How can we believe, without corroboration, anything that members of the Irish Catholic Hierarchy say in cases where it is in their interest to mislead us? That is surely the central question that arises from the Cloyne Report into the handling of allegations of sexual abuse of children by priests in the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne in Ireland, especially when seen alongside the previous revelation that Archbishop Desmond Connell of Dublin was happy to deliberately mislead people by a process that he described as ‘mental reservation’.
Putting aside the content of the sexual abuse allegations, which are of course shockingly serious, the Cloyne Report reveals that various permutations of the Cloyne Diocese, Bishop John Magee and Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan “positively lied” [21.79], “positively misled” [21.79], “deliberately misled” [21.91], deliberately created two different accounts of the same meeting, a true one for the Vatican and a false one for the local diocesan files [1.48], gave false assurances to the Government Minister for Children and the Health Service Executive [1.77], “tried to bury the matter” of the requirement to report “evidence of a vicious sexual assault” [16.19], advised that statements to the gardai should be “minimal” [9.84-85], failed to give its own advisory committees full information [1.36], “put out an erroneous view” about a report [1.40], produced crucial documents that were wrongly dated [12.29], held three different versions of one meeting in diocesan files [21.27], and misled people in at least 35 ways which I detail below.
The lying, deliberately misleading and unethical behaviour exposed in the Cloyne report must be seen alongside the previous revelation that Archbishop Desmond Connell of Dublin was happy to knowingly mislead people by a process that he described as ‘mental reservation’. As Connell explained in 2009, “There may be circumstances in which you can use an ambiguous expression realising that the person who you are talking to will accept an untrue version of whatever it may be.” Indeed, the Cloyne Report [21.20] refers to two accounts of the same meeting having different end times, and suggests that “It may be that that time difference was also of some assistance in performing the mental gymnastics of mental reservation in the manner of recording the details of the meeting.”
The Irish Catholic Hierarchy of course tells the truth about many things (which is a pretty low hurdle for ethical behaviour), but it is unsafe to assume that telling the truth is their default position, without further corroboration, in cases where it is in their interests to mislead us. Even if they insist that they are not lying or misleading us, they might be lying or misleading us when they say that. Or they might be practicing ‘mental reservation’. Based on their record whenever they have been independently investigated about dealing with child sexual abuse, that is the most prudent default position to take.
Below are 35 relevant extracts from the Cloyne Report that support the need to be cautious about believing what members of the Irish Catholic Hierarchy say. For context, Bishop Magee was in charge of the Cloyne diocese. He resigned last year, and he went into hiding when the Cloyne Report was published. He is also the only man to have been private secretary to three different Popes at the Vatican. Magee had placed Monsignor O’Callaghan in charge of investigating sex abuse allegations in Cloyne. Ian Elliott is the Chief Executive of the Irish Catholic Church’s Child Protection Board.
1.36 Monsignor O’Callaghan insisted to the Commission that the [inter-diocesan advisory] committee was told about all complaints. However, the evidence suggests otherwise… One of the most serious failures was the failure to tell the committee of the admissions of abuse made by Fr Caden to the bishop.
1.39 Monsignor O’Callaghan has said that he did not see the full McCoy report until 2009 and had seen only a summary in 2004. The evidence available to the Commission is that he almost certainly was given a copy of the full report in 2004… It is equally strange that he could use this report, which he says he had not read, as the basis for defending the diocese’s practices when they came under scrutiny in 2008.
1.40 Bishop Magee and Monsignor O’Callaghan then put out the erroneous view that their procedures had been fully endorsed by a report with which neither of them was familiar or which they chose to ignore.
1.48 One account of the meeting was created for the diocesan files and the inter-diocesan case management advisory committee while the other was created for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. While Bishop Magee contends that he did not intend to mislead, the fact is that he did mislead the advisory committee and subsequently Mr Ian Elliott.
1.74 The principal feature of this report can be simply expressed. The Diocese of Cloyne ostensibly accepted the Framework Document and promised to implement it. It did not do so.
1.77 [Bishop Magee] told the Minister for Children that the Framework Document guidelines were fully in place and were being fully complied with. This was false. The same must be said of his assurances to the HSE given in 2007.
4.37 The erroneous view that Dr McCoy had approved the manner in which the guidelines were being implemented within the diocese was allowed to circulate… For example, in his response to the draft Elliott report in May 2008, [Monsignor O’Callaghan] quoted from Dr McCoy’s “Acknowledgements” section in which the co-operation of the diocese in facilitating the review is praised but he does not mention the actual findings.
4.88 It is clear to the Commission that the Diocese of Cloyne, while ostensibly supportive of the procedures outlined in the Framework Document, was never genuinely committed to their implementation.
9.75 the fact remains that the minutes of the meeting show that the committee was misinformed about [name deleted]’s situation and Monsignor O’Callaghan did not correct this.
9.84-85 Meanwhile, the Garda investigation in relation to [name deleted], who had made a complaint to them in January 2005, was continuing… The advice, as transmitted by Monsignor O’Callaghan to the people concerned, was that “each should make himself available for interview and on request sign a statement which should be minimal”. Monsignor O’Callaghan added a handwritten note “Minimal is the key in any statement”. (Emphasis in original.)
10.26 Monsignor O’Callaghan told the Commission that Fr Corin ceased to operate as a priest in his parish following his meetings with Bishop Magee and Monsignor O’Callaghan in early March 1996… However, the local sergeant told the Commission that Fr Corin was still operating as a priest in the parish until after July 1996… The sergeant said that Fr Corin left the parish some time later and the people were told that he was suffering from a serious illness.
12.29 This was apparently signed by Bishop Magee and dated 21 August 1997. In evidence to the Commission, Monsignor O’Callaghan said that the date on that document was wrong as Bishop Magee was on holidays for the month of August… This is yet another example of a crucial document which may be wrongly dated and accordingly doubts must arise as to when the decision to have a preliminary investigation was made.
12.39 However, the GP said that Monsignor O’Callaghan then tried to get him to reverse his approach and that of the school to Fr Calder and that he became hostile when the GP refused to do so… The GP said that, in order for him to change his approach, Monsignor O’Callaghan would need to sign a letter guaranteeing that there was no foundation for any of the complaints and that there was no risk to children. The GP said that Monsignor O’Callaghan “was affronted” at this suggestion and left in a “hostile fashion”.
12.80 The Commission views the setting in train of a canonical investigation as a serious matter. To learn at this stage that the document ordering the investigation was probably misdated raises doubts in the minds of the Commission as to its authenticity.
12.81 The Commission is also very concerned that, in 2009, Fr James burned notes which may have contained relevant information at a time when their relevance to this Commission was known to him.
14.2 In a letter to Bishop Magee in 2004, Monsignor O’Callaghan said that he had been a paternal figure to Fr Flan and had got him “out of serious trouble on the sexual score on four or five occasions”. The Commission is aware of one complaint of child sexual abuse against Fr Flan.
14.7-8 Monsignor O’Callaghan laid down conditions regarding Fr Flan’s future conduct and subsequently put these in a letter to him… The letter went on to say that: “These conditions are for your own protection in the current sensitive situation”.
14.10 Monsignor O’Callaghan wrote to Fr Flan stating that Trista came to him to assure him that “there is no foundation to the story that you were in any way involved with her inappropriately. I know that this is a relief to you as it is to me”. The Commission finds it difficult to understand how Monsignor O’Callaghan could be relieved when Fr Flan had actually admitted that he had had a relationship with Trista.
14.15 It is unacceptable, in the Commission’s view, that Monsignor O’Callaghan allowed Trista to come to him in the presence of a priest to whom she had confided and who had advised her to say nothing and then accept her denial that anything had taken place when he knew that not to be the situation.
15.28 The garda sergeant met Bishop Magee in the presence of Monsignor O’Callaghan and a solicitor from the office of the diocesan solicitor. According to the garda report: “The Bishop assured me in advance of total cooperation. It was not to be the case”.
15.43 The HSE Report on allegations of child sexual abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne… notes that the DPP had chosen not to prosecute Fr Drust. This is what Monsignor O’Callaghan had told the HSE and is, of course, not correct.
16.19 This case typifies Monsignor O’Callaghan’s attitude to the reporting of child sexual abuse. He did not follow the Church guidelines which are quite clear on the duty to report to the Gardaí and the health authorities. Though he had evidence of a vicious sexual assault, he decided, in view of the fact that Maille, as was common, merely wanted an apology and did not want to take the matter further, to try and bury the matter.
20.19 The archdiocese [of Brisbane in Australia] told the Commission that there was “no evidence that the Archdiocese knew of any such issues surrounding Fr [Rion] when he returned to Ireland in 1971 or prior to his death”. However, prior to the complaint in the Diocese of Cloyne, it had received two complaints against Fr Rion.
20.35 The bishop said the money did not come from diocesan funds. “He paid some of it from funds that he had in the parish in Mallow…” While the money did not initially come from diocesan funds, the diocese did subsequently refund the amount involved to the Mallow parish.
21.18 When asked by the Commission to explain the two very different accounts and different dates of what was clearly the same meeting, Bishop Magee explained that the note dated 15 September 2005 was created for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith while the note dated 22 September was created for the diocesan records and the inter-diocesan case management advisory committee.
21.27 Monsignor O’Callaghan also met Fr Caden on 22 September 2005 after the bishop had met him. There are three different versions of this meeting in the diocesan files.
21.37 Bishop Magee told the Commission that the reason that the alleged abuser’s name was not given to the Gardaí was in case Patrick decided not to proceed to make a statement of complaint. He said that Monsignor O’Callaghan told him that the name was not included because the Gardaí had told him that they did not want the name of a person kept on file if the complainant did not come forward. There is no evidence that this was ever suggested by the Gardaí… The Gardaí told the Commission that the omission of the name of an alleged abuser is not and never has been the policy, practice or procedure adopted or recommended by them.
21.46 On 23 June 2006 Monsignor O’Callaghan wrote to Fr Caden: “I recall that we discussed those vocational day dates. I have checked files in Cobh and enclosed what is relevant – in case of later ambush. I still hope that we may have a good resolution. [Patrick] is getting good advice.”
21.73 Mr Elliott met Bishop Magee on 20 February 2008 in order to find out about the Fr Caden case. Mr Elliott’s minute of the meeting recorded: “I asked the question as to whether the accused had admitted to the offences when questioned by the Bishop or to the Dean or Monsignor. Bishop Magee said that he had not admitted the offences to him and he was unclear as to what had been said to the others”. Bishop Magee told the Commission that, in his meeting with Mr Elliott, he was torn between what he considered his duty of confidentiality to Fr Caden and to Rome and the question Mr Elliott had put to him. He said he felt obliged to preserve the confidence.
21.77 Bishop Magee, in evidence to the Commission in July 2009, said that he had only recently discovered that Mr Elliott did not receive copies of the documents that had been sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Commission cannot accept that this is so.
21.78 A document purporting to be a time line of events within the diocese in relation to this case was prepared in response to Mr Elliott’s inquiries… The document does not provide an accurate account of what happened. For example, it records that, in September 2005, Patrick was unable to provide any details “as regards the offences and as a consequence, Bishop Magee was …unable to speak to the alleged perpetrator in order to remove him from ministry at that time”. However, the bishop’s own note of his meeting with the complainant on 7 September 2005 refers to the abuse involving “oral sex, penetration and masturbation”.
21.79 In relation to this case, one of the responses was patently false. It said that Fr Caden “never at any time admitted to the alleged abuse to the Bishop or any other diocesan personnel”. So, not only did the diocese not provide Mr Elliott with full documentation, it positively lied when asked to address the issues in his report. The Commission is satisfied that both Bishop Magee and Monsignor O’Callaghan positively misled Mr Elliott on the question of the existence of an admission of abuse. Bishop Magee told the Commission that he regrets that, although acting to preserve the confidentiality of his conversation with Fr Caden, he misled Mr Elliott about the true position. He said he was acting to preserve a principle rather than to conceal the truth.
21.91 Not only were the diocesan records of poor quality and unclear, some were deliberately misleading. Bishop Magee has admitted that he created two versions of his 22 September 2005 meeting with Fr Caden. Other documents do not record the full truth. Mr Elliott and the Catholic Church’s National Board for Safeguarding Children were deliberately misled about the facts as known to Bishop Magee. Mr Elliott asked the right questions but he was not told the full truth.
21.96 The Commission is of the view that, because the complainant in this case was a priest, both Bishop Magee and Monsignor O’Callaghan hoped that reconciliation would take place between him and his alleged abuser. They hoped that the complaint could be managed within the Church without the involvement of the state authorities. This view coloured their approach to the handling of this complaint from the start and effectively guaranteed noncompliance with the child protection measures that were purportedly applied in the Diocese of Cloyne. It is clear that their concern was for the institution of the church, the diocese and the accused priest. There was no concern shown for the protection of children.
21.97-98 In January 2009, a member of the public made a complaint to the Gardaí that Bishop Magee had put children at risk by withholding information from the Gardaí. In effect he alleged that Bishop Magee had recklessly endangered children… The Gardaí investigated and came to the conclusion that there was documentation being held by the Diocese of Cloyne that had not been made available to them when they conducted their original investigation into the Fr Caden case.