Church board rejects Archbishop concerns

THE Catholic Church’sNational Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC) has said it has “no evidence” to suggest that child protection guidelines are not being adhered to in all dioceses across the country.

NBSC chief executive Ian Elliot was responding to the controversial speech made by Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin to the Knights of Columbanus on Monday night where he spoke of “strong forces” within the Church who didn’t want the full truth about clerical abuse to emerge. In the speech, Archbishop Martin also expressed fears that child protection was still not being given by the attention it deserved by all the dioceses, stating “there are worrying signs that despite solid [child protection] regulations and norms, these are not being followed with the rigour required”.

Last night, Mr Elliot said he has “no knowledge of any complaints in relation to non-compliance with child protection guidelines”.

“There is a constant need to confirm the Safeguarding Children document is being complied with. If anybody has any information to suggest otherwise, I would like to look into that. I do not know what issues Archbishop Martin was referring to. I have no evidence of any non-compliance,” he said.

The NBSC will publish its annual report next Monday. By the end of the year, the first tranche of its all-Ireland audit into child protection practices in the Church’s 26 dioceses and 186 religious and missionary orders will also be published. The entire audit isn’t likely to be completed until 2012, however it will be published in a series of instalments.

Victims’ support group One in Four warmly welcomed the Archbishop’s speech. Describing him as “a man of courage”, the group’s executive director, Maeve Lewis, said survivors of abuse have been “deeply hurt” by the response by sections of the Church, including the Pope, to the Murphy and Ryan reports. Ms Lewis said they had “sought to minimise and deny” the cover-up by Church authorities.

“The safety of children will only be assured when Church authorities fully understand the enormity of past failures and implement protocols in a manner that prioritises children. This process would be strengthened were the state to fulfil its responsibility to place the Children First Guidelines on a statutory basis covering all organisations in the country, ” she said.

Abuse victim Marie Collins said that the Archbishop “pulled no punches” in his speech to the Knights of Columbanus at their Dublin headquarters. “I think that Diarmuid Martin must be struggling a great deal. He must be very frustrated by the way his fellow bishops and priests are taking responsibility for what happened. But, he is only one man and he can’t change things on his own. The silence from the other bishops is deafening,” she said.

“In many ways I feel the same as the Archbishop. His speech was also about how the future of the Church is about getting back to basics in the Church: about the Church being about the teachings of Christ and not about the hierarchy. I agree totally”.

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