Another report, another dose of grim news from across the pond:
The Catholic Church in Ireland was still covering up sexual abuse of children by priests as recently as 2009, long after it issued guidelines meant to protect children, and the Vatican tacitly encouraged the cover-up by ignoring the guidelines, according to a scathing report issued on Wednesday by the Irish government.
Alan Shatter, the Irish justice minister, called the findings “truly scandalous” and said the church’s earlier promises to report all abuse cases since 1995 were “built on sand.”
The developments surrounding the Irish church were in contrast to those in Germany, where the country’s Catholic bishops took new steps on Wednesday to bring previously unreported abuse cases to light. The German bishops said they would allow outside investigators to look for abuses cases in diocesan personnel records dating back at least 10 years, in some cases all the way to 1945, though there were also indications that some crucial records may have already been destroyed.
Germany and Ireland are especially significant in the church abuse scandal because in both the scandal has touched the highest echelons of the church. The new developments illustrate their divergent approaches, and reveal tensions between civil and ecclesiastical justice in a scandal that has shaken the church’s moral authority worldwide.
The Irish report found that the clergy in the diocese of Cloyne, a rural area of County Cork, did not act on complaints against 19 priests from 1996 to 2009. The report also found that two separate allegations against one priest were reported to police, but there was no evidence of any police investigation.
The bishop of Cloyne, John Magee, who had previously served as private secretary to three popes, resigned last year. Bishop Magee has offered a “sincere apology” to all those who were abused by priests in the diocese, and has said he now realizes he should have taken a much firmer role in ensuring that church procedures on reporting abuse were followed. But he has not accepted direct responsibility for covering up the abuse.
The report is the Irish government’s fourth in recent years on aspects of the scandal. Its findings echo a previous investigation into the Dublin archdiocese, which found evidence of abuse and a widespread cover-up there.