Victims ‘may be devastated’ by call to spell out abuse

Columnist Mary Kenny’s call for an inquiry that categorises the abuse by paedophile priest Brendan Smyth will devastate victims and stop them getting help, child abuse survivor Marie Collins said.

Ms Collins said she was “sickened” on reading Ms Kenny’s article in the latest issue of the Irish Catholic.

“People who have been abused have deep-down feelings of guilt. It comes with the package and reading that article hits right at the spot,” said Ms Collins.

“It could devastate victims reading it and stop them going for help.”

Ms Kenny wrote in support of the call by Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin for an independent inquiry into Smyth’s abuse of children but stressed that it must be “honest and plain-speaking”.

She said most of what had been written about child abuse cases had been “shrouded in euphemism and evasion”.

Ms Kenny said the exact nature of the child abuse should be spelled out in three categories: (1) molestation, (2) masturbation, or (3) penetration.

“When it is said that Brendan Smyth ‘raped’ children, does that consistently mean the worst category — number three. An honest inquiry should explain plainly. Was there penetration in all cases, or were there some cases where the abuse was category one or two?” she asked.

Ms Collins questioned why Ms Kenny felt a need to know all the intimate details that had already been heard in a court of law and led to the priest’s conviction.

Ms Collins said Ms Kenny’s article seemed to suggest that Smyth’s victims had questions to answer, were being evasive, and should give more details.

“She has no understanding of how destructive the sexual abuse of a child is. She mentions categories but there can be no correlation at times between what was done and the effect it has.”

Ms Collins was sexually abused and photographed by a priest when she was a child in Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, Dublin.

“The intimate photography had a more devastating effect on my life than what Ms Kenny would call the serious abuse,” she said.

Clerical abuse survivor Andrew Madden said he also found Ms Kenny’s views on child abuse quite stomach- churning.

“But I do think it is right that when people write such odious stuff it is challenged. When I challenged her on something she wrote about me in another national paper her response was quite weak,” he said.

American lawyer Helen McGonagle, who was abused by Smyth, said she took offence at Ms Kenny because she was shifting back to what happened to victims 18 years ago.

Speaking on RTÉ radio, Ms McGonagle said Smyth has been convicted over and over again on more than 100 counts. “He is long dead. To go back and rehash that is completely unnecessary and inappropriate,” she said.

Irish Catholic editor Gary O’Sullivan said he was aware that some people might have been offended by what Ms Kenny had written but there were others who became engaged in the debate raised by her article.

“We have a very broad approach to news, analysis and comment and Mary Kenny is just one of a number of columnists with different views and opinions,” he said.


* Mary Kenny’s column was heavily edited before publication but she has a right to ask questions and others have the right to strongly disagree — Garry O’Sullivan of the Irish Catholic

* No surprise listening to Mary Kenny using whatever language she can find to undermine the truth of victims of child sexual abuse— Andrew Madden

* Most odious article on child sexual abuse I have ever read. Mary Kenny in today’s Irish Catholic newspaper — Marie Collins

* Really is hard to believe Mary Kenny’s background. She did a near U-turn on issues she campaigned for in the 70s — Claire McGing

* Caring, good-hearted Catholics will have their heads in their hands yet again. We seldom hear their voices. Only the fringe — Joe O’Shea

* Why is Mary Kenny being given a platform for her horrendous and hurtful questioning of the nature of child sexual abuse? — Frances Byrne

* Pass me the sick bucket — no, no the big one; you know the one reserved for Mary Kenny’s essays — Andrew Brennan

* Mary Kenny comments reminiscent of 1987 questioning of Smyth victims: disturbing interest in details of abuse that rather misses the point — Conor James McKinney

* Abuse is abuse — very disturbing how Mary Kenny wants to know the distressing details — Stewart Curry

* Can’t believe what Mary Kenny said re Smyth sexual abuse. Victim blaming children for their abuse, I have no words — Helen Murphy Guinnane

* After listening to Mary Kenny it’s clear children are FAR from safe yet in Catholic environs or elsewhere — Dee Blake

Extracts from Mary Kenny's controversial article

Extracts from the article by journalist Mary Kenny published in the Irish Catholic.

Ms Kenny began by supporting the call by Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin for an independent inquiry into abuse by Fr Brendan Smyth.

She then suggested that any such report should be plain speaking:

“Most of what has been written about the various abuse cases have been shrouded in euphemism and evasion,” she wrote.

“The word ‘child abuse’ is itself a euphemism and an evasion. What exactly constitutes the abuse,” Ms Kenny asked.

“The exact nature of the ‘child abuse’ should be spelled out in three categories: (1) molestation, (2) masturbation or (3) penetration.

“I’m sorry if what I write might offend, but this is an important matter and offence must be borne stoically.

“When it is said Brendan Smyth ‘raped’ children, does that consistently mean the worst category, number three? An honest enquiry should explain plainly. Was there penetration in all cases, or were there some cases where the abuse was category one or two.”

She referred to an interview with a victim of Brendan Smyth in a national paper and pointed out that the nature of the abuse was not revealed. “I accept that John was a victim of an odious crime, but I want to know more about the circumstances. Much more. A full and honest enquiry should address the full and honest facts: using plain words: the whole context: and giving the complete narrative.”

— Evelyn Ring


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