DUBLIN – A judge cleared the way Friday for Ireland to publish a new report into decades of Catholic Church cover-ups of child abuse — and how a Cork bishop kept crimes in his diocese secret long after the Irish church issued orders to start telling police.
Dublin High Court Justice Nicholas Kearns ruled that only one chapter out of 27 in the upcoming Cork report required temporary censorship, because its subject is a priest about to face a criminal trial for rape and indecent assault. He said that chapter might be published as soon as July.
Ireland's Justice Department, which sought the legal guidance, said it planned to publish the rest of the report sometime next week, covering the cases of 18 other child-molesting priests who evaded justice in the County Cork diocese of Cloyne.
The product of a two-year state-ordered investigation, the report will join a mountain of evidence showing how Catholic figures at the heart of Irish society abused their status to prey on children with impunity until recent years — particularly recent in the case of Cloyne.
An Irish support group for child-abuse victims, One in Four, said it accepted the need to censor anything that would allow a priest to beat criminal charges.
"Very few survivors of child sexual abuse engage with the criminal justice system. It is important that the cases which come before the courts are not jeopardized in any way," said Maeve Lewis, director of One in Four.
Ireland already has produced mammoth reports into the nature and extent of child abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese from 1975 to 2004; the Ferns diocese in the southeast County Wexford from 1962 to 2002; and a nationwide network of workhouse-style residential schools and orphanages that the Catholic Church ran and taxpayers funded until the 1980s.
The three existing reports document how Catholic leaders knew for decades about pedophiles and sadists in their industrial schools and parishes — but kept their abuse files secret from police until the Irish public began demanding change and suing the church in the mid-1990s.
The reports all have found that, until the mid-1990s, Ireland's police and departments of health and education habitually deferred to Catholic Church authority, while parents of victims almost always declined to speak out for fear of social ostracism.
Instead, in the case of parish priests implicated in child molestation, the church habitually transferred them to new parishes in Ireland, Britain and the United States without warning anyone in the new parish of the risk facing local children.
The Cloyne report will build on an Irish church-ordered investigation published in December 2008 that made damning findings against the then-bishop, John Magee. It found he failed to observe a 1996 church document that emphasized the need to tell police about suspected child-abuse cases.
The 2008 report was the first produced by a new church-funded National Board for Safeguarding Children, which was created to reassure the Irish public that the church itself was determined to get to the root of its pedophile problems.
It found that Magee and his senior Cloyne advisers fielded wide-ranging complaints from parishioners about two priests from 1995 onward, but told the police nothing until 2003 and little thereafter. The report said Cloyne authorities demonstrated concern solely for helping the two priests, not protecting the children of the area.
One priest, who was accused of molesting a younger priest when he was just a boy, was encouraged by Magee to resign. But the investigation found that the bishop shielded the abuser's identity from police — and considered such concealment "the normal practice" for the church.
The other priest, a career guidance counselor in a convent school, was accused by several teenage girls and grown women of molesting or raping them since 1995. One complaint came from a woman who had a consensual sexual relationship with the priest for a year — then saw him develop an intimate relationship with her teenage son.
Magee initially tried to stay on as bishop, but the pope accepted his resignation in March 2010. Four other bishops have resigned since 2002 because of the Wexford and Dublin scandals.
The scandal also has hit the reputation of Cardinal Sean Brady, leader of Ireland's 4 million Catholics. An abuse victim's lawsuit naming him as a defendant unearthed documents showing Brady, as a young canon-law expert in 1975, collected evidence from child victims of a particularly notorious pedophile, Brendan Smyth — but, like all other church officials of the day, kept the knowledge in house and swore the children to silence.
Smyth molested more than 100 boys and girls in several Irish parishes, Belfast and the U.S. states of Rhode Island and North Dakota. Ireland's failure to extradite Smyth to the British territory of Northern Ireland in 1994 became the first major child-abuse scandal for the Irish church and triggered the collapse of the government that year.
Smyth died in prison in 1997. Brady last year publicly apologized, asked for forgiveness and said he wouldn't resign.
Cloyne Diocese child-protection policy, http://bit.ly/fTqbiD
Church's National Board for Safeguarding Children, http://www.safeguarding.ie/