Religious bodies in Ireland used ‘covert means’ to limit the power of government investigations into clerical sex abuse according to a former Catholic Church watchdog.
Ian Elliott, the author of several reports into child sexual abuse in Irish dioceses, has made the claims in an interview with the Sunday Independent.
In response, a government adviser has expressed ‘profound concern’ to the newspaper over the claims made by Elliott.
Elliott told the Sunday Independent that the work of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church was undermined by religious bodies consistently cutting its funding.
Leader of the board’s investigations until last year, Elliott told the paper that believes that efforts have been made to curtail further probes by starving investigators of resources.
He said: “I can see no justification for this other than a desire to limit the role of the board by covert means.”
The report says that Elliott’s claims will embarrass the Catholic hierarch in Ireland as it tries to move on from endless allegations of child abuse by clerics and criticism of its handling of cases.
An independent organization, the board previously led by Elliott is funded by three major Catholic bodies – the Conference of Religious in Ireland, the Irish Missionary Union and the Irish Bishop’s Conference.
All three refused to comment but funding for the body has been cut by over $150,000 between 2010 to 2012 when it received just shy of a million dollars.
In the interview, Elliott was critical of the insistence by church authorities that the board must be invited into Catholic bodies to conduct investigations.
He said: “Ideally, the board should be given the authority to require access where they believe circumstances warrant it.
The report says he added that there had been a history of ‘cover-up’ in the Catholic Church and it was important that structures now be put in place which would no longer allow this to happen.
The Irish government is to study Elliott’s claims. Its lead adviser on child protection Geoffrey Shannon told the paper it is essential that there be a strong, well-funded oversight mechanism for the Catholic Church.
Shannon said: “I think it would be a matter of profound concern if funding was to be cut at the expense of ensuring a robust child protection system.”
Jerry Buttimer, the chair of the parliament’s Health and Children Committee, called on the religious bodies to explain why the funding had been cut.
Buttimer said: “There is a need for an explanation. If someone of the stature and calibre of Ian Elliott is raising concerns it is a very serious issue.”