Alcohol-induced abuse of children is rife, says bishop
FIGURES FOR alcohol abuse “would imply that many children are being physically, emotionally and sexually abused across this country on a daily basis – and especially at weekends,” the Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor, Donal McKeown, has said.
He was “not scaremongering” when he suggested “that frightening numbers of children are being physically abused because of addiction and that many under 18s are being sexually exploited each weekend – often in the name of harmless freedom and craic. But an abused child is an abused child whether they are in care or in a pub”, he said.
Speaking in Knock at the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association (PTAA) national pilgrimage he said “the shame of child abuse is a shame for us all”.
He continued: “But it would be great if the powerful who lead the new secular hierarchy in our country could accept that they too share responsibility, not just for righteously punishing offenders, but also for the addiction and crime of so many across our country – and learn the need for shared reparation because of the dangerous world that we have created for too many young people.”
He noted that “the Irish drinks market is estimated to be worth about € 5 billion per year. That means € 100 million per week is spent on intoxicating drinks. That is a huge part of our national budget. Not surprisingly we have the highest percentage of heavy underage drinking in Europe.
“Figures I saw recently suggested that 25 per cent of 15-16 years olds in this country get drunk at least three times a month. It is estimated that 50,000 children get drunk every weekend in Ireland”.
Abuse of alcohol was “a national disgrace and we seem unable to acknowledge it”.
It sought “to insinuate itself in to all families and all social strata. That is the dark underbelly of the image of the happy carefree Irish who enjoy socialising. Somebody pays the price and too often it is battered wives and abused children who pay the biggest toll”.
Too often it is “our hospital and emergency staff, who have to pick up the pieces or defend themselves against intoxicated patients. Too often it is communities and key people like clergy, who have to try and deal with the effects and consequences of this dark secret that lurks in the corner of every part of this country,” he said.
“In a particular way, young people are both the beneficiaries and the victims of our new culture,” Bishop McKeown added. “But they are rarely the architects of it. However, if we dare criticise the situation, there are those who will say we are exaggerating or that church people are trying to deflect attention from the evils of the past.
“To them I say that the price of repentance for the past is not silence about the present . . . abstinence in an age of over-indulgence is a powerful and uncomfortable counter-cultural sign. You might not be popular for it – but never let yourself be ashamed of it.”
He said that in a strong church “we were terribly blind to our sins. Our new society is equally capable of culpable self-deceit today”.