Mass-goers have strong views on report by child abuse commission


LAITY:THE CHILD abuse commission report was on the minds of Mass-goers and featured in the sermons of priests throughout the country yesterday.

Michael Gallagher from Derry, who attended 11am Mass in Dublin’s Pro Cathedral yesterday, said: “Whatever can be done, should be done.

“All Catholics are responsible. The lay people probably knew about it and did nothing, whether they were too embarrassed or they didn’t want to get involved. And the boss men, the bishops in each area, were not doing their job.”

Aislinn O’Toole from Finglas said the relevant religious congregations “should contribute more . . . they should sell what they have to.”

Máire Kelly from Donabate remembered seeing the boys from Artane being brought on walks. “We lived close to Artane, and never knew that was going on,” she said.

“Everything is blamed on the church: the priests and brothers. Our society bears a responsibility I do think people in general should contribute (to redress), not just the State or the church. We all have to contribute,” she said.

Clíodhna Mohan from Rathgar has four small children and “to think that anyone would touch them . . it’s horrifying.” She really believed the congregations should contribute more. “We must never forget,” she said. She felt what took place should be commemorated annually “like the Holocaust and the Famine”.

Canon John Flaherty, administrator priest at the Pro Cathedral, stood in the portico saying goodbye to the Mass-goers. He spoke of “feeling great shame” and “sadness about what happened”.

“This week tested the limits of my priesthood,” he said. “It can be difficult to face people. I remain amazed at their faith and the (continuing) goodwill towards us,” he said.

Referring to the words of Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin last Wednesday, Canon Flaherty felt “the congregations needed to look at how gospel values could have been perverted in such a way”. The only glimmer of hope, he felt, was “that child protection has become a major item on the agenda”.

Mass-goers at the diocesan cathedral of St Mary’s and St Anne’s in Cork city heard curate Fr Mark Hehir express regret and sorrow for the abuse suffered by children at the hands of various religious in the past.

Paul O’Leary from Gurranebraher said while he knew abuse had gone on in the various institutions, he was still shocked at how widespread it was.

“The church has to deal with it now and hopefully pay more compensation because the deal as it stands isn’t fair with the State paying the bulk of it – it should be 50/50 or even 60/40 because the church is more to blame and should pay more,” he said.

John Dennehy from Douglas said the vast majority of the clergy were decent people but there was an obvious failure by the religious authorities to report and supervise people who were clearly unsuitable to look after in residential institutions.

“I think the agreement between the government and the religious orders should have allowed for some sort of percentage payment going forward rather than an agreed sum at the start,” he said.

However, Mary O’Sullivan from the Lough questioned whether compensation could make up for the hurt and pain suffered by children who were abused and neglected in institutions run by the religious orders.

“I don’t think all the religious should be tarred with the same brush . . . I don’t know though if compensation will ever do enough for the victims.”