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Last week, in an impassioned speech delivered from the floor of the Irish parliament, Prime Minister Enda Kenny offeredsome hard sayings about the Vatican's handling of clergy sexual abuse in Ireland. Kenny said that therecent report on the scandal in Cloyne "excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism, the narcissism that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day." So much for Joyce's "Ireland my first and only love / Where Christ and Caesar are hand and glove!"The Cloyne report examines the diocese's handling of abuse allegations between January 1, 1996, the year Irish bishops established procedures for dealing with abuse claims, and February 1, 2009 -- well after the institutional church came to realize the gravity of such crimes. According to the report, two-thirds of allegations during that period were not forwarded to the police, as required by the Irish bishops' own '96 guidelines.

On Monday, the Vatican recalled its apostolic nuncio to Ireland. Fr. Ciro Benedettini, vice director of the Vatican press office, explained that Rome wanted to consult with the nuncio about its response to Cloyne. But there was another reason. As Benedettini elaborated, the decision was not unrelated to "some degree of surprise and disappointment at certain excessive reactions. By Friday, it was reported that the Vatican would replace the nuncio.

Benedettini wasn't the only one shocked and dismayed by Kenny's speech. Last Sunday, a priest in County Louth gave the following headline to his column in the parish bulletin: "Heil Herr Kenny!" The priest wrote: "No Pope here.' Is this the way forward for a new and better Ireland?"

Catholic journalists soon started asking similar questions. In his column "Erin Go Bonkers" (get it?), George Weigel declares Ireland "the most stridently anti-Catholic country in the Western world." But it's Kenny's "rant" that was "hysterical" and "rabid," on Weigel's telling. He suggests replacing all of Ireland's bishops -- with men from other countries, if necessary, men "who know how to fight the soft totalitarianism of European secularists." Clearly the Irish church's most immediate threat.

In a post titled "The Anticlerical Hysteria Sweeping Ireland," at America's In All Things blog, Austen Ivereigh calls Kenny's speech "bizarre" and "rambling." Ivereigh points out that the Cloyne Report criticizes the Vatican for a 1997 letter from the apostolic nuncio [.pdf] "in which he questioned whether the 1996 guidelines drawn up by the Irish bishops were compatible with canon law, notably the idea that church officials should be obliged to pass on all and any allegations to the civil authorities." Of course, as Ivereigh emphasizes, that is no longer the thinking in the Vatican. He continues: "Nothing justifies" Kenny's "broadside, which conveniently glosses over the state's failures over abuse -- also highlighted in the [Cloyne] Report -- or the Commission's findings that the state's guidelines on abuse are more opaque and difficult to understand than the church's." Yet, according to Ivereigh, this dark cloud has a silver lining:

The good news about Cloyne -- a small rural diocese in Co. Cork -- is that its failures were first spotted by the Church's own safeguarding watchdog, which brought them to light in December 2008. Judge Murphy, then investigating Dublin, decided to extend her probe to Cloyne. Bishop Magee was stood down, and the Church -- as the Cloyne Report clearly acknowledges -- cooperated fully with the investigation.

Leaving aside Ivereigh's own bizarre remark about the size and location of Cloyne -- presumably he didn't intend it to comfort those who were scandalized by the report's findings -- it certainly would be disappointing for the prime minister of Ireland to criticize the institutional church for its failures in addressing clergy sexual abuse while glossing over his own government's mistakes. Just as it would be foolish of him to name the hierarchy's shortcomings without acknowledging its successes. It's a good thing, then, that he didn't. Kenny:

I must note the Commission is very positive about the work of the National Board for Safeguarding Children, established by the Church to oversee the operation by Dioceses and religious orders. The Commission notes that all Church authorities were required to sign a contract with the National Board agreeing to implement the relevant standards and that those refusing to sign would be named in the Board's Annual Report....

There is some small comfort to be drawn by the people of Cloyne from the fact that the Commission is complimentary of the efforts made by the Diocese since 2008, in training, in vetting personnel and in the risk management of Priests against whom allegations have been made.


But if the Vatican needs to get its house in order, so does this State.The Report of the Commission is rightly critical of the entirely unsatisfactory position which the last Government allowed to persist over many years.The unseemly bickering between the Minister for Children and the HSE over the statutory powers to deal with extra-familial abuse, the failure to produce legislation to enable the exchange of soft information as promised after the Ferns Enquiry, and the long period of confusion and disjointed responsibility for child protection within the HSE, as reported by the Commission, are simply not acceptable in a society which values children and their safety.

For too long Ireland has neglected its children.

Does that sound hysterical to you? More or less hysterical than declaiming Ireland as the most anti-Catholic country in the Western world? What about this:

The rape and torture of children were downplayed or "managed" to uphold instead, the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and "reputation."Far from listening to evidence of humiliation and betrayal with St. Benedict's "ear of the heart," the Vatican's reaction was to parse and analyse it with the gimlet eye of a canon lawyer.This calculated, withering position being the polar opposite of the radicalism, humility and compassion upon which the Roman Church was founded.

No doubt, many church critics have exaggerated the import of that 1997 letter. But when at least one Irish bishop tells the press that he interpreted it as an instruction not to inform civil authorities about allegations against priests, can you blame them? What about when one considers the fact that the letter communicated the concerns of the Congregation for Clergy, then headed by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, who in 2001 praised a French bishop for covering up for a priest he knew had abused several boys? Or when the '97 letter is read in light of a 1984 letter from the Congregation for Clergy (then run by Cardinal Silvio Oddi) to the bishop of Tucson ordering him notto release the personnel files of priests accused of misconduct (not necessarily sexual abuse) to civil lawyers?

Of course, Kenny's critics are right to say that proposals requiring priests to report abuse disclosed during confession must be rejected by Irish lawmakers -- as a violation of religious freedom and of common sense. But no one ought to be surprised that a Catholic country so convulsed by clergy abuse for so long would, after another in a string of damning reports on the scandal, find itself seeking desperate measures.There was also a hint of desperation in David Quinn's response to Kenny's comments. Writing in the Independent, Quinn also called Kenny's address hysterical. "In the sort of language normally associated with a Richard Dawkins or Ian Paisley, he accused the Vatican of 'dysfunction, disconnection, elitism...narcissism' and effectively of not caring about the 'rape and torture of children.'" Hasn't it already been established that dysfunction, disconnection, and clericalism (usually characterized by elitism and narcissism) significantly contributed to the Catholic Church's sexual-abuse crisis? Is there a better word than narcissistic for Cardinal Sodano's Easter 2010 performance? What do you call the game of canonical hot potato that was played between Rome and local bishops over how to handle accused priests, if not dysfunctional? Were some Vatican officials something other than disconnected when, throughout the 1990s and even as the 2002 wave of U.S. scandals broke, they dismissed the abuse crisis as an American phenomenon?

Yes, Kenny claimed that even today's Vatican is "dominated" by a culture that enables abuse. That's probably going too far. But by how much? The Irish people have seen four state inquiries into clergy abuse, which have cost them 134 million. It's not as though compiling those reports has been a cake walk. As Patsy McGarry points out, "None of this would have been necessary had the Catholic Church here [in Ireland] and in Rome co-operated fully in establishing the truth."When it came to the investigation of the Diocese of Ferns, for example, "abuse files on five further priests which should have been presented to the inquiry remained unavailable until an accidental discovery in the summer of 2005 when the Ferns draft report was already completed," McGarry writes. And in May 2009, the Ryan report concluded that a climate of fear, created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary punishment, permeated most of the institutions and all those run for boys [by the Christian Brothers]. Children lived with the daily terror of not knowing where the next beating was coming from. Just five days before that report was published,the Christian Brothers sent a letter to the redress board denying abuse allegations. The next month the Christian Brothers released a statement expressing their regret for sending such a letter. And in January 2008 the retired archbishop of Dublin sued the current archbishop to prevent him from turning over documents to state investigators. Amazingly, in 2006 the Vatican could not manage toacknowledge correspondence from the Murphy commission. "Instead," McGarry writes, "it complained the commission did not use proper channels." So the next year the commission followed proper procedure, asking the nuncio to forward correspondence to Rome. Silence. Again in 2009,the commission contacted the next nuncio, including a copy of the draft report. No reply.Kenny's critics have complained that he unfairly blamed Rome for the faults of the local church. Apparently they either don't grasp that apostolic nuncios are officials of the Vatican appointed by the pope or they don't know how uncooperative some have been.

Is it any wonder, then, that Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin recently admitted that after reading the Cloyne report the first emotion that came to him was anger?

Some years ago I was criticized in some Church circles for speaking of strong forces still present in the Church which would prefer that the truth did not emerge. There are signs, I said, of subconscious denial on the part of many about the extent of the abuse which occurred within the Church of Jesus Christ in Ireland and how it was covered up. There are other signs of rejection of a sense of responsibility for what had happened. There are worrying signs that despite solid regulations and norms these are not being followed with the rigour required.

Much has, thank God, been undertaken within the Catholic Church to address the facts of the past and to improve safeguarding procedures. Much has, thank God, been undertaken within the Catholic Church to address the facts of the past and to improve safeguarding procedures. The Catholic Church in Ireland is a much safer place today than it was even in the recent past.Much is being said, on the other hand, that despite words the Church has not learned the lessons. Both statements are true.

Last week, in a televised interview, Martin said, "Those who felt they were able to play tricks with norms, they have betrayed...good men and so many others in the church who are working today, I am angry, ashamed and appalled by that.Visibly shaken, Martin confessed, "I find myself asking today, can I be proud of the church that I'm a leader of? His admission won the ire of Phil Lawler, director of Catholic Culture, who called it "hardly a statement calculated to boost Catholic morale." Is that what Irish Catholics need right now? An episcopal pep talk? Surely, Lawler, a Boston native -- a fact he mentions often, so you know he really gets the sexual-abuse crisis -- remembers how well that strategy served bishops in the past, not to mention the faithful. Or at least what's left of them.And that's the point, isn't it? Archbishop Martin is presiding over the most dramatic period of attrition the Irish church has ever seen. Perhaps it's more convenient or comforting to focus on Kenny's overreaching claims. It's important to correct them, and more important to make sure priests are not compelled to break the seal of confession.

But Kenny is giving voice to the greater pastoral and ecclesiological crisis that his archbishop -- in his refusal to strike a defensive pose -- is trying to address. Kenny's anger isn't about a single incident, a single letter, a single report. It's about a long history of abuse that was enabled locally and internationally by a church -- comprising clergy and laity alike -- that for too long looked the other way.The failure of some Catholic journalists to recall that larger context, to the point of misrepresenting important parts of Kennys speech, eerily echoes the institutional defensiveness that landed the church in this mess to begin with. That view of history should not be repeated -- or abetted.


Commenting Guidelines

No, it reads like a calm and logical analysis of the facts. In this, I'll grant you, it is quite different from what the Irish papers are reporting, and quite different from the speech of Enda Kenny.

Mr. Barry, thank you for your reference to canon 212.3, which reminded me of my recent exchange of correspondence with Archbishop Kurtz of Louisville. I asked if he would permit the editor of our local church newspaper "to print readers' letters that challenge official church teaching and policy on issues such as women's ordination, optional celibacy, artificial birth control, etc." I suggested that canon 212.3 "would appear to allow, if not mandate, such action." I included a copy of a "Letters" column from another diocesan newspaper that printed reader feedback in support of women's ordination (including support for Roy Bourgeois). The other diocesan paper even included a sidebar with resources, both pro and con, about the issue.After invoking God's blessing on me, the AB "offer[ed] some thoughts for [my] prayer and reflection." He went on to state:"I think it is important to consider both the full wording of the canon and the purpose of an archdiocesan newspaper in responding to this question...."You quoted canon 212.3 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law. The canon assumes several conditions, 1) the 'knowledge, competence, and preeminence' of the person making the comment; 2) that opinions are expressed in the proper forum; and 3) that care must be taken 'with due regard for the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward their pastors, and with due consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons.' When considering the publication of letters that disagree with the teaching of the Church, both 2 and 3 particularly inform this question."A diocesan newspaper's primary purpose is to inform, educate, and evangelize within the context of a local Church and is not the forum for letters that disagree with fundamental teachings of the Church. This is not the purpose of a diocesan newspaper. This certainly does not preclude an individual from expressing his or her concerns in other appropriate public or Church forums or with his or her pastor. Certainly, the newspaper can publish letters that disagree with the newspaper's work or that disagree with Church actions or decisions that do not fall within the purview of authoritative Church teaching. I think it is important to add that the newspaper has a firm policy of not publishing 'attack' letters that denigrate or insult individuals or groups."In his closing paragraph, the AB acknowledges that "we may have different perspectives about the purpose of diocesan newspapers."As an attorney reminded me several years ago, the meaning of the law depends on the person whom you ask.

I should note that I then asked Archbishop Kurtz for clarification on several points in his letter. For now, I'll just note that our local newspaper apparently is violating that provision of canon 212.3 regarding the "'knowledge, competence, and preeminence' of the person making the comment." I advised the AB that if letters published to date are any indication (THE RECORD only rather recently resumed publishing letters on some limited but regular basis), they reflect the level of information that most of us would obtain from reading the daily newspaper or watching the network news :-)I asked Archbishop Kurtz if his editor will now be vetting the backgrounds of THE RECORD's readers who submit letters for publication. I also asked him what might be the qualifications required in terms of experience, education, and training in order to consider a reader's letter worthy of publication.And life goes on --- in a very dysfunctional church.

I might also note that Kurtz is 18 months my senior and has a master's degree in social work; my graduate degree is in human resources development. Unlike the AB, I've had the luxury over the past several years to inform myself on various church issues such as liturgical history and women's ordination. I'm no expert, to be sure, but I suspect I could easily debate Kurtz on these issues.Damn sad: the AB takes the people's money to publish a weekly newspaper, but he also denies said "taxpayers" the opportunity to offer informed critique on non-infallible teaching and policy.As I've noted many, many times here and elsewhere, the laity are "enabling" such irresponsible hierarchical behaviors.

Joseph, your archbishop is naive. He should publish letters representing a breadth of opinions; but he should choose them carefully so that letters that agree with official church teachings and with his priorities are chosen among the well-articulated, factual, reasoned letters, while the letters that disagree with church teachings or with his viewpoint are chosen among angry, irrational, off-putting letters. I think that that would be much more effective. You should consider yourself lucky that Abp Kurtz is so honest (or so unsophisticated).

OMG, Claire, let's not give the AB any ideas :-) !!!!!

Phyllis Zagano has a fine piece at NCR today that I think the less than empathic Mr. Weigel would probably brand as a "usual suspect."

Danny --True, other denominations have their perverts, as do schools, the Boy Scouts, and other child intensive groups. It is a wonder to me that politicians have not realized how very much the general population cares about such abuse and that you don't find politicians with planks in their platforms promising to eliminate as much child sexual abuse as possible wherever it exists. Much headway has apparently been made in some dioceses. I would assume that the problem can also be minimized in other institutions besides the RCC.

The blog "The Thirsty Gargoyle" has been mentioned a number of times and some posters have denounced it - evidently without bothering to to read the links provided. This is an extract from one of the TGs articles entitled "How Many Questions on the Cloyne Report". I am quoting THREE of his questions and replies as they provide a useful overall view of the Report: How many allegations did the diocese receive?The Report deals with allegations against nineteen priests, including John Magee himself --9. John Magee? There were allegations against the Bishop?Yes. Well, sort of. There was a troubling incident or series of incidents, but it seems that the matter in question, while inappropriate and unwise, couldn't possibly be deemed child sexual abuse. It's difficult to see what the Diocese' response to an allegation of something that certainly wasn't child sexual abuse is doing in a report on how the Diocese dealt with allegations of child sexual abuse, but there you have it. The Report's not perfect.10. Right, so it deals with allegations against eighteen priests. That's a lot, isn't it?It is, though it depends on what you mean by a lot. The Devil's in the details, and when thinking of these eighteen priests, it's worth keeping mind that the Report notes that 430 priests were incardinated in the Diocese between 1932, the year in which the oldest priest covered in the Report had been ordained, and 2010, and that there has been only one case in Cloyne where a court decreed a priest guilty of any sort of sexual abuse. I think even one is one too many, really. Two of the cases deal not with allegations but mere expressions of concern, one about an isolated episode seventeen years earlier. At least three allegations were against priests who had died before any accusations were received, so they weren't given any opportunity of defending themselves -- indeed, a fourth such case is almost certainly related to a long-dead priest, the identity of whom remains unknown even now -- and three complaints were about priests who died soon after allegations were received. In four cases, the Director of Public Prosecutions decided against pressing charges, and although charges were brought in a fifth case, no criminal prosecution took place. The Director of Public Prosecutions repeatedly decided against pressing charges against yet another priest, identified in the Report as 'Father Ronat' and in the Elliott Report as 'Father B'; however he has since been tried and acquitted. In only one case has a priest of Cloyne diocese been convicted of any crime related to abuse: this priest, the Report's 'Father Caden', pleaded guilty to gross indecency and received an eighteen-month suspended sentence.

Rory -The point of the Cloyne Report is not to point out convicted priests but to show instances of charges of sexual abuse that were not properly investigated by the those responsible to investigate. Bishop Magee and his Msgr. are dogs that *should have* barked in the night, but didn't. They should have called for proper help to invetigate suspicious circumstances, but they didn't. They were bad watch dogs/bad shepherds/choose your own metaphor. That's the point of that study.

It seems to me that Judge Murphy showed bad faith by taking the worst possible interpretation of the actions of Bishop Magee and Monsignor O'Callaghan. They are accused of not doing enough even in cases where priests were dead or the accuser could not remember the name of his alleged abuser. If those accusers had gone directly to the police and reported decades old allegations against now-dead priests what do you suppose the police would have done?The Thirsty Gargoyle also points out that the chapter of the Report that details an allegation against Magee himself seems to have no relevance to the terms of reference of the Commission since it does NOT relate to an allegation of child sexual abuse. "Chapter 26 details how Magee himself is said to have inappropriately hugged a young adult male, but the Report gives no indication of when this happened. More importantly, it is unclear on the youth's age (C26.4), despite the fact of the Report stating that although he had been accepted for a place in seminary when he was approximately 17 years old he had to wait until he was 18 before starting his studies (C26.3), and that the youth was first hugged by the bishop at a meeting just before the start of the seminary year when he was due to begin his studies (C26.4). At least on the basis of the Report, he must have been eighteen at the time, but the Report seems unnecessarily vague on the matter. ........"......... I don't see that the Magee episode as described in Chapter 26 has any place in the Report at all. I don't dispute for a moment that it's troubling, but what's clear from it is that it concerns the bishop having allegedly hugged an admittedly young adult male, and having kissed him on the forehead. Everybody who considered this matter -- the diocesan delegate Father Bermingham, Ian Elliott of the National Board for Safeguarding Children, Archbishop Clifford, and the Garda -- all took the same view, which was that though Magee's behaviour was inappropriate, given the actual details revealed and Josephs age at the time, the behaviour described did not constitute an allegation of child sexual abuse. Given that the remit of the Report was to report on the handling of allegations and suspicions of child sexual abuse received by the diocese of Cloyne between 1996 and 2009, I really don't see why this is in the report at all. I'm not saying it's good; it's nothing of the sort. I'm just saying it's not in the remit of the Report." END OF QUOTEMy own question - Apart from facilitating sneering media attacks on Magee, what precisely was the reason for including Chapter 26 in the Report at all?

Rory --Bringing in the bishop's inappropriate behavior (he kissed the boy a number of times, not just once) brings confirmation that he was the sort of person who *at best* did not recognize what was unacceptable behavior with young people. This might possibly explain to some extent his inaction with regard to a number of serious allegations of abuse. Conclusion from these episodes: Bishop Magee at best had very rotten judgment.

AnneThe Cloyne Report begins: "This Report describes the handling of allegations, complaints, suspicions and concerns about CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE in respect of 19 clerics". [My emphasis]. Chapters 9 to 26 concern the 19 clerics. Each cleric is allocated one chapter - the only exception being Chapter 22 which deals with "Two priest teachers in a diocesan college". Chapter 26 relates to Bishop Magee. The Thirsty Gargoyle points out that "despite the fact of the Report stating that although he had been accepted for a place in seminary when he was approximately 17 years old he had to wait until he was 18 before starting his studies (C26.3), and that the youth was first hugged by the bishop at a meeting just before the start of the seminary year when he was due to begin his studies (C26.4). At least on the basis of the Report, he must have been eighteen at the time, but the Report seems unnecessarily vague on the matter".Thus a chapter of the Report that is supposed to deal with "child sexual abuse", does not relate to a child at all - or to sex abuse for that matter. If Judge Murphy wanted to make some general comments about inappropriate behaviour by Bishop Magee with a non-child, then she went the wrong way about it.

I heard of an English Anglican priest ministering in the Irish Republic and who had some sort of sexual affair with a 17 year old boy. In itself such behavior is legal; but he received 5 years for "indecency" -- sounds like we are back to Victorian times.Rory is right -- the Cloyne Report is obsessed with mandatory reporting, even when the allegations are of the flimsiest, and Msgr O'Callaghan is being hung, drawn and quartered for the exercise of common sense. This is rewritten as "presiding over the systematic rape and torture of children" by the witch-hunters.(Note again that the Irish Government thrice rejected mandatory reporting legislation, and will do so again despite Kenny's rant).

@ Joseph S. O'Leary:This has nothing to do with "Victorian" sensibilities about "indecency." This discussion is about the sexual exploitation of children and vulnerable adults by priests who because of their position in Irish society were able to sexually violate these children and vulnerable adults with impunity - and then have complicit hierarchs cover it up.If that is a too old-fashioned-notion for you, then really who is the moral reprobate here?Agreed that mandatory reporting legislation is no magic bullet, nor are these statutes perfectly written. But, if effectively welded by civil authorities and agencies, mandatory reporting requirements are an essential tool to compel sociopathic priests and bishops to participate in and adhere to social laws that are intended to safeguard children from predation.You may not have such a high opinion of the Enda Kenny. But one thing is for sure: This moment may not come again for many years - maybe not in our lifetimes. To have a civil politician, a prime minister of government no less, so bluntly identify the evil corruption that has all but consumed the Catholic Church's hierarchy, is a rare event in the history of democratic governments spanning more than two centuries.To have the Irish Taoiseach speak aloud these truths to power is beyond astonishing! Throughout the centuries of Irish suffering and deprivation, the Catholic Church always stood as a bulwark against economic and political oppression. While Ireland suffered the diaspora of millions of her sons and daughters spread around the globe, the Catholic Church provided shelter for the Irish culture, language and spirituality. The prime minister's speech now proves that all that has passed away because of the arrogant narcissism of the hierarchs.P.S. Interesting that you, O'Leary, invoke the memory of the church's Inquisition "witch-hunters" to besmirch advocates for survivors of sexual exploitation by priests! Things getting a little too hot, a little too close to bone, for you guys?

But, if effectively welded by civil authorities and agencies, mandatory reporting requirements are an essential tool to compel sociopathic priests and bishops to participate in and adhere to social laws that are intended to safeguard children from predation.That kind of rant is one of the things that prompted The Thirsty Gargoyle to comment in relation to this "debate":Too often it's like being in a bizarre University tutorial where you're the only person who's read any of the original sources, but where everybody else has a passionate view on the stuff they've never read. Still, if people shout at you for being honest and informed, that's the way it goes. We have a duty towards the Truth, after all. you understand that the Irish Government specifically declined to introduce mandatory reporting on a number of occasions? They declined on the advice of the social workers who actually deal with troubled families and abused children. The social workers feared an avalanche of false claims that would make their jobs impossible. These are the people who would have to report allegations of sexual abuse even if they thought the allegations were without foundation. When the police investigated and found no evidence of such abuse, the social workers would then have to deal with the enraged parents whom they had falsely accused. After all the families would still be troubled and now would have a GENUINE grievance against the "interfering busybodies".It is clear from media reports that Irish social workers are still strongly opposed to mandatory reporting.

For a view of the way the Itish government views this and its approach to the Vatican, check out the parliamentary debate of August 8.Mandatoruy repotting is a defense issue from supporters of the Romans at this point.

@ Rory Connor:Excuse me, I believe you're the one who's "rant[ing]". Sadly, it is you who is woefully uninformed and don't understand mandatory reporting statutes. I don't know what is the specific political dynamic behind Irish social workers and what they are advocating for their particular circumstances. I'm sure that there is still a great deal of shame associated with how Irish culture abetted child sexual abuse for generations.For obvious reasons of which we are now aware rooted in their history, the Catholic Church does not have a stellar record of supporting mandatory reporting regimens. I am a mandated reporter in CA. There are established, intricate systems for reporting abuse of vulnerable populations. It's NOT a perfect system - tragically too many folks still slip through the safety net. But it has made important contributions to the safety of children, women caught in domestic violence, and elderly who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation.I shutter to think what a hell-hole children would be abandoned to if the state had no mechanism to intervene in what are mostly abusive family situations.Child protective agencies, although understaffed and under-funded, are the central players in these circumstances. Courts and police have come to rely heavily on these professionals to provide a modicum of protection for especially children.The key to making mandatory reporting systems work is to ENFORCE the LAW. Unfortunately, there has been a sad example of the consequences of not enforcing the law right here in No. CA: A local district attorney failed to prosecute Bishop Daniel Walsh of Santa Rosa [Since the advent of the Catholic abuse scandal, priests and bishops have been designated in CA as mandated reporters.] after Walsh failed to report serial child sex abuser, Xavier Ochoa, to civil authorities, and in fact tipped-off Ochoa that the police were going to arrest him, allowing Ochoa to skip town and flee to Mexico which has no extradition for rape and sodomy.Walsh was given a slap on the wrist. Apparently, Ochoa is now back in ministry in Mexico where he is ostensibly free to menace and sexually assault even more children. [Ochoa is a particularly pernicious sexual predator since his preferred victims usually come from the poorest of families.]Mandatory reporting statutes are only ONE tool in efforts to make children safer. In my opinion, a more effective tool would be for the Catholic Church to publicly identify all priests who have been credibly accused so that parents could be forewarned about sexual predator priests.Other helpful measures: Effectively supervised "Aftercare" programs for identified perpetrator priests. Stiff prison sentences for abusing priests and their complicit bishops.Since there is no known effective clinical treatment for child sexual abuse [published in the scientific literature], the best that we can do to ensure the safety of children is to sequester perpetrators from their target victim populations using the prison system.It wouldn't hurt if the Catholic Church (read hierarchs) got serious about reforming the priesthood from parish to pope.And Rory, I would gladly suffer some occasional "interfering busybodies" if it meant that at least some children would not have their innocence violated by predatory adults, especially priests.