By Patsy McGarry, Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times.
A retired District Court judge, Ms Gillian Hussey, has appointed seven lay people but no clergy to serve on the independent audit set up by the Catholic Church in Ireland of its handling of allegations of child sex abuse.
The Catholic Church Commission on Child Sex Abuse was set up by the Irish Bishops' Conference, the Conference of Religious of Ireland (CORI) and the Irish Missionary Union (IMU) last June. On June 26th Judge Hussey accepted in principle a joint offer from the church to chair the commission and appoint the members.
The new appointees include the former Fine Gael senator, Mr Maurice Manning, a barrister, Mr Michael Cush SC, and a former Garda detective superintendent, Mr John McGroarty.
It also includes two women in addition to Judge Hussey: Ms Rosaleen McElvaney, a principal clinical psychologist at Temple Street Children's Hospital in Dublin, and Ms Suzanne Phelan, a childcare manager in community care with the Northern Area Health Board.
Other members include Mr Robert Bunting, a social worker who has been employed with child and family care services with the Eastern Health and Social Services Board in the North, and Dr Ian O'Donnell, a chartered forensic psychologist and research fellow with the Institute of Criminology at UCD.
Judge Hussey said yesterday she was satisfied that this was a commission with a wealth of relevant experience and relevant expertise.
The commission was currently working on its terms of reference, which she wished to ensure were "realistic and achievable and meet the expectations of all those involved."
The commission will be funded by the bishops, CORI and the IMU and will have its own offices in Dublin. It will adopt its own methodology and will determine how far back the audit will extend.
Its terms of reference are expected to include an examination of what each bishop and relevant religious superior knew about complaints of child sexual abuse against diocesan priests and religious, respectively, and identify the steps taken by each in response to that knowledge.
It will also quantify the extent of child sexual abuse by priests and religious. It will investigate how bishops and religious superiors have implemented the 1996 church guidelines on dealing with sex abuse complaints.
Other terms of reference are expected to include a brief to learn how people who suffered as a result of child sexual abuse experienced the response of church authorities.
It will delegate to external consultants such of its functions as it considers appropriate, and seek to amend or extend its terms of reference as it deems necessary to carry out its functions.
Its final report will make recommendations which the Catholic Primate, Archbishop Seán Brady, has said will be implemented by the church.
However, the commission reports will not identify or render identifiable any person who has complained of or who has been the subject of a complaint of child sexual abuse.
It will present an interim report next February, and its final report in February 2004.