DUBLIN — An investigation into the Catholic Church’s cover-up of child abuse found Wednesday that a rural diocese and its bishop ignored Irish church rules requiring all suspected molestation cases to be reported to police - and the Vatican encouraged this concealment.
The government, which ordered the probe into 1996-2009 cover-ups in the County Cork Diocese of Cloyne, warned that parishes across Ireland could pose a continuing danger to children’s welfare. It said Cloyne claims to be following church child-protection policy while actually ignoring it.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter pledged to enact a law making it an imprisonable crime to withhold knowledge of suspected child abuse as he published the investigation into the Cloyne Diocese in southwestern Ireland.
Mr. Shatter said pledges by Irish church leaders to place Irish civil law first and report all abuse cases dating back to 1995 had been “built on sand.”
He said it was an open question whether other dioceses, 23 of which have yet to be investigated, were withholding evidence of crimes and presenting ongoing threats to children.
The 341-page Cloyne report is the fourth state fact-finding probe into how church leaders for decades protected their own reputations - and their own pedophile staff members from the law - at the expense of Irish children.
A string of scandals and revelations since 1994 has decimated the church’s reputation and standing in this once-devoutly Catholic nation.
The report by an independent commission led by Judge Yvonne Murphy found that former Cloyne Bishop John Magee and senior aides failed to tell police anything about most abuse reports and withheld basic information in all but one case.
Bishop Magee, who before becoming Cloyne bishop in 1987 was a private secretary to three popes, resigned last year after a church-appointed commission made similar findings against him.
Wednesday’s document detailed the church’s suppression of information on 19 suspected child-abusing priests, one of whom is facing criminal charges.
Another has been convicted, and most of the others are dead or elderly.
Ireland’s Supreme Court has ruled one too old and frail to stand trial.
The claims of abuse that the investigators pursued all surfaced since 1996 but sometimes were alleged to have occurred a decade or more earlier when the claimants were children.
Mr. Shatter and Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald called Bishop Magee’s failures particularly shocking because, unlike other Irish inquiries, the Cloyne cases were the most recent and occurred after Irish church leaders, including himself, officially committed themselves to inflexible, detailed child-protection policies.
The report said Bishop Magee repeatedly claimed to be observing these policies but did virtually the opposite.
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