...By Lola Smith for TDPel Media.
An official report into the resignation of Bishop Robert Byrne as Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle in December has found that he made a “succession of errors of judgment”, including associating with a convicted paedophile friar despite being advised not to.
The report also highlights the sale of the Bishop’s House in West Denton and the purchase of a new home in “middle-class” Gosforth, which was controversial and considered by some to be an error of judgment.
The report also discusses the suicide of Cathedral Dean Canon Michael McCoy, who had twice been subject to “safeguarding plans” regarding working with older teenagers.
The report states that Bishop Byrne had been informed by “more than one source” of safeguarding issues surrounding Canon McCoy before he was appointed to work at the cathedral, and that it was an “error of judgment” to promote him to a high-profile position.
The report also found that media reports of “lewd” lockdown parties at Newcastle’s St Mary’s Cathedral were “simply untrue”.
The report, which was carried out by Archbishop Malcolm McMahon, identified four issues that had an impact on Bishop Byrne’s role: lockdown, the purchase of a new home, the suicide of Canon McCoy, and Bishop Byrne’s continued association with convicted paedophile Father Timothy Gardner.
The report found that Bishop Byrne’s association with Gardner was a “further error of judgment” and that he failed to understand the risks he was taking both for himself and the diocese.
In the view of Archbishop McMahon, Bishop Byrne was unable to see a way forward and failed to recognise his part in the situations that arose, highlighting his inability to cope with the demands of his role.
Lawyer Richard Scorer, who has acted for many survivors of abuse in the Catholic Church, described the investigation as “completely inadequate” and criticised the Catholic Church for its lack of external oversight of church safeguarding.
The report’s findings highlight the importance of safeguarding in the Catholic Church and the need for leaders to take responsibility for their actions.
It also highlights the importance of external oversight to ensure that safeguarding policies and procedures are being followed correctly and effectively.
The report’s failure to address the wider cultural and structural issues within the Catholic Church is a cause for concern, and it is important that the Church takes steps to address these issues in order to prevent similar situations from arising in the future.