Saturday, November 7, 2009

Progress We Can All Celebrate...

For the past 15 years Church personnel have been working hard to develop and implement vigorous and robust child protection policies. It has been a long, long road but it appears as though those who have devoted huge time and resources to this issue are at last receiving some recognition.
Here is the Front Page article from The Irish Examiner, 24th October 2009 and also the Editorial of the same date...

Praise for Church over child protection policies
By Claire O’Sullivan

Saturday, October 24, 2009

THE author of the damning investigation into clerical abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne has applauded the Catholic Church for having undertaken "a truly remarkable" journey to a place where it could yet become a champion of child protection.

Chief executive of the Catholic Church’s National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC), Ian Elliot robustly defended recent efforts by the Church to right its dismal record describing an "increasingly evident" sense of purpose and commitment to child protection.

"There are champions for children in the Church that deserve the highest praise. They are at all levels of the Church and many are within the hierarchy. The aim of establishing the Church as an exemplar for best safeguarding practice has gained major support. We are in a very different place to where we were two years ago."

He said over the past two years, those in authority within the Church had learnt that "vital lesson" that "the safety of the child must be put first before all other considerations".

Mr Elliot cautioned however that this was "a positive start" and that the Church has a "great deal" more to do. He also admitted there "was an element" of the Church "being forced" to address its failings in the face of public anger. "I don’t think this change is happening just because of the inquiries. They have slowly recognised this problem is solvable. The NBSC is also trusted now by the Church. They now see it will treat them in a fair way."

"I do feel we can achieve the aim of being seen as an exemplar for best practice in the field of safeguarding children."

Mr Elliot said that earlier this year, one of the cardinals and up to 12 bishops immediately signed up for a child protection training course he organised. "This would not have happened two years ago," he said.

The former social worker told those gathered at the Biennal Children Protection and Social Work Conference at UCC that the NBSC’s document ‘Safeguarding Children: Standards and Guidance for the Children’ was a groundbreaking document as all the 184 constituent parts of the Church agreed they would implement guidelines fully and agreed to auditing and review by the NBSC.

"Nothing of this nature had ever happened before and this achievement represented the single most valuable development that has taken place during the short but eventful life of the national board, and also for me as its chief officer."

Noting that the Church had previously attempted to develop a uniform approach to child protection in 1976 he said the new guidance had to be supported by a verifiable commitment to implement it or else it would suffer a similar fate.

Describing the enormity of implementing uniform child protection he said small and poor dioceses often suffer due to a lack of resources and said he wanted to ensure resources were directed at them.

He also called for further recruitment of experienced child protection professionals across the Church and a continued effort to "build trust" with abuse survivors, priests, the faithful and all members of the hierarchy.

Editorial, Saturday, October 24, 2009:
Protecting children - Progress we can all celebrate

"The journey over the last two years has been truly remarkable. There are champions for children in the Church who deserve the highest praise. They are at all levels ... There is a sense of purpose and commitment which is increasingly evident ... We are in a very different place to where we where two years ago." - Ian Elliott, CEO, NSCC

AS we await, with considerable dread, the publication of the report into how allegations of child sex abuse by priests in the Catholic archdiocese of Dublin were dealt with by the State and church authorities it is wonderful that we have reached a point where members of the Catholic clergy and hierarchy can be described as "champions of children".

That they are so described by someone with the record of impartiality and integrity of Ian Elliott, chief executive officer of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, is doubly reassuring.

Coming so soon after the publication of the harrowing Ryan report it is wonderful that we might begin to believe that the future will not be like the past.

The pace of change within Irish Catholicism has, according to Mr Elliott, been remarkable. Indeed it has, this time last year he had not published his report that exposed the failure of the Diocese of Cloyne to pass on abuse complaints to the HSE or gardaĆ­.

The 15 years since the Fr Brendan Smyth case have been extremely painful for Catholics. Very many individuals were denied the comfort of their faith.

Just as many victims were scarred for life Irish Catholicism has paid a very heavy price for its behaviour. Its influence has been greatly diminished and its active membership has been decimated.

Vocations have collapsed. Just last week Bishop of Kerry William Murphy predicted that, within a year, some parishes in his diocese might not have any priest.

Though Mr Elliott’s primary assertion is very welcome he made several points yesterday that we should embrace with equal enthusiasm.

He acknowledged that for the first time all 184 constituent parts of the Catholic church in Ireland had given power to an independent body to monitor their practice. This is an exceptional change for a church once so aloof and hostile to intrusion much less supervision of any kind. He pointed out the obvious but not always recognised fact that protecting children is a matter for us all, not just the church.

It would be foolish too if we focussed all of our efforts to safeguard children on events in the past. The Catholic church has lost influence in this society but that influence has been assumed by others. Maybe we would be wise to be as suspicious of those forces as we were forced to become of the Catholic church.

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