Mixed reaction to cardinal's meeting


ABUSE SURVIVORS:OLIVER BURKE of Munster Survivors Support Services was at the meeting with papal legate Cardinal Marc Ouellet.*

He said there were seven people at the meeting in Lough Derg but they were asked to respect each other’s privacy by not discussing who was there. The meeting was “absolutely excellent”, he said.

“We were very pleased with it. We believe we were heard and it will not finish there. We certainly won’t allow it to finish there.”

He said he felt Cardinal Ouellet was sincere in his offer to meet abuse survivors. “I saw how it affected the cardinal. I’m around too long not to recognise genuine sincerity and he was extremely affected by our stories,” he said.

“I was very impressed with the cardinal and the papal nuncio also impressed me.

“It was time for the meeting. We have now laid the foundations and it’s time to build on the momentum.”

But news of the papal legate’s meeting came as a surprise to some prominent campaigners for the rights of abuse victims.

Christine Buckley of the Aislinn Education and Support Centre said she didn’t know the meeting had been held until she was contacted by the media.

“I’m absolutely disgusted,” she said. “It was a PR exercise. Nothing ever changes.”

John Kelly of Survivors of Child Abuse said he had sought a meeting with the papal legate but one was not granted.

“They are very highly selective in who they meet,” he said.

“We represent the vast majority of people who were in institutions here and in the United Kingdom.”

He had protested “in a limited and dignified way” outside the Eucharistic Congress on Sunday.

“We hoped the papal legate would have come out to meet us but he never came out,” he said.

Michael O’Brien of the Right to Peace group and Christopher Heaphy of Voices of the Existing Survivors said they had applied in writing for an audience with the papal legate but did not get one.

In a joint statement, they said the church was “now picking and choosing which survivors are invited for a blessing”.

They described the meeting as “once again nothing more than a big public relations exercise to whitewash the sins of the many”.

Mr O’Brien said he would have “walked to Lough Derg” if the papal legate had asked him but he had not been contacted.

Abuse survivor Marie Collins said she had not been asked to the meeting but had no issue with that. However, she said abuse victims did not need any more words and gestures.

“We need action and that should start with the removal of Cardinal Brady,” she said.

The Lámh Healing Foundation said it “respectfully declined” the invitation to a meeting with Cardinal Ouellet.

“The two-day prior notice given did not give the foundation the chance to prepare for what could and should be an important and meaningful meeting,” its chief executive Dave Dineen said.

* This article was edited on June 15th, 2012, to correct a factual error.