(Cloyne Cathedral, 7 May 2009/John Armagh)

A government-sponsored report said on Wednesday the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Ireland continued to conceal the sexual abuse of children by priests even after it introduced rules in the mid-1990s to protect minors.

Revelations of rape and beatings by members of religious orders and the priesthood in the past have shattered the dominant role of the Catholic Church in Ireland. But the latest report into the handling of sex abuse claims in the diocese of Cloyne, in County Cork, shows that senior-ranking clergy were still trying to cover up abuse allegations almost until the present day.

“This is not a catalogue of failure from a different era. This is not about an Ireland of 50 years ago. This is about Ireland now,” Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald told a news conference.

The report, which focuses on 19 priests who allegedly abused children during a period from January 1996 to February 2009, lists how the diocese failed to report all sexual abuse complaints to the police and did not report any complaints to the health authorities between 1996 and 2008. The bishop formerly responsible for the diocese, John Magee, falsely told the authorities that he was reporting all abuse allegations to the police, the report said. He resigned in March last year after a Church investigation said his handling of abuse allegations had exposed children to risk.

The report also criticized the Vatican as “entirely unhelpful” in describing guidelines on how to deal with abuse accusations as “merely a study document.” The government will decide soon whether to summon the papal nuncio, the pope’s representative in Ireland, over the matter, Shatter said.