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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