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Monday, 8 April, 2002, 19:54 GMT 20:54 UK
Audit after sex abuse claims
Cardinal Desmond Connell
Victims have called on Cardinal Connell to resign
The Archbishop of Armagh has said an independent audit will be held into the controversy surrounding alleged clerical child sexual abuse.

Dr Sean Brady made the announcement on Monday after an emergency meeting of Ireland's Catholic bishops to discuss their response to the scandal.

The church's 30 bishops in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland discussed their contribution to the Irish Government's inquiry into alleged abuse by priests, which is to be led by Irish lawyer George Birmingham.

Afterwards, Archbishop Brady said all information which was relevant and necessary to discover the truth would be made available to the auditors.

The terms and reference of the audit are still being drawn up.

The bishops' meeting in Maynooth followed a protest at the weekend when more than 150 demonstrators protested in Dublin over the issue.

Resignation call

The protesters called for the resignation of Dublin Archbishop Cardinal Desmond Connell, who was celebrating a Mass to mark the birth of the founder of the Christian Brothers religious order in Ireland.

Many of the protesters said they had been abused by the Christian Brothers.

Bishop Brendan Comiskey
Bishop Brendan Comiskey admitted he had not protected children

Victims spokesman John Kelly called for an independent inquiry into abuse by members of the clergy.

He also said all victims of such abuse should be compensated.

The latest controversy over sex abuse and the Catholic Church has followed allegations that a priest, Father Sean Fortune, who committed suicide three years ago, sexually abused children.

On Saturday, the Pope accepted the resignation of Dr Brendan Comiskey, the Bishop of Ferns in County Wexford.

Dr Comiskey resigned after criticism of how he handled the case of Father Fortune following a BBC television documentary last month.

The alleged victims of abuse by priests have now turned their attention on Cardinal Connell.

'Unthinkable harm'

As he went into the Christian Brothers' bicentenary celebration at the Royal Dublin Society headquarters on Sunday, Cardinal Connell refused to comment to the media on the protest.

But in his homily at the service, he acknowledged that many Christian Brothers had "betrayed a trust" and that "unthinkable harm" had been caused.

He said the church would "respond with justice and truth".

He added: "We cannot fail to acknowledge that the history of Brother Rice's followers has been disfigured and his inheritance dishonoured by the terrible failures of some brothers."

Criticism

At the weekend, other Catholic bishops admitted at Masses that more could have been done for the abused.

The Christian Brothers have had a strong link with Irish education for more than 60 years and ran many schools in the Irish Republic and some in Northern Ireland.

Pressure for the authorities to investigate the claims has increased since Dr Comiskey's resignation.

Dr Comiskey admitted he had not done enough to protect children in his County Wexford diocese.

The Ferns case has triggered fresh claims of clerical sex abuse incidents and a flood of anger in overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Ireland, where the Church's image has been severely damaged by a string of scandals in the last decade.

Pressure on the Roman Catholic Church has also increased elsewhere in recent months, with a number of abuse allegations in the United States culminating in legal action against some of the most senior figures in the Church's hierarchy.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's Shane Harrison reports:
"It has been a bad week for the Catholic church in Ireland"
See also:

19 Mar 02 | Correspondent
21 Mar 02 | Europe
04 Apr 02 | Americas
04 Apr 02 | Americas
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