Child protection officer in Cloyne stands down
The child protection officer in the Diocese of Cloyne has stood down from his child safeguarding role over revelations that he gave a cleric access to confidential complaints against him.
Fr Bill Bermingham admitted his handling of the case has caused further distress to the woman complainant.
Fr Bermingham initially issued a defence of his actions, insisting they were in line with both Catholic Church and state child protection guidelines.
However, on Saturday evening Fr Bermingham said the confidence of child sex abuse victims in his role has been undermined by the controversy.
“For this reason and in the interests of those who have been offended against… I have asked Archbishop Dermot Clifford to relieve me of the role,” he said in a statement.
“I very much regret the distress occasioned by my handling of this case.”
His actions sparked outrage among child abuse survivors who claimed they could undermine criminal proceedings against the unnamed cleric.
Fr Bermingham was made aware in May 2009 of the woman’s allegations that she was abused as a young girl in the 1980s by a priest.
He said he reported them on the same day to the Gardaí and the Health Service Executive, after which the accused priest was stood aside from ministry to allow for an investigation.
Fr Bermingham met the woman in June 2009 and took notes of her complaint, but she insisted she made it clear this was only an introductory meeting and not a formal statement.
She never replied to a later letter from Fr Bermingham asking for her to confirm the allegations with her signature.
Gardaí told the woman last February that Fr Bermingham forwarded the allegations to the accused priest.
She said she was furious because it was an inaccurate record and not a full account and that it also gave the accused priest prior knowledge of the complaint.
Fr Bermingham confirmed he met with the accused priest and informed him of the substance of the allegations. He said the priest asked for a copy of the allegations as was his entitlement.
In his statement, Fr Bermingham said he very much regretted the distress he had caused.
Archbishop Dermot Clifford on Saturday confirmed he had accepted Fr Bermingham’s resignation.
“I wish to thank Fr Bermingham for the unstinting and selfless commitment which he has given to this role on behalf of the diocese during a very painful period,” he said.
“I have been witness to the integrity of Fr Bermingham’s motivation in seeking to rebuild trust with people who have been harmed by priests of the diocese and, to help in their healing.
“The safeguarding of children in Church ministry has been his consistent priority and concern.”