Religious congregations to be included in abuse review


RELIGIOUS CONGREGATIONS are part of a review of how Catholic dioceses were dealing with clerical child sexual abuse, according to a bishops’ pastoral issued at the weekend.

The pastoral, Towards Healing and Renewal, was published to mark the first anniversary of the pastoral letter from Pope Benedict XVI to Irish Catholics on the issue.

The bishops’ pastoral said honesty about the response to past, present and future allegations of child sexual abuse by priests was essential to restoring trust and moving forward on the journey to healing and renewal.

It added that the bishops’ conference, the Conference of Religious of Ireland and the Irish Missionary Union had asked the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland to monitor, review and report on an annual basis on the compliance of each diocese and religious congregation in child safeguarding.

It said as part of a specific commitment by the bishops to provide transparency about the past, the board had also initiated a review of current and past practice of all 26 dioceses in Ireland. “This review will also be extended to each religious congregation.”

According to the pastoral, some survivors of abuse had spoken about the importance of having their stories properly heard and remembered for future generations.

“We pledge ourselves to continue to explore with survivors of abuse how this might best be achieved,” it added.

The pastoral pledged sufficient religious and laity would be trained in the safeguarding of children and that there would be ongoing co-operation with Garda vetting procedures.

It also announced a five-year funding commitment to provide an enhanced counselling service for victims, while abuse survivors dealing with issues of faith would have help available in Ireland and Britain.

The first Friday of each month would be dedicated to prayer and fasting in reparation for abuse and the failure to address it adequately.

Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise Dr Colm O’Reilly said in Longford yesterday that the Pope had warned it would not be easy to address the problem of abuse.

“No one knows this better than those who continue to live with the pain of abuse in their own childhood,” he added. “Only someone who knows that ache in the heart can fully appreciate the kind of struggle which survivors of abuse face day after day.”

Campaigner for abuse victims Andrew Madden said it was disappointing but by no means surprising that there was not a single reference in the pastoral to the role the bishops played in causing the sexual abuse of children by priests to be covered up.

Accusing the bishops of glossing over the issue, Mr Madden said he was one of the survivors who last year asked that any bishop who had played a part in the cover-up of abuse by priests resign his position.