Diocese of Meath hosts safeguarding children conference
Over 250 people attended a Church conference on child protection hosted by Bishop Michael Smith in Trim on 14 October 2015.
The purpose of the conference was to outline how good child protection measures support the task of working with young people in parishes. The conference was attended by TUSLA social workers who assist the Church in its work.
A series of short presentations were given by four teenagers. Aideen Tansy-Moran (Delvin), Sean Savage (Drogheda), Alex McEvily and Ben Stuart (both from Mullingar) described their positive experiences of being part of their parishes. They thanked the priests and volunteers for making the Church a safe and caring place for young people.
Bishop Denis Brennan spoke about the transformation that has taken place in his Diocese of Ferns since the publication of the Ferns Report 10 years ago. The Ferns Report was critical of aspects of how the diocese handled complaints of abuse and, quoting specifically from the Report, Bishop Brennan said “with the benefit of hindsight it is possible to see that the Church authorities, the medical profession, and society generally, failed to appreciate the horrendous damage which the sexual abuse of children, can and does cause.’’
The Bishop said the Church rightly has a zero toleance approach to any manifestation of child abuse and that protocols are in place to prevent a recurrence of the suffering and scandal of the past. While these protocols sometimes give rise to fear on the part of volunteers and clergy working with children today, he emphasised that the Church is now in a better place to engage again with young people “and to close the gap that has opened up in recent years between adults and children. And this is why we must always be open to incorporating new insights into our pastoral and professional practice, always understanding that it remains a work in progress - and crucially - a Ministry for everyone”.
Peter Kieran is a member of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland. He complimented Bishop Michael Smith and the priests and volunteers who attended the Conference. He emphasised that parents and children can have great confidence that their children are in a safe and caring place when they take part in Church activities because of the good standards and professionalism that is well established in the Diocese of Meath.
Aoife Walsh from the Diocese of Limerick re-inforced the Bishop’s point that good child protection helps priests and volunteers to overcome the fear which can be associated with youth ministry because of what happened in the past. She said:
"Some people will say that Safeguarding and all these policies and procedures have ruined youth ministry. They’ve taken away the spontaneity that used to exist and made it harder to for people to get involved. I really haven’t found that to be true. For example I don’t have any problem recruiting leaders for the youth ministry programmes that we run. I have waiting lists in fact and no one has ever had a problem filling in an application form or completing their Garda Vetting. Now I should say that most of my youth leaders are in their early twenties so they have grown up with a different cultural context, they don’t know any different, they do what’s asked because that’s just the way it is. They have no other frame of reference and they have no fear around it and in my experience fear is what lies at the heart of matter."
We would like to hear your feedback from the conference. Due to time contraints, it was not possible to have a 'questions and answers' period at the conference but if you would like to address some questions to the speakers or some comments to the safeguarding children committee, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to download the training questionnaire, which can be returned by post to Bishop's House, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath.