Marie Collins: the struggle goes on

Church officials stand exposed while her integrity is unsullied

 

The 2009 Murphy report into the handling of clerical child sex abuse allegations in Dublin’s Catholic archdiocese was unequivocal about Marie Collins. It concluded that “ her brave and often lonely campaign” to show the archdiocese how it had erred was instrumental in changing the archdiocese’s understanding and approach to these cases. It also found that everything she managed to extract from the archdiocese was “given grudgingly and always after a struggle”.

Marie Collins’s struggle with a recalcitrant clerical mindset goes back years. In 1985 she told a local curate about her abuse by chaplain Fr Paul McGennis in 1960 when she was a patient at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children. The curate suggested it was probably her fault and offered absolution. It set her back 10 years.

In 1995 she reported her abuse to the Dublin archdiocese and gardaí were informed. Archbishop Desmond Connell said the archdiocese would not co-operate with gardaí in the case for canon law reasons, contrary to the Irish bishops’ own guidelines. He maintained these had no authority in civil or canon law. In 1997 McGennis pleaded guilty to her abuse and was sentenced. Afterwards Archbishop Connell said the diocese had co-operated with gardaí in the case while archdiocesan authorities emphasised it had never said it co-operated “fully” with gardaí. In 2002, by then Cardinal Connell issued an extensive apology to Mrs Collins on foot of all of this.

A mark of her generosity was that she went on to help Dublin and the Irish Church prepare child protection guidelines, now among the more robust in the Catholic world. When she subsequently accepted a position on the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors, she could hardly be blamed for thinking she and colleagues might be as successful in Rome. Indeed the reaction in recent days to her resignation from the commission – in the face of resistance to reform by some within the Curia – may help towards that. For now, however, officials in Rome stand exposed while her integrity remains unsullied.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.