08 February 2008

Skeletons in the Cardinal's Cupboard

Cardinal Desmond Connell (left) would "rather go to jail than release confidential files" to the government- backed commission that investigates sexual abuse by Catholic priests. According to a report in The Irish Catholic newspaper the now retired former Archbishop of Dublin made this strong statement to some friends, after he had learned that his successor, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, has agreed to release the confidential documents.

Cardinal Connell has begun proceedings in the High Court, challenging the production of documents from diocesan files to the Dublin Diocesan Commission of Investigation into the handling by the Cardinal and others of complaints of child abuse against Catholic clergy. The Cardinal claims that the documents in question are "legally privileged" and lawyers acting on his behalf secured an interim court injunction restraining the Commission from examining them to decide whether they attract legal privilege and/or a duty of confidentiality.

The proceedings arise from an order, issued by the Diocesan Commission last December, compelling Diarmuid Martin (right) as current Archbishop of Dublin to produce all documents included by him in an "affidavit of discovery". It listed documents dating from 1975 to 2004, relating to claims of child abuse against a representative sample of 46 priests in the Dublin Archdiocese.

Archbishop Martin delivered the documents in disc format on January 15th and the Commission indicated its intention to begin examining them, in order to decide whether they are, as Cardinal Connell claims, "legally privileged or subject to a duty of confidentiality".
The Commission refused a request from Connell's solicitor not to begin that examination process pending the outcome of the Cardinal's legal action. Lawyers then secured leave from Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill to bring a judicial review challenge to the Commission's handling of the discovery issue.

These recent developments are disturbing, and one cannot help but wonder what kind of embarrassing skeletons Cardinal Connell has been hiding in all those years when he was in charge of the Dublin Archdiocese. It is already known that he had little time for the victims of sexual abuse and was more concerned with hiding the facts from the public. Numerous priests, accused of wrong-doing, were neither disciplined or removed by the Cardinal, but usually just shifted to another parish where they were previously unknown. Such neglect led often to further cases of abuse.

When the ever longer-growing list of complaints eventually reached Rome, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (left), then the powerful Head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (and now Pope Benedict XVI), appointed Diarmuid Martin, a Vatican diplomat with an impeccable service record, as the coadjutor Archbishop of Dublin and designated successor of Desmond Connell. One of Martin's main tasks was - and still is - to clear up the mess created by his predecessor. He has not disappointed the Vatican and also regained a lot of the public confidence lost under Cardinal Connell's reign as Archbishop.

Only time will tell if the honest efforts of the current Dublin diocesan administration - fully supported by the Vatican - will succeed, or if the meanwhile 81-year-old Cardinal Connell can - with the help of the Irish judiciary - continue to hide the skeletons in his cupboard.

The Emerald Islander

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The Wild Goose said...
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The Wild Goose said...

Reading your column has become one of my daily activities. Thank you for writing it! It is really the best I have ever read.


My humble thanks for your words of praise. It is a pleasure to know that my writing finds readers, and even more so when the readers are pleased.


Cardinal Desmond Connell, who only recently boasted that he would "go rather to prison than release files from the diocesan archive" he did regard as "privileged", has withdrawn his High Court action on Monday. This means that the Cardinal has no longer any objection against the 48 files in question - related to alleged child abuse by priest of the Archdiocese of Dublin - being handed over to the government-backed investigation commission by his successor, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.
Did the Cardinal suddenly come to his senses? And if so, what made him change his mind?
Well, the answer is very simple. He was told in no uncertain terms to end his ridiculous court action and stop doing further damage to the image of the Catholic Church in Ireland - straight from the highest authority in the Vatican. (The very same authority, incidentally, who appointed Archbishop Martin to sort out the mess Cardinal Connell left behind.)

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