Irish clergy abuse to be probed by lay experts
Catholic Bishops in Ireland are to hand over responsibility for the handling of child abuse claims to professionally qualified lay people.
The Irish Independent reports that the move is part of a radical new child protection policy and is a reflection of the loss of trust suffered by the bishops as a result of the spate of sex abuse scandals.
In future, the bishops will have no discretion over whether or not an allegation should be passed on to the civil authorities. They will only have discretion over whether or not a priest should stand aside from his duties while the investigation into the allegation takes place.
A new "National Board" will oversee the policy, which is called 'Our Children, Our Church'. It follows more than 18 months of protracted and difficult deliberations.
Speaking at the launch on Monday, child protection expert Maureen Lynott said she "very much welcomed the document". The guidelines "are to the very highest international standard", she said.
The new policy, which replaces and hugely revises the 1996 guidelines previously used by the Church, was formally launched by the Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Sean Brady.
He said: "We want to ensure that everything humanly possible, everything that is regarded as best practice, is in place and working effectively in the Catholic Church in Ireland, from a national level to parish level."
One of the key features of the 102-page document is the hand-over by the bishops and other Church leaders of responsibility for the management of child abuse allegations to qualified professionals.
Bishop Colm O'Reilly, who was also at yesterday's launch in Dublin, stated: "Crucially, 'Our Children, Our Church' ensures that the decision about how to proceed with an allegation or suspicion of child abuse is made by a professionally qualified person in this field rather than by the bishop or religious superior.
Clerical abuse to be probed by lay experts (Irish Independent 20/12/05)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
New child protection policy for the Catholic Church in Ireland: Our Children, Our Church (Catholic Communications Ireland 19/12/05)
Irish Episcopal Conference holds special meeting on Child Protection (Child Protection Service, Archdiocese of Dublin)
Welfare of children paramount in new child protection guidelines (catholicireland.net 20/12/05)
Catholic Church publishes new child-protection guidelines (Irish Times 19/12/05)
Victims' group slams church's child-protection policy (Irish Times 19/12/05)
Brazilian Cardinal Assails Sex-Abuse Report (Zenit 18/12/05)
21 Dec 2005