Parents sceptical of Church child guidelines

PARENTS have described the Catholic Church’s guidelines as more of a judgment measure than a protection measure for children.

In its submission to the hierarchy’s consultation process on the protection guidelines, the National Parents Council-Primary (NPC-P) strongly urged that the State reporting system should apply to everybody, regardless of the walk of life they were from.

NPC-P chief executive Fionnuala Kilfeather said: “It’s disappointing this doesn’t appear to be central to the Church’s guidelines and that they have set up their own judgment mechanism. They’re going to make a judgment that something didn’t happen if it suits them, in contrast with the mechanism for reporting abuse in schools.”

Under child protection guidelines in place in schools and recently updated, any reported allegations of abuse of children must be immediately notified to health authorities and the gardaí. The guidelines published by the Church this week, however, provide for reporting firstly to a child protection officer who must then establish if there are reasonable grounds before reporting complaints to the State authorities.

“What operates in schools is a reporting mechanism and not a judgment mechanism,” Ms Kilfeather said.

“We will be discussing this matter further and giving a considered response early next year.”

Reporting guidelines have been in place for school staff since the early 1990s, and were updated for primary schools in 2001 and last year for second level.

A spokesperson for Education Minister Mary Hanafin said she would not comment on the Church guidelines but that the Government’s views had been expressed by Children’s Minister Brian Lenihan.

Mr Lenihan has welcomed the measures, as has the Irish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC).

Parents and education professionals will be among those represented on the Catholic Church’s National Board for Child Protection which is to be set up in line with the measures announced on Monday.

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