Page last updated at 16:44 GMT, Thursday, 18 March 2010

All abuse claims reported to authorities: archbishop

Priestly collar
The comments of the clergyman have been criticised

A Catholic archbishop has said that all allegations of abuse are reported fully and without delay to state authorities.

Archbishop Dermot Clifford was speaking after a priest in his archdiocese said he would not tell police if an allegation was made in confidence.

Monsignor Maurice Dooley said the relationship between priest and the person coming to them was depended on "this acceptance of confidentiality".

The archbishop said the priest was expressing his "own personal views".

Monsignor Dooley's has given several interviews to broadcasters recently in defence of the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady.

The cardinal has been facing calls for his resignation over revelations he failed to alert police about one of Ireland's most notorious paedophile priests in 1975.

Archbishop Clifford, who represents the archdiocese of Cashel and Emly, said: "Such views (Monsignor Dooley's) do not represent the policy or the practice of the Catholic Church in Ireland today concerning the reporting of allegations of abuse to the civil authorities, north and south.

"The policy and practice of this diocese, and every diocese, is to report all allegations to the statutory authorities.

"As a consequence, I have spoken to Monsignor Dooley today and he assures me that he will not be speaking again in this controversy."


Earlier, Ian Elliott, chief executive of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland, said he was shocked by the priest's comments.

"What he is stating is very damaging because it creates doubt in people's minds that there is some confusion on this issue I'm shocked there is even one priest that would hold these views," he said.

Mr Elliott said that the monsignor was not reflecting church policy and that he would be in contact with him about his comments.

"I'm horrified by that, obviously it's just nonsense," he said.

"I'm shocked that someone, a mature adult, regardless of whether he's in the church or not would hold that view because you have a responsibility as a citizen, essentially, to convey concerns when they come to you.

"When information comes to their attention that places a child at risk they will convey that to the state child protection services if that is not happen in then children will be left at risk."


Monsignor Dooley's comments came as he spoke in defence of Cardinal Sean Brady.

Dr Brady has defended his role in a meeting where two children abused by Father Brendan Smyth were asked to take a vow of silence as part of an internal church investigation.

Senior clergymen removed Smyth from some priestly duties and recommended psychiatric treatment, but critics have said the failure to notify police at the time allowed Smyth to carry out a further 18-year reign of terror against children before he was finally arrested.

Monsignor Dooley, who said he studied canon law with Dr Brady, defended the cardinal's silence in 1975, and added that he would not necessarily refer sex crimes against children to police today if passed information confidentially.

Asked what he would do if a paedophile priest confided his crimes to him today, the Monsignor said: "I would not tell anyone.

"That is his responsibility. I am considering only my responsibility. My responsibility is to maintain the confidentiality of information which I had been given under the contract of confidentiality.

"There must be somebody else aware of what he is up to, and he could be stopped.

"It is not my function."

He added: "I would tell (him) to stop abusing children. But I am not going to go to the police or social services in order to betray the trust he has put in me."

However, he said that he had reported a paedophile to police on one occasion in the past and that if he had acquired information separately from a confidential process he would "think seriously" about contacting police.

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