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Children suffered because of Church inaction: Bishop

By Sarah Mac Donald - 09 April, 2014

Fr Francis Duffy, Bishop-elect of Ardagh & Clonmacnois

Fr Francis Duffy, Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois

Children suffered because of abuse and because of inaction the Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmanois acknowledged on Tuesday. 

Speaking at the launch of ‘Safeguarding Children: Policies and Procedures for the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois’, Bishop Francis Duffy said the Church’s response must always be one of vigilance and care.

He warned that impressive as the set of guidelines were, “it is at its most impressive when it is implemented, day-in and day-out, in our parishes.”

He told those gathered for the launch in St Mel’s College in Longford, “It is impressive when it provides the framework that helps to create a safer environment for our young people in all Church-related activities.”

“It is impressive when it means that each young person feels safe and welcome and has a sense of belonging in our Church communities.”

The publication is a revised edition of the 2010 Safeguarding Children Policy.

The central message of the document as reflected in its policy statement is that “the welfare of children is paramount” and that “the diocese will endeavour to ensure that children are respected and safe in the course of their participation in all church activities”.

The Bishop warned that there cannot be a full stop at the end of any collection of policies and procedures because there is no final word on safeguarding children. 

“It is an ongoing process that is part and parcel of Church life,” he said and added, “I’m sure that twenty-five years ago such policies and procedures were in operation in few, if any places, in the Catholic Church; now it is unthinkable to be without them.”

Bishop Duffy underlined that safeguarding young people in the Church is a daily reality in order to provide a safe environment for them. 

“Safeguarding means that we have to be ready to learn from the present and to make any necessary changes in the future. Child safeguarding is not yesterday’s news, it is today’s news and tomorrow’s news,” he said.

The updated document is part of the ongoing work in the diocese to maintain good practice in all activities with children. 

It includes new policies on record keeping, anti-bullying, whistle-blowing, complaints, training and education for safeguarding, confidentiality, communicating the Church’s safeguarding message and implementing and monitoring standards. 

It also documents revised policies for recruitment and for responding and reporting to child protection allegations and suspicions of abuse. 

Resources for use by those working with young people are provided, including the Safeguarding Policy Agreement that must be signed by all staff and volunteers involved with children. 

Codes of behaviour for adults and children are outlined and practical guidance on the use of computers, mobile phones, photography and video is incorporated into the Appendix. 

The document ends with a Safeguarding checklist for parishes.

Bishop Francis Duffy thanked Bishop Colm Reilly, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois, who initiated the revision of the policy document. 

The Diocese includes nearly all of Co Longford, the greater part of Co Leitrim and parts of Cavan, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo and Westmeath.

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