Church must stop denial and watering down of abuse claims

04 Jun 2009

By The Record

Dublin Archbishop says its time to face facts.


John Kelly, centre, who says he was abused while in the Daingean Reformatory between 1965 and 1967, reacts after being refused entry to the release of a report by the government’s Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse in Dublin, Ireland, on May 20. Photo: CNS/Cathal McNaughton, Reuters.


DUBLIN, Ireland (CNA) – The Church in Ireland must move out of “denial” and must never “water down” the suffering of abuse survivors, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said regarding the recent report on physical and sexual abuse in Irish institutions.
He warned that culpable religious orders face their “last chance” to renew their charism.
Writing on May 25 in an opinion essay in the Irish Times, the archbishop addressed the recently released Ryan report which exposed major abuse of students in industrial schools.
Noting the ineffectiveness of simple apologies, Archbishop Martin said that nonetheless “sorry” must “always be the first word.”
He said the Ryan report shocked him, but did not surprise him.
The archbishop explained that as a student he had worked in a Dublin hostel for former industrial school residents.
Later he had worked in a London centre for ex-prisoners, many of whom had been Irish industrial school residents.
“Anyone who had contact with ex-residents of Irish industrial schools at that time knew that what those schools were offering was, to put it mildly, poor-quality childcare by the standards of the time. The information was there,” Archbishop Martin wrote in the Irish Times, noting that a clergyman and some journalists had tried to call attention to the abuse.
“The first thing the Church has to do is to move out of any mode of denial,” he insisted.
“That was the position for far too long and it is still there.”
He said that the Church had presented itself as different and more moral than other childcare institutions.
“Its record should have shown that and it did not. Ryan reveals church institutions where children were placed in the care of people with practically no morals,” he added.
He warned priests and religious not to let their “sense of shock” at what has happened to permit them to slip into a situation where they “feel themselves almost as the victims”.
“No one in the Church must ever try to water down or reformulate the suffering of survivors. Let the survivors speak and tell their stories as they experienced them,” he said.
Calling on the religious orders responsible for the institutions in which abuse occurred, he asked them directly: “What happened that you drifted so far away from your own charism?”
The culpable orders’ credibility and survival, he said, depends on the honesty with which they examine themselves. “People are angry and disillusioned,” he insisted.
Archbishop Martin said that somehow many had lost “the most essential dimension” of the life of followers of Jesus Christ.
“The Christian message is a message of love. What the Ryan commission recounts is sadly so very far removed from that. In Jesus’ eyes the poor deserve the best and they did not receive it here.” He decried as “stunning” the orders’ incomplete response to an agreement with the government concerning abuse, criticising the “poor excuse” about legal difficulties.
Calling for the religious orders to try to redeem their charism by supporting survivors and their families, the archbishop warned:
“In many ways it is your last chance to render honour to charismatic founders and to so many good members of your congregations who feel tarnished.”
He said that another report on the sexual abuse of children in the Archdiocese of Dublin will be released soon.
“It will not be easy reading,” he warned, saying that the sufferings of abuse victims will never be wiped away by new child protection measures.
“Let the truth, however, come out.”