Over the past 25 years the Catholic Church in Ireland has provided a counselling service for almost 7,000 survivors of institutional, clerical, and religious abuse, and members of their families.
It is free and involves a network of counsellors in Ireland and abroad which provides essential therapy to those who have suffered such abuse, said Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh, Michael Router. He is a director of Towards Healing which, with its forerunner Faoiseamh, provides the counselling service.
“We are all too aware that many people here in Ireland and abroad, have suffered sexual and physical abuse at the hands of clergy and religious. For too long they suffered in isolation, without being heard, acknowledged, or helped,” he said.
Speaking Mass in Knock on Sunday, during the Armagh diocesan pilgrimage, he recalled how we live “in a world where human weakness and frailty erode the Christian ideal of human relationships that is placed before us. We strive, but inevitably fail, to live up to the ideal of relationship that is based on love, humility, and self-sacrifice.
“The Church itself, the family of God, is also very conscious, that it has sadly failed in its responsibility to provide safe shelter for or to protect its own members. Instead of reflecting the love that is at the heart of the Trinity, it has sometimes failed to live up to the values it stands for and professes.”
As a Church “we have sometimes lost touch with what we are about and have ignored the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. When that happens, we can neglect to display the compassion that should be the kernel of how we operate. A Church without compassion only hurts and alienates people and robs them of confidence and hope,” he said.
“Towards Healing provided support that endeavours to empower survivors to reclaim and rebuild their lives. It gives them hope that they will find healing and develop the resilience to live their fullest possible lives,” he said.
The service, provided by lay, independent fully accredited therapists, is funded by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the Association of Leaders of Missionaries and Religious of Ireland (Amri).
It can be contacted at Freephone 1800 303416 (Rep of Ireland) Freephone 0800 0963315 (Northern Ireland and UK). There is a mobile number for texting purposes for our hearing impaired service users only: 085-8022859.