by Helen Bruce in The Irish Independent
THE vast majority of priests have nothing to fear from handing their files to gardai, the president of the priests' council said last night.
Fr John Littleton of the National Conference of Priests of Ireland said bishops should surrender all documentation to the civil authorities.
Fr Littleton said that in the light of the child sex abuse scandals, declaring information to be confidential was "not on".
In an interview in the Irish Catholic, he also called for the bishops' guidelines on child abuse to be reviewed and extended.
The priest said: "I believe they should hand over all the files. The vast majority of priests have nothing to worry about.
"Just as we priests are trusted as professionals, it is also up to the gardai to be professional. This thing of retaining stuff on files is just not on."
The NCPI head added that the confidentiality of victims' names and other identifying details must be protected.
And he said priests were becoming concerned that child sex abuse was an exclusively Church-related affair, rather than a widespread social problem.
However, Fr Littleton said bishops still had a long way to go in their child protection policies, and in their communication with victims and their families.
He said: "People are so upset. Not only were mistakes made, but there was obfuscation in honesty and truthfulness, combined with abysmal practices."
The Director of the Bishops Child Protection Office, Paul Bailey, also believed the 1996 guidelines needed revision, and said the current response needed to become more pro-active.
Meanwhile, victims of clerical abuse have accused Dublin archbishop Desmond Connell of prioritising paedophile priests over their victims by first visiting the perpetrators in prison.
John Kelly of Survivors of Child Abuse (SOCA) claimed meetings between the cardinal and victims had not been at the behest of the cardinal.
Victims had also been very unhappy with the outcome of the meetings, he added, yet the sentences of paedophile priests had been shortened.
Posted by Colm at October 31, 2002 01:13 PM
The cardinal visited a number of paedophile priests in the Curragh Prison, his spokesperson confirmed yesterday.