October 20, 2002
Jeers greets Cardinal as he says 'sorry'

By Jody Corcoran, Frank Khan and Niamh Hooper from The Sunday Independent Online

CARDINAL Desmond Connell was last night jeered and heckled in Dublin's Pro-Cathedral as he admitted failing to deal effectively with priests who abused children.

At a mass to commemorate the 24th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's papacy, he said, he "did not effectively deal with it. I failed."

Cardinal Connell, who had received many messages of shock and anger from people, said: "I promise I will continue to work to ensure the protection of children."

At times during the 6pm mass in the Pro-Cathdral, heckling and comments such as "it's too late" drowned out the Cardinal's words.

Before he left the altar he asked the congregation to pray for him at this time so that he might do what is right before God, adding: "I want to say as clearly as I can, with sexual abuse we are face to face with evil and incalculable harm has been caused."

The Cardinal has promised to co-operate with Gillian Hussey's inquiry into the Church's handling of abuse.

It has now been unofficially confirmed that the Government is to set up an inquiry to uncover the extent of the Catholic Church's cover-up of child clerical sex abuse in the Dublin archdiocese. As the revelations of RTE's Prime Time exposť continued to rock the Church yesterday, serious questions over Cardinal Connell's handling of child sex abuse allegations remained unanswered. A statement from him due at 4pm yesterday was not issued.

The move comes amid a public furore over the extent of abuse, which has resulted in 450 legal actions being taken against the archdiocese. The Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, is to meet with Health Minister Micheal Martin, this week to discuss the Government's approach to the controversy.

Government sources yesterday signalled that new legislation was likely to be put in place to create a "different form of inquiry" from the tribunal model. Such an inquiry would likely be chaired by an inspector or a commissioner and would have statutory powers similar to those of an authorised office in company law matters.

Cardinal Connell was again singled out yesterday for criticism by John Kelly of the Survivors of Child Abuse Group.

"Like anyone accused of obstructing justice I think he should be lifted by the gardai and taken to Harcourt Square and questioned," he said.

Referring to the latest apology of Cardinal Connell to victims, Mr Kelly added: "The time has gone beyond the point of apologies." What many victims now required were "deeds and actions and not words," he said.

If the Cardinal's apology was to have any meaning for victims, he had to give an unequivocal commitment to "co-operate fully with any police investigation or any Public Judicial Inquiry".

Yesterday the Dublin diocese said there was "absolutely no question" of any of the eight priests featured in the Prime Time programme returning to parish ministry.

However, very little is known as to the whereabouts of those released from jail. Fr Ivan Payne, one of the eight named, is to be freed next week. Fr Noel Reynolds has died but hardly anything is known about the other six.

The Church has set up its own investigations into the whole issue, but another group representing victims has criticised the ability of such an investigation to reach satisfactory conclusions.

"Any idea that the Church would engage in the whole issue of how they've handled these cases with any level of integrity is now blasted to pieces," said Colm O'Gorman from the One in Four group.

Meanwhile, a Sunday Independent poll shows the vast majority of people (76 per cent) believe the Cardinal should resign, with only 24 per cent saying he should remain in office. However, those who think he should stay say he should do so to allow him account to the public.

A spokesman for Cardinal Desmond Connell has confirmed that concern had been expressed about the behaviour of the late Fr Noel Reynolds towards children before his appointment as chaplain to the National Rehabilitation Hospital. However, the spokesman said the priest was sent for assessment and that assessment concluded that there was no evidence of child sexual abuse.

Three years ago, shortly after leaving the hospital, Fr Reynolds admitted abusing more than 100 children in eight parishes in Dublin.

Cardinal Connell's spokesman said that when the diocese received the first complaint of child sexual abuse against Fr Reynolds he was immediately removed from ministry at the hospital. This occurred in May 1998, 11 months after he was appointed chaplain.

Prime Time reported that in 1996, while parish priest of Glendalough, some parents complained to Archbishop's House that they had serious concerns about his behaviour towards their children but that nothing happened.

Some 18 months later, parents threatened to go public unless something was done about him.

Archbishop Connell, as he was then, immediately moved him, assigning him as chaplain to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire.

Posted by paul at October 20, 2002 01:21 PM

I moved to ireland of late after working with victims of church abuse in uk, i am astounded that no measures to protect children have yet being put in place here, in Uk bishops issued guidlines that , in church all doors are to have see through glass in vestrys and confessionals, an adult is to be with altar boys while in vestry and when they return to to it, no priest or minister is to invite children or young people into his home under 16yr old they must be escourted by an adult when visiting schools clergy must be with teachers this is to protect the clergy as well from false allegations, has any of these being done here in Ireland no! also i find it so hard to understand as a counsellor why when the guards know here there are criminal files on these abusers that they dont raid the church offices and sieze them? in anycase Cardinal Connell has lost all credability and he must go he has let these children and adults down as has the church, i work in west of Ireland and young people here have left the church in droves who can blame them, i know this from the young adults i knew that had been abused saying sorry goes no where, throwing money goes no where, we wont go away we wont accept this, this church in Ireland needs reforming root and branch and an enquiry needs to be made into the lives of these so called churchmen, and sisters who ran slave labour and inflicted punishment beatings on children, these truths cannot now bew brushed away but also a more deep enquiry needs to be made into every diocease in the country into church finance and its abuse , i am astounded at the luxury that these priests live in big houses new care unlimited exspences and they are responsible to know one if they abused there fines are paid by the church, i know that in Uk which is not perfect the church of England in each parish there is an elected council who handle all aspects of money and its demoractric, but it would be faught tooth and nail here thats why priests got away with the abuse, i feel so angry about all this when this counntry was suffering in early years the clergy were raping our children and preaching about morality from the pulpit, one final point i am disgusted that when Cardinal Connell had finished his sermon people applauded him to me those people who did that are condoning the failings of this man and they are supporting a church that did nothing but have our children and our people as foddr for there own lives i hope God can forgive them i cant

Posted by: DECLAN on October 20, 2002 09:41 PM

Please forgive my awfull spelling mistakes i am over tired and angry but maybe we all should be angry ??

Posted by: Declan on October 20, 2002 09:44 PM
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