Resignation in Cloyne - Hesitancy of Bishop Crean raises alarm

THE last thing the Catholic diocese of Cloyne in East Cork needs is another scandal.

The resignation on Friday of its child protection officer is hardly that, yet it is bound to create unease among the congregation and, in particular, victims of abuse by clerics in the diocese.

It is six years since Cloyne’s former bishop, John Magee, resigned over his cover-ups of child abuse involving two priests. One of them is Dan Duane who was defrocked after sexually abusing minors but continues to defy Church authorities by celebrating Mass in his home.

Bill Meagher, a former HSE social worker, was the first lay person in Cloyne to assume the child protection role and since 2011 has served the diocese and the survivors of abuse with distinction. The diocese can ill afford to lose him.

His decision to resign followed his disagreement with the bishop over Dr Crean’s failure to take action to halt Duane from continuing to operate as a Catholic priest.

The process to defrock him was a tortuous one that took two years, beginning with the decision in 2013 by the canonical court in Ireland to dismiss him from the priesthood and ending last January with his appeal to the Vatican’s supreme court, the Apostolic Signatura, being dismissed.

Duane remains defiant and clearly has neither respect for his bishop, his former fellow priests or the Pope, let alone those children he abused.

While he has never been convicted of any criminal offence, the diocese has already settled a number of cases in favour of his victims.

Bill Meagher met the former priest last June as part of his duties and discovered that he was still celebrating Mass at his home which he rents from the diocese.

Duane said he was acting on the advice of a canon lawyer who, unknown to Bishop Crean, had further appealed his dismissal from the priesthood to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome.

When this was brought to the bishop’s attention, Bishop Crean believed the second appeal had no chance of success but felt he could take no action until the matter was clarified by the CDF, a stance that prompted Meagher’s resignation.

The matter of how to discipline a defrocked priest is one entirely for the bishop but surely a threat of eviction from his diocesan house might have made Duane see sense?

Bill Meagher was clearly frustrated by Bishop Crean’s reluctance to take any immediate and effective measure. In this context, it is worth noting that obfuscation by Dr Magee in the matter of child abuse was one of the reasons it continued for so long, so any hesitancy by Bishop Crean in dealing with an abuser is bound to raise alarm.

Given the history of clerical abuse in the diocese, it is a pity that the bishop and Bill Meagher could not have put their differences aside for the sake of the children of the diocese whose parents are surely unnerved by this development.

Their welfare, after all, is more important than the shenanigans of an errant former priest.

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