Shame on Cardinal Connell. The Archdiocese of Dublin made a promise to victims of clerical sexual abuse, to the people of Dublin whose taxes are paying for the Commission of Investigation, to the Government and to the Commission itself that it would co-operate fully with the Commission of Investigation which was eventually set up in 2006 to investigate how allegations of child sexual abuse by priests in the Archdiocese of Dublin were handled, regardless of who those allegations were made to.
Now Cardinal Connell is running to the High Court in an attempt to get in the way of some of its work. This is not at all acceptable behaviour. Seemingly the Cardinal is now claiming that the current Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin had no right to hand over all the documentation that the Commission had requested from him as this documentation includes legal advice which the Cardinal had sought and he believes this somehow entitles him to some personal privilege in relation to these documents. It is hard to imagine that the Cardinal as a legal leg to stand on.
When he sought legal advice in handling allegations of child sexual abuse against Dublin priests he did so in his capacity as Archbishop of Dublin and so it should follow that the advice and any documentation relating to it belongs to the Archdiocese and not to the Cardinal. Indeed if this was personal legal advice to the Cardinal why were the papers still in Archbishop’s House long after the Cardinal retired? And who paid the legal bill – the Cardinal personally or the Archdiocese?
I have read reports into child sexual abuse by priests in the Archdioceses of Boston and Philadelphia. In reading these reports it becomes very clear that the statutory investigations into these Archdioceses enjoyed full access to any documentation they required to properly ascertain whether allegations were handled properly or not. If Cardinal Connell were to be successful in his legal action in the High Court there is a risk that his claim for privilege with legal documentation could spread into other areas.
What happens if the Cardinal runs back to the High Court next week and claims that any medical reports he received on paedophile priests should also be blocked from the Commission of Investigation’s eyes? The Catholic Church in Dublin and elsewhere has for many years repeated its mantra that offending priests were only ever returned to ministry (with further access to children) after the Church had received medical advice that it was perfectly safe to do so. Any Inquiry into how allegations against such priests were handled must surely be in a position to ask the Church to produce documentary evidence of such medical advice. What will Cardinal Connell do then?
It is imperative that such claims can be examined thoroughly – In Boston and Philadelphia such claims did not stand up to much scrutiny. In those published reports it was revealed that both of those Dioceses used various tactics to enable them to claim that they had sound medical advice to the effect that it was safe to re-appoint a priest with a record of child sexual abuse. In one case where a priest admitted to the sexual abuse of a child he claimed to have a problem with alcohol. The Diocese sent the priest for treatment for his alcoholism (declining to advise the treatment centre of the priest’s sexual abuse of a child) and then sent him back out to his work as a priest. Yes the priest had “received treatment” but he was not safe to be put back in a position where he had access to children just because he had done a stint at an alcohol treatment centre. On another occasion a priest was sent for treatment after confirming that one allegation of sexual abuse against him was true. During his time in treatment many other allegations of child sexual abuse were made against him but these were never passed on to the people treating him and so they did not have a clear picture of the nature and extent of abuse committed by the priest they were treating. Those reports also revealed that all too often priests who had admitted sexually abusing children were sent to treatment centres controlled by the Catholic Church. This practice was strongly criticised by the Inquiry because it gave the Diocesan leaders inappropriate influence in the production of medical reports. In went on to give the example of one Bishop who instructed staff in a treatment centre not to use the word paedophile in any report about an offending priest. That Bishop then spent several years claiming on the public record that he had never returned a known paedophile priest to ministry even though he had indeed returned to ministry many priests with a record of sexually abusing children.
And so it is in the Archdiocese of Dublin that all documentation relating to how allegations of child sexual abuse by priests were handled should be handed over to the Commission of Investigation in order for it to properly ascertain if those allegations were handled properly and if not why not – and Cardinal Connell should be ashamed of himself for attempting to block that process.