The Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois, Dr Colm O’Reilly said today, Thursday, it is his belief that there will not be any fallout from the publication of the diocesan report into child sexual abuse within the church. Dr O’Reilly’s comments come following his confirmation to the Longford Leader this week that the report was currently in the final stages of completion and would be published shortly.
Dr O’Reilly told the Leader on Monday that the report into child sexual abuse within the diocese, will be published shortly. While the Bishop was unable to provide an exact date for publication, he said that he was, at this stage, “aware of its contents” and it was his belief that “an honest account” had been documented within its pages. Dr O’Reilly made his comments in the aftermath of the Cloyne Report which highlighted the cover up of sexual abuse allegations within the diocese there and the failure of the church’s hierarchy to protect children under its care.
“There is a report on the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois being finalised as we speak,” Dr O’Reilly explained. “I am aware of the contents and yes, there are a number of cases in it. I believe it to be an honest account and I am committed to being open about it. When the report is published, I will be happy to let the public reach its own conclusion.”
Speaking about the fallout from the Cloyne Report, Dr O’Reilly said that he was “unsure at this stage” whether a public appearance by Bishop John Magee would in fact be helpful at this stage.
“I honestly do not know if a public appearance by Bishop Magee would be appropriate now,” said Dr O’Reilly, adding that if the bishop “had come in to the public domain last week”, then perhaps it “may have been appropriate at that stage”. “I don’t know what contribution he could make at this stage to be honest. Really there is enough clarity on the matter for people to make up there own minds now.”
With regard to the new church guidelines on child protection and further proposals by Minister for Justice and Law Reform Alan Shatter TD to prosecute priests who fail to disclose information relating to child sexual abuse - obtained during confessions - Bishop O’Reilly said that it was his opinion that church guidelines were becoming “more stricter than State rules on the matter”. “One in Four said last week that nine out of ten cases that it referred to the HSE was not being dealt with and the church’s guidelines are much stricter at the moment,” he said. “The church is doing its best at this stage and I acknowledge that what happened within the church should never have happened. I support all appropriate means that can be used to protect children. The seal of confession is a very sacred one and I do not think that this is the answer to the problem. There is privilege in all areas including within the legal profession and confession is a very sacred privilege within the church. There are so few places now that people can go where they can speak in total confidence and this is a very, very important matter indeed. All of society has to step up to the plate with regard to protecting children and the church will be part of that.”
Dr O’Reilly acknowledged the fallout by followers of the church in the aftermath of the various reports into diocesan child sex abuse and said that the pain experieced by the victims “was far greater”. “I have huge sympathy for people who are hurt by the church and its actions,” the bishop said. “However much pain the ordinary person feels, it does not compare to the pain suffered by the people who were abused. Something has been so epidemic in society for so long and the church will absolutely be committed to disclosure where it is appropriate.”
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