Posts Tagged catholic church in ireland

Is Catholic Church in Ireland Backpedaling on Child Protection

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

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Ireland’s Child Protection Board Chair Will Present His Views on Clergy Sexual Abuse Scandal at Boston Conference Sept. 15

John Morgan

John Morgan, chairman, NBSCCC in Ireland, will speak at Voice of the Faithful’s 10th Year Conference.

The chairman of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland will present his views on the similarities and differences between child protection efforts in Ireland and the United States and on reform within the Roman Catholic Church to help prevent clergy sexual abuse during the Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful® 10th Year Conference, which takes place in Boston, Sept. 14-15, at the Marriott Copley Place Hotel.

John Morgan, NBSCCC chairman, will speak at the conference on Saturday, Sept. 15, at about 8:45 a.m. Click here for VOTF 10th Year Conference agenda.

Morgan will open his remarks with a call for solidarity between Ireland and the U.S. on the clergy sexual abuse issue. “Among our common interests are the challenges of protecting children and young people from abuse in our communities and the need to heal our Church through developing a culture of accountability,” he will tell the gathering of reform-minded Catholics, many of whom have been with VOTF throughout its first decade.

While comparing and contrasting child protection procedures between the two countries, Morgan will explain the effects of the four public inquiries into clergy sexual abuse instituted by civil authorities in Ireland. “The scandalous revelations of the four civil authority commissioned audits …,” he will say, “so destroyed the credibility of the institutional dimension of the Church that nothing less than a full examination of all files under the control of the bishop or congregational leader dealing in any way with child abuse was warranted. The precedent had been set in the governmental enquiries. Nothing less would suffice for survivors of abuse, for priests and lay faithful.”

He will caution conference attendees to be on guard constantly “against the issue of complacency—or what you describe in the U.S. as ‘charter drift.’ We need to make sure this doesn’t happen through vigilance.”

Morgan will call for spiritual renewal to reform the Church. “The Church can survive persecutions from external forces, but the greatest threat is from within—the sins and failings of its members,” he will say. “And the catastrophe of the clerical abuse crisis, of course, has come from within. Profoundly evil at root, it clearly manifests the abuse of privilege and power in all its varied forms, including spiritual abuse. For me, the most apt description of what we have been dealing with is False Witness.”

He will declare that, in spite of the considerable amount that has been accomplished by charters and review boards, this is not enough to avert the crisis. “To counteract this False Witness in which the institutional Church has been engaged and to ensure it never recurs,” he will claim, “our whole way of living the Christian life must be configured to live lives of true witness. We do this by responding to the call to revitalize and purify our faith, letting ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit, thereby giving impetus to his pastoral action.”

Similarly, VOTF’s mission remains “to provide a prayerful voice, attentive to the Spirit, through which the faithful can actively participate in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church.”

Morgan was appointed a director of NBSCCC in Ireland on its establishment in 2007 and chairman in 2009. He served as chairperson of the Bishops’ Committee on Child Protection from 2002 to 2006. Prior to that he had been a member of the committees established by the bishops dealing with child protection since the first formal Bishops’ Committee on Child Abuse, to which he was appointed in 1999. As a corporate lawyer, he served as group counsel and group corporate secretary for the worldwide Waterford Wedgwood Group from 1985 to 1999. His main pro bono work has been as board chair, since 2002, of Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, a major Catholic voluntary acute hospital in Dublin under the patronage. In 2009, he was appointed vice-chairman of The Dublin Academic Medical Centre. He was awarded a bachelor of divinity in theology degree from the Pontifical Faculty of Theology of the Milltown Institute, Dublin, in 2005.

Morgan will join other speakers at VOTF’s 10th Year Conference who are well versed not only in the Church’s clergy sexual abuse scandal and its effects, but also in the clericalism exhibited by the Church’s hierarchy, in the theological and doctrinal underpinnings of Church teaching, in the effects the reform movement has had on Catholics and the Church and in what the future may hold for these issues. Speakers include:

  • Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, who served for two years as chair of the National Review Board of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops;
  • Rev. Donald Cozzens, author, international commentator and lecturer on religious and cultural issues, especially on the Church’s sexual and financial crises, and writer in residence, John Carroll University;
  • Prof. Thomas Groome, theologian, author and Department of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry chairman, Boston College;
  • Rev. James Connell, Canon lawyer, pastor in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and advocate for clergy sexual abuse survivors;
  • Jamie Manson, lay minister and award-winning columnist for National Catholic Reporter; and
  • David Clohessy, executive director, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Conference information is available at

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Will Ireland’s Catholic faithful finally say no longer in one united voice?

By Mark Mullaney, Voice of the Faithful President

Is it just me, or is there is a growing feeling out there that we are about to witness history in the making? Could the power of God’s people finally overcome the defiance of the conservative Church hierarchy?

For those of you who are following what has been happening in Ireland, I believe you would agree that major changes are coming. More than 1,000 lay people turned out for the Irish Association of Catholic Priests conference, Towards an Assembly of the Irish Church, on May 7 in Dublin. This was an historic show of support for these priests who believe that if the Catholic church is to remain relevant, it must change. The ACP now counts about 850 priests as members, about 20% or Ireland’s Catholic priests.

Like the sisters’ Leadership Conference of Women Religious group in the United States, the Irish priest association is “being reviewed” by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Specifically under review is the ACP’s founder, Father Tony Flannery, and newsletter, Reality. The Vatican ordered Father Flannery to “stop writing articles” in the newsletter which questioned Church teachings.

At the heart of these actions is the Vatican’s intolerance for the open discussion of Church beliefs and practices. The ACP believes that “modern people” feel it is their right to question and discuss issues. And if the church continues to suppress these rights, it will soon become “obsolete.”

The Irish faithful are not alone in taking a stand. In Austria last month during a First-Communion mass, an entire congregation, told by their priest that they should not participate in the Eucharist unless they were in a ‘state of grace,’ sat in the pews rather than receive the Eucharist that day. In solidarity, they chose the example of Jesus — to welcome all — rather than the restrictive and narrow vision of their priest as to whom might be worthy of sharing in the Eucharistic meal.

We at VOTF find these inspiring stories to be a hopeful sign that Catholics everywhere are finally saying “No longer!” to the Vatican’s insistence that we obey without question, without the God-given right to discuss our beliefs.

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In Ireland — A Call for an Open Church

Long active in Voice of the Faithful® in Ireland, Sean O’Conaill has this tag line at the bottom of his e-mails, “Now this Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom,” from 2 Cor. 3:17. This Scripture must have been on Sean’s mind as he attended “Towards an Assembly of the Irish Catholic Church” with about 1,000 other Catholics at Dublin’s Regency Hotel on Monday. The Irish Association of Catholic Priests sponsored the event, and Sean called it an “epochal watershed in Ireland,” where speakers rallied attendees around a more accessible Church open to dialogue. Here’s how Sean described the event —

‘Towards an Assembly of the Irish Catholic Church’ was a watershed event in Irish Catholicism, especially because of the turnout. Brendan Hoban (well known Irish author, columnist and broadcaster) confirmed the figure of over 1000 at the end.

I watched one woman who must have been in her eighties, bent almost double, marching along the hotel corridor towards the conference centre. Her determination, against all the odds, embodied the spirit of the event.

What stays with me is the togetherness of people in anger at the silencing of any questioning of the church’s abysmal disciplinary status quo – as a supposedly credible response to the issue of Irish clerical child abuse. The fraudulence and opportunism of that stance, as well as its stupidity, is clearly infuriating many.

The opening ‘naming the reality’ session was a most poignant memorial to the Irish Catholic diaspora, those hurt and alienated by the arctic coldness and aridity of Roman authoritarianism.

But that mood was soon replaced by the inspirational impact of the ‘Vision’ session just before lunch: communion; dialogue; participation; Catholic social teaching; subsidiarity – and the exorcising of fear from the church. All these key buttons were expertly pressed. It was really heart-stopping to hear one vibrant young woman (Aoife McGrath) confidently owning the very best of Vatican II. Tony Butler’s detailing of the paltry wages of fear engendered by what is calling itself the magisterium was also especially telling. The efforts of a tiny minority of regimented authoritarian clones to revive that fear were blown away like mist.

The final session – moving from vision to reality – emphasised the pointlessness of waiting for that ‘authority’ to initiate reform, and the need to be active and courageous in our own space.

The idea of provincial conferences along the same lines was floated, and there is to be a meeting of reps of all reform-minded groups (including VOTFI, of course) in All Hallows on Wed May 30th to discuss the formation of an umbrella organisation.

The utter foolishness of the hierarchy, still ongoing, turned the event into a triumph for all who organised it. Ireland’s heroic fourteen-year-old in 1975, Brendan Boland (clergy sexual abuse survivor), is making all the cummerbunded ones look entirely contemptible. His statement that he cannot be healed while Cardinal Sean Brady remains primate seals the latter’s fate, whatever Rome might say.

So Cardinal Brady looks daily more like a squatter in Ara Coeli, the primate’s residence in Armagh. On Tuesday 8th May Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness turned the focus of odium and derision on the ‘authority’ that will not let him leave – the Vatican. Even if it changed its stance now, that ‘authority’ has no chance now of taking back the shot that has blown both of its feet off in Ireland

Two embodiments of church are clearly separating here – one hierarchical, authoritarian and bereft of dignity and honour, the other livid with just anger and bent on restoring some semblance of Catholic respectability. I could not have foreseen this prior to May 1st.

We spoke briefly to Tony Flannery OP (Irish priest silenced by the Vatican) afterwards , and we promised in a really heartfelt way to pray for one another. We came home entirely satisfied that Ireland has again changed utterly.

Apple blossom caught our attention at one point. The fruit that grows from that will be eaten by a completely changed Irish Catholic people. This spring is unusually chilly, but the sun has never shone more brightly on our many shades of green.

For other details on Towards an Assembly of the Irish Catholic Church, see “Ireland assembly of religious and laypeople calls for open church, re-evaluation” in National Catholic Reporter. NCR reports, in part, that “Fr. Gerry O’Hanlon, a former Jesuit provincial, said during the event that the clerical child sexual abuse crisis and its serious mishandling by church leaders has revealed wider and deeper fault lines in the national and universal church. He described the event as a ‘wonderful sign of hope’ for the future of the church in Ireland. He said the event was ‘trying to get a group together who really feel strongly about the crisis in the church and want to offer constructive hope and help. It’s about looking to a new church where the voice of the faithful, the voice of the laity, is heard more clearly as the Second Vatican Council wanted to happen.'”

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Irish Priest Says It’s Time to Free the Church from “the Clammy Grip of Clericalism”

Last week the Vatican began an investigation of Fr. Tony Flannery, who has expressed rather liberal views as the founder of the now 800-strong Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland. In an opinion piece in the Irish Times today, Time to Free Church from Clammy Grip of Clericalism, Fr. Kevin Hagarty reflects on Fr. Flannery’s situation and muses on the place of liberal thought in the Catholic Church. Building up to his “clammy grip” comment on clericalism, Fr. Hagarty says, “Perhaps it is not surprising that the Vatican has moved to censure Fr Flannery. The Second Vatican Council promised an open and dialogical church, willing to engage with the secular world. Since the 1980s there has been in Rome a retreat from its reforms.”

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Religious Order in Ireland Is First to Request Abuse Audit

Voice of the Faithful® lauds move toward “complete disclosure…as to the reality of the sexual abuse of children and minors by clergy, religious or church workers”

The Holy Ghost Fathers (Spiritans), C.S.Sp., in Ireland has become the first Roman Catholic Church religious order to request an independent public audit of clergy sexual abuse of children within the congregation. In an announcement on the congregation’s website March 30, the Spiritans said that, “until a complete picture is known of past and present abuse within the church, there can be no possibility of authentic accountability or renewal for the future.”

Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful® applauds this effort.

“Voice of the Faithful® has been working for 10 years to bring about the attitude toward transparency and accountability within the Church shown by the Irish Spiritans’ request for an abuse audit,” said Mark Mullaney, VOTF president. “Just as Spiritan priests, brothers and lay associates have dedicated themselves to the Holy Spirit, so also VOTF members seek to heal their Church by providing it with prayerful voices attentive to the Sprit’s will. It’s our mission and our constant desire.”

The Spiritans’ website announcement also read in part: “The Spiritans Congregation in Ireland has requested to be audited. The present Provincial Leadership Team, supported by the recent Provincial Chapter, believes that only a public audit of the reality of abuse committed by Spiritans can free the Congregation to carry out its mission of service among God’s people here in Ireland and overseas.”

The Spiritans also said the NBSCCC (National Board of Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland), whose “competency and independence” has been recognized by the Irish government, will conduct the Spiritans audit this May, and the report will be issued along with reports of audits on other dioceses and congregations.

John Morgan, NBSCCC chairman, will be a keynote speaker at Voice of the Faithful’s 10th Year Conference in Boston, Mass., Sept. 14-15, 2012.

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