30 March 2010

Child protection: the current reality in the Catholic Church in Ireland

The Irish Times today carries the letter below, written by Ian Elliott, which shows clearly what the authorities in the Catholic Church in Ireland are actually doing to prevent any possibility of children being abused by persons working for the Church. Mr Elliott himself is not a Catholic but a Presbyterian. I have highlighted that part of the letter that informs us that any allegations are first referred to the civil authorities.

There is much valid criticism of the failure of Church authorities before to observe either civil law or canon law. No such criticism can be made about what Church authorities are doing now.

Madam, – I refer to the letter . . . (March 22nd), about systems put in place in Nova Scotia, Canada. I note [the writer's] demand for similar practices here, and would like to draw your readers’ attention to the measures that have been put in place and are expected of all parts of the Catholic Church in Ireland to safeguard children in our care.

Safeguarding Children – Standards and Guidance document for the Catholic Church in Ireland, January, 2009, sets out the expected standards of policy, practice and practice necessary to ensure that we create safe environments for children (www.safeguarding.ie).

All parts of the church have agreed to put in place the following: 1. A written child protection policy statement. 2. Procedures for responding to allegations of abuse. Note that it is church policy that all allegations are referred to the statutory authorities for their investigation before any church inquiry takes place. 3. Procedures for preventing harm to children, including proper recruitment, selection, vetting and supervision of staff and volunteers; codes of behaviour; parental consent and health and safety. 4. Training on safeguarding children. 5. Information for children, parents and adults on safeguarding children, and the church’s procedures. 6. Support for victims of abuse; advice and support for those who hold key roles in safeguarding children; and support and management of those who present a risk to children. 7. An annual audit of policy and practice. To ensure compliance with these standards the national office will also conduct audits starting with each diocese during 2010.

I believe Safeguarding Children has become a priority for the Catholic Church in Ireland; and I hope than in implementing these standards, children’s safety and well-being will become the paramount consideration of all those who hold positions of authority. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive,
National Board for Safeguarding of Children in the Catholic Church,
St Patrick’s College,
Maynooth, Co Kildare.

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