New child protection guidelines for the Catholic Church in Ireland will include a section on priests who have been accused of abuse.
The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCCI) confirmed to TheJournal.ie that guidelines about the duty of care to an accused priest will be included, with a draft due to be submitted for a period of consultation next month.
Sean McDonagh of the Association of Catholic Priests said this was a welcome move in the case of wrongly accused priests in the Church.
He said there is a difficult balancing act when it comes to abuse allegations, between duty of care to the child and fairness to the priest involved.
“Of course, absolutely anything that can protect children in the church we’d be in favour of and we have done that over the years.”
Though he said priests are supportive of measures to protect children, there have been cases where people have been falsely accused, citing one example where a priest was was of the ministry for a number of years until court proceedings were finished.
“Priests are in a unique position in terms of these issues. If it’s a garda or a teacher, they can just go home to their house. Priests are living in houses owned by the diocese so where do they go?”
He also referred to a study conducted by Amarach in 2012, which found that almost half of Irish people thought 20% of priests are paedophiles.
“That’s absolutely crazy and we like to point out that’s not so. Priests got a lot of attention for this, rather than teachers or doctors or gardaí in the same position.”