Prelate regrets lay absence in abuse response

Tue, Feb 23, 2010, 00:00

IF LAY people, and particularly women, had been more involved in the Catholic Church the response to clerical child sex abuse allegations “would have been different,” Archbishop of Tuam Michael Neary has said.

In a reflection on the Irish bishops’ summit with Pope Benedict last week, he also said that “in the discussions he asked for the forgiveness of the victims”.

The archbishop said “the need for co-operation with civil authorities, HSE and gardaí, and the complete implementation of the church’s own norms and procedures were seen as central to the safeguarding of children”.

At their meetings in the Vatican he said “the sense of pain, betrayal and anger expressed by victims was conveyed by the bishops. Scandal and shame was acknowledged by all who participated.”

Central to their discussions with the pope and senior Curia figures was “outreach to survivors, the desire to accompany them in their pain and help them find hope. The contributing causes to what had taken place and the lessons to be learned for the future were underlined.

“If lay people, and particularly women, had been involved as they now are in addressing this issue the response would have been different. Poor past management of sexual abuse cases has contributed to the suffering experienced by victims.”

At the meetings “it was acknowledged that while this is not a problem which is peculiar to Ireland or to the English-speaking world, or the church, nevertheless its impact is intensified in the church, damaging its credibility in a number of areas, for example, its teaching on marriage and the family, on sexual morality, and on the church’s role in education and Catholic schools”, he said.

While “there was an honest and courageous acknowledgment of the challenge facing all of us as a church at this time, the prevailing mood was one of hope and trust in God . . . Together we can do this, knowing that Christ has promised to journey with us,” he said.

In a Lenten pastoral letter to the people of Waterford and Lismore diocese, Bishop William Lee has recommended a revival of the Stations of the Cross.

“As you pray the stations, perhaps on the Fridays of Lent, I encourage you to remember in your prayers the survivors of abuse who have walked through life carrying the burden of traumatic experiences of the past. We pray that they can find healing and hope in the victory of Christ on Calvary,” he said.

Meanwhile, there was an angry reaction yesterday to reports that Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan had said “nothing will ever be enough to address the needs of victims . . . the most natural response to injustice is a desire for revenge” and that “to help victims move beyond that stage can be very difficult”.

Abuse survivors Marie Collins, Andrew Madden and One in Four’s Maeve Lewis said Bishop Drennan was “attempting to portray victims of clerical child sexual abuse as unreasonable in their needs and set on revenge. This is “most reprehensible” and that “attempting to pathologise this anger is extremely insulting”.