Colm O'Gorman: Pope's comments on clerical abuse a 'shameful deflection of responsibility'

Colm O'Gorman: Pope's comments on clerical abuse a 'shameful deflection of responsibility'
Colm O'Gorman. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Prominent campaigner Colm O'Gorman has said the Pope's comments on the failure of the church to tackle clerical abuse in Ireland was a "shameful deflection of responsibility".

The Executive Director of Amnesty International, who is a survivor of clerical abuse, said that the speech by Pope Francis this afternoon was "the perfect opportunity to address the abuse issue".

Commenting on Twitter, Mr O'Gorman said: "Today @Pontifex had the perfect opportunity to address the abuse issue. An opportunity for plain speaking, to speak truth to the people of Ireland.

"Once again, he refused to do so. Worse yet, we got extraordinary deflection."

In his address to guests at Dublin Castle, the Pontiff spoke of his “pain and shame” at the failure of church authorities to tackle the “grave scandal” of clerical abuse in Ireland and said said people had a right to be outraged at the response of senior church figures to the “repellent crimes” inflicted on young people.

“The failure of ecclesiastical authorities – bishops, religious superiors, priests and others – adequately to address these repellent crimes has rightly given rise to outrage and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community," he said.

"I myself share those sentiments.”

However, Mr O'Gorman said the Pope's acknowledgement of sharing "the pain and shame of the 'Catholic community'... continues to suggest that such shame should be carried by the faithful of the church, by ordinary Catholics."

"This seems to me to be a shameful deflection of responsibility on the part of the Pope, and an insult to faithful Catholics who have no reason to feel shame because of the crimes of the Vatican and the institutional church," he said.

During his speech, Pope Francis also spoke of the good done by the church and its role “past and present” in promoting child welfare.

"It is my hope that the gravity of the abuse scandals, which have cast light on the failings of many, will serve to emphasise the importance of the protection of minors and vulnerable adults on the part of society as a whole," he said.

"In this regard, all of us are aware of how urgent it is to provide our young people with wise guidance and sound values on their journey to maturity."

Mr O'Gorman said the work of people in Catholic communities was "indisputable" but that the Pope's words were "a staggering effort at deflection".

"To seek to create some kind of grotesque balance sheet that puts on one side the extraordinary efforts of these people, and on the other, the rape and abuse of hundreds of thousands of children, women and vulnerable adults, is a staggering effort at deflection," he said.

"It is a huge insult to all involved, members of the Catholic community, people in religious life....wider Irish society and of course those of us most directly harmed by the crimes of the church."

Speaking to reporters this afternoon, Mr O'Gorman said it was "a huge shame" and "rather disgraceful" that Pope Francis did not speak in a manner which was "blunt, clear, frank, human and accessible".

"The Pope was speaking not to the faithful, it wasn't a sacramental moment it was a State occasion," he said.

"He could have talked to the people of Ireland beyond those who might identify as faithful Catholics; he could have talked to us all in a way that was blunt, that was clear, that was frank, that was human and that was accessible."

"He refused, clearly, to do so and that's a huge shame, I think, frankly, that's it's rather disgraceful," he said.

The Pope is due to meet survivors of abuse later today as he continues his whistle-stop tour of Ireland.

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