Abuse victim uses pulpit to urge atonement

A survivor of industrial school abuse, who took to the pulpit to call for a national day of atonement, has urged priests to give survivors an opportunity to speak to their fellow parishioners.

On the third anniversary of the publication of the Ryan Report into child abuse, Christopher Heaphy spoke to the congregation at Aglish Church in west Co Waterford at 11am Mass yesterday about how he and his two brothers spent a total of 35 years at Greenmount, Passage West, and Lota industrial schools in Cork.

The 67-year-old survivor, who has acquired a degree in electrical engineering and now lives in Co Waterford, asked the State, the Catholic Church, and the Irish people to establish a national annual day of atonement “where all of the perpetrators ask our forgiveness and the forgiveness especially of those who are in trauma, physical pain, and feel excluded from the mainstream of Irish life”.

Cork-born Mr Heaphy said the Church was not the only party that needed to atone for sin, but that the State and Irish people must question how they turned a blind eye to what was going on in industrial schools.

Accusing the Church of wanting survivors to disappear, he said the Catholic hierarchy was displaying “the same apathy and indifference that crucified us as children”.

A minister of the Word at Aglish parish, he urged Church leaders to do what Jesus would have done.

“We have to go and look in all the corners, crevices, park benches, railway bridges and wherever the victims of this disgrace may be sheltering and bandage their wounds. Comfort their anxious minds, bring them back home if possible, and provide them with whatever they may need to compensate for their lack of education, their scarcity of social skills, and the shrivelled humanity we, by our meanness, forced on them.”

Locals and survivors present were full of praise for Mr Heaphy and Aglish priest Fr Gerry O’Connor, who prayed at the altar throughout the speech.

Mr Heaphy praised Fr O’Connor, who “had the courage to let me address you all on a subject which is causing controversy and consternation at all levels of the Irish Church”.

It is understood Bishop of Waterford William Lee was informed that Mr Heaphy would be speaking at Mass.

“If every churchman was as compassionate and understanding as our parish priest, I would have no need to talk to you like this,” said Mr Heaphy.


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