Honesty urged over abuse by religious

 

A MAN who was blinded by a rubber bullet in Derry as a child has urged the Catholic Church to be open and honest in the way it deals with the legacy of child abuse by priests and religious orders.

Richard Moore, founder of the Children in Crossfire charity, was at the Eucharistic Congress to speak about reconciliation.

He was shot and blinded by a rubber bullet fired by a British soldier when he was 10 years old. Blindness had been “a positive experience” for him and he attributed this to the support from his family and community and “the power of my parents’ prayers”.

“I didn’t have any anger or any bitterness about what happened. I basically had that gift of forgiveness,” he said. He met the soldier who shot him in 2007 and they were now friends.

Asked how the church could encourage reconciliation in the wake of the child abuse crisis, he said: “We know there’s got to be changes. I think the church knows that. They’re maybe not coming quick enough, they’re maybe not coming radical enough but I think the church has recognised that.”

Mr Moore said the most important thing was “openness and honesty and I think many, many people in the church possess that”.

Fr Kevin Doran, secretary general of the Eucharistic Congress, said the organisers had sought advice on whether groups representing survivors of abuse should be personally invited to the congress. The advice they had received was that it was preferable to offer an invitation to survivors individually rather than in groups.

“There was a risk survivors might become part of a PR exercise, which we didn’t want,” he said.

The plan to invite some abuse survivors to meet papal legate Cardinal Marc Ouellet in Lough Derg was organised outside the congress, Fr Doran said.

Two survivors of institutional abuse who were not invited to that meeting have formally asked to speak at the Eucharistic Congress on the final day.

Michael O’Brien of the Right to Peace group and Christopher Heaphy of Voices of the Existing Survivors said they wanted the church “to listen to, to understand and to give heed to, the needs and wants of survivors of abuse from the institutions”.

In a joint statement addressed to church leaders, they also called for an annual national day of atonement. “It will serve as a reminder to be forever on our guard when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable in our society.”

Some 12,700 pilgrims attended the Eucharistic Congress on Wednesday while an estimated 12,500 took part in the procession through Ballsbridge later that evening.

There were long queues outside workshops at the RDS yesterday and large screens have now been set up outside to broadcast the proceedings from some of the more popular workshops.

Trócaire director Justin Kilcullen told the congress it had been easier to put a man on the moon than to end world poverty. A billion people were still going to bed hungry every day and one child was dying every three seconds from hunger.

“If applied to Ireland, the annual child death rate from hunger would be 10,000 a year. This would be totally unacceptable,” he said.

“Yet on a global scale we have come to accept the seeming inevitability of the scandal of poverty and hunger. Nobody loses their job, let alone goes to prison for allowing this situation to continue.”