By Sarah Mac Donald - 05 September, 2015
The Diocese of Cloyne’s Designated Liaison Person (DLP), who oversees safeguarding procedures within the diocese, has resigned in a row with Bishop William Crean over the handling of an ex priest whom the Vatican dismissed from the clerical state last January.
In a statement issued on Friday evening, Bishop Crean outlined the background to Bill Meagher’s decision to resign.
He said he regretted Mr Meagher’s decision because he had served the diocese and the survivors of abuse with great dedication and attention to detail.
The circumstances which led to Mr Meagher’s resignation concern a case involving a former Cloyne priest who, after a trial and appeal under Canon Law, was dismissed from the clerical state by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith last January.
This means that he is not permitted to act as a priest in any way, whether publicly or privately, or to celebrate Mass or any other sacrament of the Church.
As part of his work as DLP, Bill Meagher, along with the deputy DLP, met with the former priest in June to verify that he was abiding by the agreed Covenant of Care.
A Covenant of Care is an agreement between the diocese and a former priest outlining the conditions to be observed by him primarily to ensure the safety of children.
Bill Meagher, along with the deputy DLP, Fr Patrick Winkle, were informed by the ex priest that he was celebrating Mass privately at his home.
At the time, according to Bishop Crean, the former priest defended this action as being based on the advice of his canon lawyer.
The canon lawyer unknown to the Bishop had further appealed the penalty of dismissal from the priesthood to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome.
“When this matter was brought to my attention I was certain that this recourse was not legitimate,” Dr Crean stated on Friday.
However, he added that he “believed that no further action by me was possible until I received notification from the CDF”.
He said this had led to Bill Meagher resigning as he did not agree with Bishop Crean’s position.
In his statement, Bishop Crean said he “immediately sought further advice on the matter which confirmed my conviction that no further appeal was possible”.
He then wrote to the former priest to reiterate that, as he is dismissed from the priesthood, he cannot act as a priest in any manner whatsoever.
“I have also communicated the importance of the situation to the CDF. I have since updated Mr Meagher on developments as they have occurred.”
“I have written to survivors in the diocese to explain my position and to apologise for further distress caused to them. Through the diocesan support persons, arrangements are being made for survivors to meet with me if they so wish.”
Fr Patrick Winkle, who has been the deputy Designated Liaison Person for the past eighteen months, has now been appointed to act as the DLP on an interim basis.
Ger Crowley has been appointed to advise and support Fr Winkle in the work of safeguarding children.
Mr Crowley is the Director of Safeguarding with the Diocese of Limerick, and a former Regional Director of Child Care with the Health Service Executive.
Bishop Crean concluded his statement by assuring the people of the diocese that this specific matter did not involve a risk to children, and that child safeguarding continues to be of paramount importance in the Diocese of Cloyne.
Anyone who is affected by clerical abuse please contact Towards Healing, which provides professional support to people who have experienced institutional, clerical or religious abuse in Ireland. Contact number 1800 303416. Hearing impaired text number only: 085 8022859.