 so, clearly, Dr McCoy did not receive files in respect of two of them. Dr McCoy was also clearly not told that a decision had been made in March 2004 to bring criminal charges against one priest (see Chapter 15) (4.30) (boldface added).

The McCoy report was not published and was made available only to a small number of people. The erroneous view that Dr McCoy had approved the manner in which the guidelines were being implemented within the diocese was allowed to circulate. In 2008 and 2009, when the handling of child sexual abuse allegations by the Diocese of Cloyne came in for criticism, Monsignor O’Callaghan gave the impression that the McCoy report had effectively given a clean bill of health to the diocese. For example, in his response to the draft Elliott report (see Chapter 6) in May 2008, he quoted from Dr McCoy’s “Acknowledgements” section in which the co-operation of the diocese in facilitating the review is praised but he does not mention the actual findings (4.37)  (boldface added).

The Commission initially assumed that a report which had been commissioned by the diocese would have been read by the main parties involved, in particular, by Bishop Magee and Monsignor O’Callaghan. It was, therefore, very surprised to be told by Bishop Magee that he did not see the final version of the report until February 2009. However, he later acknowledged that he had, in fact, been given a copy in 2004. Monsignor O’Callaghan told the Commission that he had seen only the summary of the report in 2004 and not the full report. He said he did not see the full report until 2009. The report had been delivered by Dr McCoy to Monsignor O’Donnell in August 2004 as Monsignor O’Donnell was the chairman of the committee overseeing the project. Monsignor O’Donnell told the Commission that he handed a copy of the report to Bishop Magee at a meeting on 13 September 2004. Monsignor O’Callaghan was present at this meeting as was another person from the Diocese of Cloyne and two people from the diocese of Limerick. Monsignor O’Donnell is “almost certain” that he also gave a copy of the report to Monsignor O’Callaghan (4.38) (boldface added). 

The Commission finds it extraordinary that Bishop Magee apparently did not read the report. On balance, the Commission considers that it is likely that Monsignor O’Callaghan did receive a copy of the full report. If he did not, it again seems extraordinary that he did not ask to see it. It was either not read by him or he deliberately misrepresented its findings (4.39) (boldface added).

And here's a reminder of why the preceding . . . strangely incongruous . . . response to a report commissioned by the Irish bishops to see how dioceses were handling the all-important issue of protecting children occurred--Bishop Magee had turned over the implementation of the procedures mandated by the Irish Bishops' conference to a man who rejected those procedures:

While Bishop Magee had overall responsibility for the implementation of the Church procedures, Monsignor O’Callaghan, as the delegate, was the principal person in the Diocese of Cloyne dealing with the day to day implementation of the Framework Document. It is clear from the diocesan files that he was not happy with the document. His problems with it apply equally to Our Children, Our Church. In a letter of May 2008, he said that during the discussions prior to its publication, he was:“more than disappointed at the policy of the Irish Bishops as a whole. They were walking away from the strong positive tradition of Christian Pastoral Care as inspired by the words and actions of Jesus himself. They would surrender all pastoral discretion and would hand over to secular agencies overall responsibility for alleged offending priests who had abused their position of trust and given serious scandal. The Bishops rolled over under pressure from the media. And they expected Rome to endorse the new policy!” (4.71) (boldface added)

Of course, his stance in this respect had been echoed and strongly endorsed by the Papal Nuncio in his letter to the bishops following the publication of the Framework Document (see above) (4.72)  (boldface added).

Earlier, in an exchange with the Gardaí in May 2002, it is very clear that Monsignor O’Callaghan did not approve of the Church’s policy on reporting as set out in the Framework Document and was seeking backing from the Gardaí for his stance on the matter (4.73) (boldface added).

There is no doubt that Monsignor O’Callaghan was resolutely of the opinion that the correct approach to a priest who was accused of child sexual abuse was a ‘pastoral’ one, and that the guidelines contained in the Framework Document and any duty which might exist to report these matters to the civil authorities took second place (4.80) (boldface added).

It is clear to the Commission that the Diocese of Cloyne, while ostensibly supportive of the procedures outlined in the Framework Document, was never genuinely committed to their implementation (4.88) (boldface added).

The fact that the Papal Nuncio wrote to the bishops expressing the Congregation for the Clergy’s reservations about the 4.88 was significant. This gave comfort to those, including Monsignor O’Callaghan, who fundamentally disagreed with the policies in the document 4.91) (boldface added).

More importantly, however, the pastoral approach [i.e., the approach promoted by O'Callaghan] is simply not a sufficient response to a complaint of child sexual abuse. It may provide some healing for the complainants but it cannot ensure that their need for validation is met. It does not provide for a genuine investigation of the complaint. It cannot provide for the protection of other children. The protection of children requires reporting to the civil authorities and ensuring that the alleged offender does not have access to children (4.95) (boldface added).

The ‘rule-led’ system [i.e., the Irish Bishops' procedures in the Framework Document as characterized by O'Callaghan] does not prevent the Church from offering pastoral care to all concerned; the Commission does not understand how reporting to the civil authorities precludes the Church from exercising this [pastoral] role or limits this role in any way (4.96) (boldface added).

The Commission totally accepts that priests against whom allegations are made need pastoral care but that must be provided only in a context where they cannot be in contact with children. The Commission considers that the Diocese of Cloyne put far too much emphasis on the concerns of alleged offenders and Monsignor O’Callaghan now acknowledges that. He told the Commission: “Looking back over the fifteen years during which I acted as Delegate for the Bishop, I acknowledge with hindsight that I should have struck a better balance in the ministry of pastoral care. I regret now that I did not intervene to counter the choice of the legal route when just settlements should have been made earlier with survivors. I regret also that I tended to show favour to accused priests vis-à-vis complaints in some cases. I realise now that in some instances I became emotionally drawn to the plight of accused priests and in this way compromised my care of some complainants. I now realise that the ministry of pastoral care best operates where roles are distinct in dealing with complainants and accused” (4.97) (boldface added).

And here's Bishop Magee on his surprise that the diocese did not report abuse cases to the health authorities in the period 1996-2008:  

Bishop Magee told the Commission that he understood that the diocese did report all allegations of child sexual abuse to the health authorities. He told the Commission that he only discovered in 2008 that the diocese did not do so and he was reassured by Monsignor O’Callaghan that this was in accordance with the 1995 protocol between the Gardaí and the health boards (see below). The Commission finds it difficult to understand why Bishop Magee did not check over the period 1996 - 2008 that the procedures were being carried out or how he could be reassured in 2008 given that the Church guidelines are very clear on the requirements (6.32) (boldface added).

And finally, there's this: in 2005, when the government decided to set up an "audit" of dioceses following the Ferns report "audit" and the Minister for Children wrote to the various dioceses to ascertain whether they were implementing the Bishops' Conference's guidelines, Bishop Magee responded:

On 23 November 2005, Bishop Magee wrote to the Minister in response to his query about the implementation of the Ferns Report. Bishop Magee told the Minister that the Framework Document guidelines were “fully in place and are being fully complied with”. He outlined the role of the diocesan child protection committee (see Chapter 8) and the inter-diocesan case management advisory committee and described the training which was being carried out in the diocese. Bishop Magee’s emphatically positive reply was issued in spite of the fact that this was clearly not the case (6.42) (boldface added).

And so the stage is set, and in my next posting or postings concluding my reflections on the Cloyne report, I'll introduce readers more fully to the distinguished gentlemen of the cloth whom you've just met and begun to know a bit in this stage-setting posting.

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