Primate speaks of need for truth on sex abuse

 

The Catholic primate, Archbishop Seán Brady, said yesterday that the church was determined to deal with the issue of clerical child sex abuse and to do so "with a sense of justice to all involved".

He was speaking yesterday at a press conference in Dublin to announce the setting up of a "fully independent Catholic Church Commission on Child Sexual Abuse" which will conduct a church-wide audit on the handling of child sex-abuse complaints by the Irish church authorities over the decades

"We want the truth established. Only when we establish the truth, acknowledge our failures, ask pardon for the wrong that has been done, and implement the recommendation of the audit, can we hope to receive the mercy of God and the forgiveness of our brothers and sisters," the Archbishop said.

He was convinced that the work of the commission would remove the uncertainty, which had undermined the confidence and trust of the laity in the church.

Archbishop Brady also apologised to abuse victims once more. "I have said this before and I have no hesitation in saying it again. I want to apologise to all those who have been sexually abused by priests and whose lives have been so tragically affected by the sins and crimes of people acting in the name of the church. I trust that today's announcement will be of some help to those whose lives have been so seriously damaged," he said.

Sister Elizabeth Maxwell, secretary-general of the Conference of Religious of Ireland (CORI) said she saw the new commission as "one further step on the road to healing." She also repeated CORI's apology to victims and expressed "profound regret" that even one person had been sexually abused by religious.

Father Joe Cantwell, executive secretary of the Irish Missionary Union, said complaints against any missionary priest, whether made abroad or in Ireland, would come within the commission's remit.

Archbishop Brady said there would be no time limit on how far back the commission might wish to investigate and sanction for the mishandling of complaints would be a matter for the commission also. He believed that, where it might arise, concerns about the confidentiality aspect of the relationship between a priest and his bishop could be ovecome in this instance.

He agreed that a priest could take a case to Rome under canon law where he felt confidentiality had been breached, but said the church in Ireland would be depending on the goodwill of priests complained against, where co-operation with the audit was concerned. He assured people who had been abused and had given information in confidence to the church that they would not be identified or named as part of the audit process.

Sister Maxwell said only those religious orders against whose members complaints had been made would come within the scope of the audit.

Meanwhile, Mr John Morgan is to succeed Ms Justice Gillian Hussey as chair of the bishops' Child Protection Commission. He is a businessman and a member of the commission.