Gathering for Eucharistic Congress
Sir, – Moved by Eamon Reid’s letter (June 26th), I too wish to share my experience of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) in Dublin.
I am a priest and a survivor of sexual abuse. I had paid my subscription and registered to attend the IEC. As the time drew nearer, however, and despite being asked to attend a meeting by three Irish bishops on May 10th, 2011, it became clear to me that survivors of clerical sexual abuse were not seriously on the agenda of the congress. I decided, therefore, that I could not attend. Nevertheless, on Friday June 15th, I went to the RDS as an observer – not a participant.
The entire experience left me desolate and full of sorrow. Eamon Reid’s analysis is exactly correct: no place of welcome or comfort for any survivor of clerical sexual abuse; the blessing of a lump of Wicklow granite, as a so-called “gesture” towards victims, the irony of which is entirely lost on the bishops and organisers, indicative of their utter detachment from our pain, their inability to understand our plight; a clandestine and unverifiable meeting, between the Papal Legate, Cardinal Marc Ouellet and “some survivors”, near Lough Derg. The aversion of eyes and expressed hostility of some participants towards the protest, as described by Mr Reid, sums it all up.
There is a total absence of the compassionate Heart of Christ towards survivors. The dreadful experience of being there was underpinned, for me, by a chance encounter with one Irish bishop, to whom I attempted to express my sense of alienation and distress: he shrugged his shoulders and walked off in a huff. No blessing, no renewal, will follow that congress. For Christ was once again betrayed, by a callous and careless “Church”, in His wounded sisters and brothers.
A precious opportunity for some meaningful pastoral engagement with victims and, perhaps, some healing, was lost forever. Indeed, “Jesus wept” and He continues to weep. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I refer to Eamon Reid’s letter (June 26th).
Unlike Mr Reid, I paid to attend three days of the events at the RDS. I was refused admission to at least three talks and was very robustly removed from an area into which I went by mistake, by a determined, strong security man. I recognised that he was doing his job and did not feel the need to publicise the incident or acquire a placard. The security stalwarts had apparently been called upon because of the unprecedented crowds, and the volunteers – who were the greatest example of Christian courtesy, joy and charity which we have witnessed – could not cope.
As regards those who have been abused by priests or religious congregations, I am aware that literally millions of euro have been allocated for counselling and therapy for them and thousands of people have availed of such services to date. For those who still feel the effects of abuse I would hope they would avail of this therapy. Should they refuse this, then the words of Jesus would be very appropriate in their case; see John Chapter 5, Verse 7: “Do you want to be healed?”
Can they ever spare a thought for the thousands of good priests and religious who are trying to continue their ministry despite being tarred daily by the sins of a few? – Yours, etc,