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When lawyers run the church

When lawyers run the church

Why is it we default to taking the advice of lawyers when a matter touches on the law?

The Diocese of Cloyne (Irish, Roman Catholic) provides an object lesson for what happens when we do.

Church’s solicitor guarded every angle – The Irish Times

A NAME that crops up with conspicuous frequency in the Cloyne report, when it comes to “restraint” on the part of Catholic Church authorities in co-operating with State inquiries into child sex-abuse allegations, is that of solicitor Diarmuid Ó Catháin.

This is the same Ó Catháin who attended a controversial meeting in Limerick on March 30th, 2006, as a member of the interdiocesan case management advisory committee of Cloyne and Limerick dioceses. Set up in 2005, this committee advised then bishop of Cloyne John Magee and then bishop of Limerick Donal Murray on handling allegations of clerical child-sex abuse.

At that meeting Ó Catháin and two priests representing Limerick diocese met 37-year-old Peter McCloskey, who alleged that in 1980 and 1981 he was repeatedly raped by a priest in Limerick. Bishop Murray later issued a statement saying he “completely accepts the truth” of McCloskey’s allegations.

Deirdre Fitzpatrick, then of the One in Four group, accompanied McCloskey at the meeting and recalled he was “very distressed and disappointed” afterwards.

She was critical of Ó Catháin for suggesting the diocese could sue McCloskey for costs should he proceed with court action. Three days later, on April 1st, 2006, McCloskey died by suicide.

There’s much more. Serving both as the diocese’s solicitor and a dominant member of interdiocesan child sex-abuse case management advisory committee of Cloyne and Limerick dioceses, Ó Catháin acted to resist sharing of information with public authorities at every turn.

We continue to wonder if our church leaders place too much stock in the advice of its lawyers. Our church continues to wait for a response to Jim Naughton’s appeal: The time has come for transparency in the handling of abuse cases.


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Cyberia Rune

Exerpted/edited from the Irish Times article:

An indication of Ó Catháin’s (the attorney)approach: (Irish police) gardaí sought a statement from Bishop Magee (concerning an abuse case.) Ó Catháin told the Gardai, “…it was in the interests of the common good that Magee should not make a statement.” Later, Bishop Magee declined to make a statement or to supply a copy of the abuse victim’s handwritten account. Ó Catháin said the document was “a church document and hence confidential.”

In another abuse case, Bishop Magee gave two accounts of a meeting he had with the accused priest: an accurate account, where the priest admitted guilt, was sent to Rome and a fictional one, where he denied the allegations, was for diocesan records. When asked why, Bishop Magee said Ó Catháin “assured (him) it was privileged information and. . . (the deception) would not be discoverable. . .” (in court.)

“Not discoverable,” from a bishop… not a bishop’s terminology really, is it? And then there’s the grave moral lapse of an intentional deception meant to thwart justice… which is also supposedly “not discoverable.” Except by God and Christ and the Holy Spirit, who (a) already know, and (b) probably aren’t very happy about it.

So, who does the bishop work for at that point? (1)God? (2) Jesus? (3) The Church? Or (4) The lawyer? The bishop is doing the lawyer’s bidding, not God or the Lord’s. The Church is quite insultingly being required to pay the lawyer for this subversion. The bishop ends up hung out to dry, thereby bringing disrepute to the Faith. So, perhaps one good question is: Who – or what – is the lawyer working for… really? And possibly, another might be: What kind of bishop takes such advice instead of admonishing a morally bankrupt staff member for giving it?

Rev. CW Brockenbrough

Paul Davison

Don’t blame the lawyers for giving legal advice; that’s their job. Blame the church leadership that feels that protecting the legal interests of the institution comes ahead of the pastoral needs of the people and takes that advice.

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