26 July 2011

How Many Questions on the Cloyne Report?

42, if you're interested. It struck me that it mightn't be a bad idea to pull together in a straightforward questions-and-answers format most of my thoughts on the Cloyne Report and how people are reacting to it. It might be useful.

1. What's going on? Why has the Papal Nuncio to Ireland been recalled to the Vatican?
Nobody really knows. Certainly, experienced Vatican observers haven't been quick to say when such a thing last happened. Some think it's a diplomatic snub to Ireland for the Taoiseach having basically defamed the Pope and the Vatican in his speech last week, but most reckon it's simply so that he can consult in person with those in Rome who'll have the job of responding formally to the Cloyne Report and the various claims made by the Taoiseach and other members of the Government. The Government doesn't think that the response of the Pope's spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, constitutes an official response, and has refused to engage with it, other than, in the case of the Minister for Justice, to dismiss it as 'disingenuous'.

2. What exactly is the Cloyne Report, and why is it causing such a storm?
It's a report into an investigation by Judge Yvonne Murphy and others into how, between 1996 and 2009, the diocese of Cloyne, in County Cork, dealt with allegations of child sexual abuse and expressions of concern about clergy; these allegations dated right back to the 1930s, though the decade to which most complaints related was the 1960s, and roughly two-thirds of the allegations, as far as we can say, were in connection with people who had at the time been young children. The Report found that neither the then bishop of the diocese, John Magee, who was stripped of his authority by Rome in March 2009, nor his vicar general, Denis O'Callaghan, had ever made any attempt to follow the Irish Church's own guidelines for dealing with allegations of child abuse.

3. Why did they do this?
In the case of John Magee it's difficult to tell; the Report makes clear, however, that Denis O'Callaghan was deeply opposed to the Church dealing with allegations of abuse in a rules-based way, strongly believing that a more pastoral approach would always be better. The Report holds that those who were opposed to following the guidelines felt entitled to do so because the Vatican had issues with the guidelines.

4. Why did the Vatican have issues with the guidelines?
In 1996 the Irish bishops -- including Magee -- drew up a set of guidelines for dealing with allegations of child abuse. They sent these guidelines to Rome in the hope of getting official approval for them. In 1997, the Vatican's Congregation for Clergy replied, saying that the guidelines were problematic: they had potential to clash with canon law, such that there was a concern that abusive priests found guilty through procedures conducted under the guidelines could successfully appeal to Rome on procedural grounds, and it had unspecified concerns about mandatory reporting. The Congregation did, however, insist that canon law should be meticulously followed in dealing with these matters.

5. Canon law? What does that have to do with anything?
Canon law is really just the name we give to the Church's own internal rulebook. The Church, existing throughout the world, needs a universal set of rules than can apply as effectively in Cuba and China as in Ireland and the Philippines. These rules need to take account of the fact that while freedom of religion is accepted in countries like the United States and Germany, it is seriously curtailed in countries like Saudi Arabia and North Korea. Back when the Murphy Report on the Dublin Archdiocese was issued in 2009, there was a lot of talk about canon law, but what the Murphy Report made clear was that canon law was never the problem in Dublin. The problem was that canon law wasn't applied.

6. So the problem in Cloyne is that the guidelines weren't followed, but that canon law was?
No, canon law wasn't followed either. Denis O'Callaghan didn't believe that abuse was best dealt with through a rules-based approach. He thought a pastoral approach was the way forward. John Magee didn't seem to care either way.

7. How exactly did Cloyne deal with allegations?
It's hard to summarise, save that the best word to describe O'Callaghan's methods is 'unsystematic'. Removal of accused priests from ministry -- recognised as the most important thing the Church can do when it receives allegations -- seems to have been normal, but the Diocese' monitoring of accused priests wasn't up to much, and in a lot of cases it failed to pass on allegations to the Gardaí in a timely manner, if at all. Interestingly, the Report notes that Magee seems never to have indulged in the notorious practice known in the American public school system as 'passing the trash'. Of all the priests about whom allegations were received or concerns raised, only two are in ministry in the diocese now.

8. How many allegations did the diocese receive?
The Report deals with allegations against nineteen priests, including John Magee himself --

9. John Magee? There were allegations against the Bishop?
Yes. Well, sort of. There was a troubling incident or series of incidents, but it seems that the matter in question, while inappropriate and unwise, couldn't possibly be deemed child sexual abuse. It's difficult to see what the Diocese' response to an allegation of something that certainly wasn't child sexual abuse is doing in a report on how the Diocese dealt with allegations of child sexual abuse, but there you have it. The Report's not perfect.

10. Right, so it deals with allegations against eighteen priests. That's a lot, isn't it?
It is, though it depends on what you mean by a lot. The Devil's in the details, and when thinking of these eighteen priests, it's worth keeping mind that the Report notes that 430 priests were incardinated in the Diocese between 1932, the year in which the oldest priest covered in the Report had been ordained, and 2010, and that there has been only one case in Cloyne where a court decreed a priest guilty of any sort of sexual abuse. I think even one is one too many, really.
  • Two of the cases deal not with allegations but mere expressions of concern, one about an isolated episode seventeen years earlier. 
  • At least three allegations were against priests who had died before any accusations were received, so they weren't given any opportunity of defending themselves -- indeed, a fourth such case is almost certainly related to a long-dead priest, the identity of whom remains unknown even now -- and three complaints were about priests who died soon after allegations were received. 
  • In four cases, the Director of Public Prosecutions decided against pressing charges, and although charges were brought in a fifth case, no criminal prosecution took place. 
  • The Director of Public Prosecutions repeatedly decided against pressing charges against yet another priest, identified in the Report as 'Father Ronat' and in the Elliott Report as 'Father B'; however he has since been tried and acquitted.
  • In only one case has a priest of Cloyne diocese been convicted of any crime related to abuse: this priest, the Report's 'Father Caden', pleaded guilty to gross indecency and received an eighteen-month suspended sentence.
11. So you're saying that only one of these priests was guilty of child abuse?
No, I'm certainly not saying that. Other than the case of Father Caden, for example, it seems that two other priests admitted abuse of minors. One accused priest, who died in 2002, some years after the Diocese had heard of his misconduct in the 1960s, had admitted his behaviour to his superiors, but neither they nor the Gardaí had made any effort to have him face justice. Another priest, after admitting that he'd had a relationship with a sixteen-year-old girl -- which she denied -- then fled the diocese, eloping with a married woman. More broadly, lots of these allegations have a ring of truth about them -- although at least one looks almost certainly false -- but it's fiendishly difficult to prove anything in child abuse cases, especially ones relating to events that took place decades earlier, and at least in Irish civil law we hold to the principle that one is innocent until proven guilty.

12. Were any children harmed because of the Diocese' unwillingness to follow the bishops' guidelines?
Apparently not. Certainly, the Report never makes such a claim -- although the Church's own investigation into Cloyne, included as an appendix to the main report, had concluded that Magee and O'Callaghan's actions were such that children had been placed at risk of harm.

13. Did Magee and O'Callaghan break the law in this respect?
Again, apparently not. The Report details how in January 2009 a member of the public made a complaint to the Gardaí that Magee had endangered children by withholding information from the Gardaí, but the DPP advised that no criminal offences had been disclosed, noting that the reckless endangerment of children only became an offence in Irish law in 2006.

14. Did they break any laws at all?
The Report only finds that they scorned the Irish bishops' guidelines. It's apparent from the Report that they also broke the moral law of God and the canon law of the Church, but it is equally apparent that they did not break the civil law of the State. So if -- unlike me -- you're going to take the view that the only law that matters in these affairs is the law of the land, then no. They didn't break any laws.

15. Were things ever handled properly?
Not by Magee and O'Callaghan prior to 2008, but yes. The Report details one instance of a complaint made against a member of a religious order who had been based in Cloyne; this event, complained of in 2002, allegedly took place in 1966. The priest denied the charges against him, and the Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to prosecute, citing 'the minor nature of the incident, the delay in reporting same and the lack of corroborative evidence'. The Report found that 'As is often the case with child sexual abuse complaints, where there is a credible complaint and a credible denial, there is, unfortunately, no resolution.'

16. Right, so let’s get back to the Taoiseach’s speech. What was it about?
The speech was in support of a motion that the Dáil 'deplores the Vatican’s intervention which contributed to the undermining of the child protection frameworks and guidelines of the Irish State and the Irish bishops'

17. The Vatican's intervention? Does he mean the 1997 reply to the bishops?
He does. I know, a reply is hardly an intervention, but there you have it. In my experience if you ask somebody for something, you have to be prepared for the possibility that they'll say no.

18. Is there any evidence that the Vatican's 1997 reply undermined the bishops in the implementation of their guidelines?
Not as far as we know. The Cloyne Report claims this several times but never shows it. The fact that Denis O'Callaghan may have felt vindicated by the Congregation for Clergy's refusal to make official the bishops' guidelines doesn't look particularly meaningful in light of how he also wholly ignored the Congregation's insistence that canon law be meticulously followed.

19. The general theme of the Taoiseach's speech seems to have been that everything is Rome's fault. Am I right in thinking that the Taoiseach said that the Cloyne Report exposed an attempt by the Vatican, in the last three years, to frustrate an official Irish inquiry?
Yes, you are.

20. And did it?
No. The Report says very little about the Vatican’s dealings with the Commission. It says that the Commission asked the Papal Nuncio – the Vatican’s representative in Ireland – to supply any documentation the Nunciature held in connection with how the diocese of Cloyne had dealt with abuse allegations received between 1996 and 2009. It says that the Nuncio explained that the Nunciature didn’t hold any documents but that the Diocese held everything and was obliged to comply with the law of the land. And indeed, it says the Diocese did just that. The Report doesn’t criticise the Vatican at all in this respect.

21. So everybody cooperated with the Commission?
Oddly, no. The Office for the Minister for Children claimed privilege over legal advice it had received. The Commission explicitly contrasts the actions of the State in this regard with those of the Church, saying: ‘The Commission notes that, in contrast, the Church authorities provided the Commission with its privileged documents and the Gardaí and the HSE did not claim privilege over any documents.’

22. Did the Taoiseach acknowledge this in his speech?
Kind of. He alluded to 'unseemly bickering' between the Minister for Children and the HSE. He reserved all his serious criticism for Rome.

23. Even though Rome doesn't seem to have had any influence on events in Ireland?
That's putting it mildly. For what it's worth, it seems that the bishops ignored the Congregation for Clergy's reservations about the 1996 guidelines and did their own thing anyway. I'm not saying that that's a bad thing -- in this case -- just that it shows how frail Rome's grip on the Irish Church is.
24. Did the Vatican seriously tell the bishops that they weren't to report abuse allegations?
Of course not. The Congregation for Clergy expressed concerns about mandatory reporting in its 1997 reply, but in a November 1998 meeting with the bishops at Rosses Point in Sligo, the then head of the Congregation for Clergy explicitly told the Irish bishops that they 'should not in any way put an obstacle in the legitimate path of civil justice'.

25. Hmmm. Well, anyway, let’s stay with the Taoiseach. Maybe he was speaking of the previous Nuncio’s failure to respond to the Murphy Commission’s request that the Nunciature supply the Commission with any documents it might need that the archdiocese of Dublin would lack, or to confirm that the Nunciature held no such documents?
That is how the Irish Times tried to excuse it in its editorial on the subject, but leaving aside that that happened in February 2007 -- more than four years ago, and thus not within the last three years -- it had already been covered in 2009’s Murphy Report. The Taoiseach can hardly have been referring to that when he said the Cloyne Report had revealed interference for the first time. Indeed, a Government spokesman later clarified the Taoiseach’s statement by saying that he wasn’t talking about anything in particular, but was just generally referring to the cumulative effect of the Vatican’s actions.

26. So the Taoiseach said one thing, when he actually meant something completely different?
Indeed he did. There’s a word for that where I come from.

27. Are you saying the Taoiseach lied to the Dáil?
Hey, you said it. Of course, you'd not be the first person to have said something along those lines in recent weeks.

28. What do you mean by that?
Well, before the Cloyne Report distracted everybody, the Taoiseach and the Government had gotten themselves into a spot of bother. On 8 February this year, during the election campaign, the Taoiseach -- as he is now -- gave a speech in which he pledged to protect and defend the accident and emergency services of Roscommon County Hospital.  The two local Fine Gael TD's, Denis Naughten and Frank Feighan, were re-elected. In the aftermath of the election the Government, acting on the advice of the Health Information and Quality Authority -- which based its advice on conditions in a hospital in Cloyne, ironically enough -- decided to shut Roscommon County Hospital's A&E department.

This led to uproar, predictably, and questions were asked in the Dáil about whether the Taoiseach had misled people on such matters. The Taoiseach dismissed this line of questioning as 'pathetic', and insisted that he was on the record as having stated on numerous radio stations throughout the campaign that he would not be making promises he couldn't keep. Once a recording appeared of him having indeed announced that he would protect Roscommon's A&E facilities, he apologised over any confusion he might have caused by his making two such contradictory statements. The leader of the Opposition accused him of having misled the Dáil and challenged the Taoiseach on this very point, saying:
'It was you who personally promised to tell it straight. It was you who denied to RTÉ and to this house that you made any promise in relation to Roscommon Hospital. And you were caught out. And I find it incredible that that you cannot face up to that here in the house today and put the record straight.'
29. So a politician has lied twice. This looks like common-or-garden political opportunism, then. Has it worked?
I'm afraid so. It seems that misleading the Dáil once gets you into trouble, but doing so again gets you right out of it. A bit like repeatedly rolling doubles in Monopoly, I suppose. The Taoiseach's very popular at the moment. It doesn't hurt that the most eloquent and prominent voices in our national media have had their knives out -- and not always without reason -- for the Church for a long time; they'll forgive their champion a lot. And he has caught a popular mood, such that anyone who actually shows any sign of having read the Report tends to get dismissed out of hand by a horde of people sneering 'Well, you can prove anything with facts, can't you?'

 30. But the Report must say quite a bit about the Vatican, though, surely? I mean, the Taoiseach can hardly have been lying when he said the Report excavated the disfunction, disconnection, elitism, and narcissism that dominate the Vatican... he must have something to go on?
No, the Report says basically nothing about the Vatican, which is hardly surprising, as it wasn’t an investigation into how the Vatican handles things. It does claim, as I’ve said, that a 1997 Vatican response to a 1996 document drawn up by the bishops had the effect of undermining child protection in the Irish Church, but aside from providing no evidence to support this claim, it never says that this was the Vatican's intention.

31. What of the line about the Vatican responding to evidence of betrayal and abuse, not with sympathy, but by parsing and analysing it with the gimlet eye of a canon lawyer?
The Report says only four of the abuse cases dealt with in the Cloyne Report were ever passed over to Rome, these being the cases of the pseudonymous fathers Ronat, Calder, Drust, and Caden.  It says nothing at all in connection with how the Vatican dealt with three of these cases, as they were only passed to Rome in 2009 and had not been resolved when the Commission began its work. As for the complaint against ‘Father Caden’ by a fellow priest, the Report notes that allegations of this abuse, committed in the early 1980s, were passed to Rome in December 2005, with a decision being made in April 2007. That decision was that Caden should remain barred from exercising any priestly ministry, as indeed he had been since before the Diocese had contacted Rome, and that any breaches of disciplinary measures or repeated abusive behaviour would result in further sanctions. I can’t see how one could construe anything from this about Roman disfunctionality or any of the Taoiseach’s other accusations. 

And for what it’s worth, in my experience canon lawyers don’t have ‘gimlet eyes’.

32. But didn’t the Pope say that the Church shouldn’t be held to the same standards as civil society? The Taoiseach said he did...
No, the Pope didn’t say that, although by quoting a truncated sentence out of context, the Taoiseach certainly gave that impression. In an official 1990 document called Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian, the then Cardinal Ratzinger said that the Church is a mystery of communion, in which all of us are called to strive with sincere hearts for a harmonious unity in doctrine, life, and worship, such that: ‘For this reason, standards of conduct, appropriate to civil society or the workings of a democracy, cannot be purely and simply applied to the Church.’ He explained that Christian truth is diachronic, such that the faith of the Church today must remain that of the earliest Christian community, and cannot be altered on the basis of opinion polls or even large numbers of modern theologians: we cannot impose our opinions on the truth.

33. That sounds like a fairly obscure document. How on earth would the Taoiseach know about it? Does he have any friends who are priests? Or any advisers?
Well, it’s funny you should say that. One of the Taoiseach’s closest advisers is Frank Flannery, Fine Gael’s Director of Organisation and Strategy, and both of Frank’s brothers are priests. One of them, Tony, is a founder member and a prominent voice in the new Association of Catholic Priests.

34. The Association of Catholic Priests? What’s that?
Between 1975 and 2007, Ireland’s priests were organised as a sort-of trade union called the National Conference of Priests of Ireland. Highly unwieldy and fairly ineffective, the organisation collapsed after Father John Littleton, its president, retired;  not one of the NCPI’s 6,000 members was willing to go forward to replace him. The Association of Catholic Priests is a sort of successor movement, proposed by Tony Flannery and others last summer and founded last autumn.

35. So all Irish priests are members?
No. Not even close. Maybe one in ten is. The ACP was never intended to incorporate all priests, as its founders believed this would be impossible considering the diversity of opinion in the Irish Church. Openly expressing from the start a ‘strained relationship between priests and their bishops,’ among its initial aims was to look seriously at ‘the ministry, government and sexual teaching of the Church’.  Thus far it hasn't much more than 500 or so members, all from the most liberal end of the Church in Ireland, and with few if any of them among the Church’s younger priests. Before the last fortnight or so it has been vocal mainly in opposition to the universal introduction of a new, more accurate translation of the Mass throughout the English-speaking world.

36. What did the ACP think of the Taoiseach’s speech?
It seems to have thought it was, in the main, great. Tony Flannery wrote an article for the Irish Times saying that he was happy with it, and that all the members of the association who rang him said they were delighted with it. He thought it was good to hear the Taoiseach challenge the Vatican ‘so strongly, so eloquently, and with such dignity’, given how he dislikes the way the Vatican conducts its business. Brendan Hoban, another ACP founder, said that the Taoiseach’s speech was an object lesson in leadership from a man who is proud to identify himself as a faithful, practising Catholic, and that the Taoiseach had effectively articulated how the dominance of Rome is strangling the emergence of a people’s Church in Ireland. The Taoiseach claims to have been astounded by how many letters he’s received from priests, praising him from speaking out as he did, but I rather suspect that most of those letters were from members of the ACP.

37. So you basically think that the Taoiseach, in attacking Rome while defending Ireland’s ‘good priests’, was acting as a mouthpiece for liberal Irish priests.
More or less, yes. I seriously doubt that was his plan -- political opportunism and the need to distract people from the Roscommon debacle aside, I think his main concern was to express a sincere and thoroughly understandable sense of frustration -- but yes.

On the other hand, though, the Government may have gone too far in its rhetoric about the Seal of Confession. Even Tony Flannery, Brendan Hoban, and the ACP spokesman P.J. Madden have spoken out against the Government’s declared determination to render illegal the failure to disclose information acquired even through Confession.

38. Is the Seal of Confession really under threat?
No, almost certainly not; if it is, it has been for some time already. Under existing laws, passed in 1997 and 1998, Irish citizens already have obligations to report certain serious offences where they do not have ‘reasonable excuse’ for not doing so. When shorn of anti-clerical rhetoric, the proposed new law will simply extend the existing principles so that sexual offences against children and vulnerable adults are recognised as among these serious offences. The current legislation does not define what constitutes ‘reasonable excuse’, and there is no plan for the proposed legislation to do so. This shall be a matter for the courts.

39. So the courts could rule that the intrinsic confidentiality of Confession is not such that it would constitute a reasonable excuse for withholding knowledge of, say, terrorist offences or child abuse?
It’s highly unlikely. In the first place, it seems likely that any such attempt to force a priest to disclose anything revealed in Confession would be in breach of the protections of privacy and religious freedom guaranteed explicitly or implicitly both by the Irish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. Granted, there are public order exceptions to those rights, but the onus would be on a prosecutor to show that such guarantees did not apply in a particular instance. 

What’s more, the Seal already has a measure of protection in Irish common law. Although the decision made in Cook v Carroll (1945), recognising the privilege of parishioners in communications with their parish priest, was based on part on a part of the Constitution which has since been changed, it retains its status as a binding precedent. In 1999 a non-binding opinion was expressed by Judge Hugh Geoghegan in the High Court to the effect that given the nature of Confession, a priest could probably not be compelled to disclose what had been confessed to him even if a penitent gave him permission to do so.

40. Couldn’t the Government bring in legislation specifically to remove these common law protections?
Perhaps, but given that it doesn’t plan on redefining what constitutes a reasonable excuse, that’s not on the cards. The Seal is safe. The safety of the many thousands of those in whom abuse survivors have confided, is, on the other hand, a different matter. Is ‘my husband told me what happened to him when he was younger, but I didn’t report it as it hurts him too much even to talk about it’ a reasonable excuse? What about ‘my oldest friend told me what happened to her, but I didn’t report what she said because she said she couldn’t face the idea of going through this in court, and besides, she said it was a long time ago, and she hoped the fella who did it had got help, that he’d changed...’? 

41. Are there likely to be many people in such a position?
There are. Child abuse seems to have been endemic in Ireland; just looking at the figures from the 2002 SAVI Study, it seems that 27 per cent of Irish adults in 2001 had been victims of sexual abuse while children or adolescents, with just under 0.5 per cent of Irish adults at that point having been abused by clergy. The study indicated that roughly half of those survivors had told somebody -- usually family or friends -- of having been sexually abused as a child, but had not reported this to the Gardaí. It seems that there must be at least tens of thousands of Irish adults who are currently withholding knowledge of child sexual abuse -- indeed, the number of such adults may well be much higher than that.

42. So, to wrap up, what does the Cloyne Report mainly tell us?
It tells us that although the Irish Church's child-protection procedures are far more stringent than those of the Irish State, which it describes as less precise and harder to follow than those of the Church, being especially weak in the area of monitoring, even the best procedures in the world are worthless if the people who have the job of implementing them aren't willing to do so. It is damning in its criticism of John Magee and Denis O'Callaghan's failures, but it says nothing whatsoever about the wider Church, in Ireland or abroad.


James H said...

THis is EXCELLENT will link

Anonymous said...

Very well done. I'm sure that time will show the full value of your honest record. - AS

Rob Fuller said...

This is a refreshingly well written and readable article which gives a concise summary of some particularly relevant items in the Cloyne Report in light of the Taoiseach's Dail speech.

the Grem said...

Simply Spin -however much you people try to avoid it the facts are clear. Kenny's words
"THIS is the Republic of Ireland 2011. A republic of laws, of rights and responsibilities; of proper civic order; where the delinquency and arrogance of a particular version, of a particular kind of "morality", will no longer be tolerated or ignored." are a watershed. And please remember

“For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; nor hid, that shall not be known.” (Luke 12:2)


Servant of the Chief said...

Those words ring hollow and you know it Grem, this 'Republic of Laws' is a farce in its own failures to protect children and prosecute abusers. “For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; nor hid, that shall not be known.” (Luke 12:2) Indeed, and I wonder how red those in power will be when the spotlight finally spreads to the wider abuses in Ireland, and the failures of the civil powers from preventing them. It is all well for Enda and others to call those of us that defend the Church even in this shameful hour hypocrites, so long as the spotlight is on us and away fromt he shadows of their own shame.

River said...

No Grem this article gives us the unspun balanced facts.

paddy said...

This is great, thanks. Just what I've been looking for - a coherent summary of the "story so far" for people who don't know the background (Like me).

I too will link to it from my blog.

Maire said...

Quite simply the most coherent and impressive analysis of Cloyne and its aftermath that I've read. Having already shared it on Twitter, needless to say the dismissive responses I got came too quickly for them to even have skimmed it, and that is what truth and facts are up against. But when the hysteria has passed, as it must do some day, it is articles like this that people will refer to in order to find out what's what.

Treasa said...

Thanks for this. Saw it on David Quinn's twitter a/c. Brilliant. Honest, truthful, the facts. Wonder will the Irish Times print it??

John Pisaru said...

This is a real presentation of facts.
It is shamefull for the church and the blog is not biased. It shows that doing journalism could include also some thinking. Thinking does not have to be necessarily anti-catholic.

Irish Times is a small baby and a big mouth. It's obvious it does it for money where the excuse for reporting the truth remains only an excuse. They are interested in HEADLINES and in selling news for those who want to swallow them.

Sharon said...

Considering the reaction to the Coyne Report what was the reaction to the SAVI Report?

The Thirsty Gargoyle said...

That's a very good question. I don't remember there being much of one, to be honest... and this was at a time when, though in England, I was reading a lot of newspapers.

A quick search of the somewhat bumpy Irish Times archive, though, reveals that there were about five articles on the report in April, the month it was issued, mainly in connection with adult rape, though one article was headed 'Study shows sex abuse figures here higher than the EU, US'. It's featured in seven more articles between May and November: May's 'An Irish disease?', June's 'Drink is the real rape problem Reported sexual assaults', July's 'A Watershed Verdict', September's 'Change urged in handling of rape cases', November's 'We need to focus on the methods for detecting and preventing sex abuse', 'The shameful hounding of Ivan Payne' and 'Classifying the Abusers'.

The Payne article is available elsewhere online. Its general thrust is that in focusing on clerical abusers we're ignoring a much bigger and far more contemporary problem, and it contrasts the fact of the SAVI Study finding that 24% of Irish men said they'd been abused as children with a European average of 5%.

So twelve articles on a report that found that more than one-in-four Irish adults had been sexually abused as children, that almost one-in-five had been abused while still in primary school, that for every victim of clerical sexual abuse there were sixty victims of sexual abuse by people who weren't priests, that only one abuse case in two hundred led to a conviction...

Twelve articles, and lots of them tucked away in the 'Health' section of the paper. Just two or three letters, at most. And how many on Cloyne, a report that says next to nothing about us as a country? Is it any wonder people don't know what's going on?

Thank you. I should have thought to look into that before.

JARay said...

Many thanks for this clear expose.
Thanks also to Fr. Ray Blake for providing a link to this article on his blog, which is one of the best Catholic blogs in the UK.

Therese M said...

Hi there. Just found your blog and delighted with the analysis. I'm a religion teacher in Ireland and was hoping to do something similar for colleagues and a bit daunted by the prospect but I see that there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Phew.....! Will send a link to your blog.
Thank you so much!!!