Homily on abuse by Bishop of Kilmore angers victims

Two clerical abuse victims have criticised a homily by the Bishop of Kilmore in which he described the abuse at the hands of the clergy as an “aberration”.
Homily on abuse by Bishop of Kilmore angers victims

Bishop Leo O’Reilly said the religious of Ireland have experienced “the prophet’s rejection in recent times in a very painful way”.

“Indeed the whole Church in Ireland has experienced it,” he said. “In the media reaction, some years ago, following the publication of the Ryan Report, and in other media productions and commentary since, you could be forgiven for thinking that the story of religious life in Ireland, and indeed of the Church as a whole, was one of unmitigated evil and abuse.

“There was evil and abuse of course, and it was right that it be exposed and condemned. But that evil was a very small part of the story, an aberration and an exception.”

Clerical abuse victim Colm O’Gorman said Bishop O’Reilly’s comments were another example of the Church attempting to rewrite history.

“Too often bishops fail to recognise that they are uniquely responsible for the enormous decline in the authority of the Roman Catholic Church,” he said.

“Of course, no bishop or cardinal or pope is responsible for the individual acts of rape and other abuses perpetrated by individual members of the clergy. But they are directly responsible for covering up those crimes, for facilitating them, for knowingly moving abusers from parish to parish and place to place and allowing them to rape and abuse children with impunity. It is that cover-up that has most damaged the reputation of the Church, and it was not an ‘aberration and an exception’. It was systemic, and overseen by bishops, congregational leaders, cardinals, and popes.”

He also said the hurt needed to be acknowledged of countless generations of Irish people who “gave their unquestioning loyalty to Church leaders, “and who were also betrayed by them”.

“Their hurt needs to be acknowledged too,” he said.

“But for that to happen Leo O’Reilly and his brother bishops need to acknowledge the extent and depth of their particular failure, and not deflect from it or seek to minimise it.”

Fellow abuse victim Andrew Madden said the homily “is part of a long-standing pattern of playing down events that we learnt about across Ireland and the world — reference the abuse but not the cover-up”.

“There may be a case for saying it was committed by a small portion of people, but the cover-up was totally systemic,” he said. “That was not an aberration, it was throughout the hierarchy.”

However, Fr Tony Flannery of the Association of Catholic Priests said he welcomed Bishop O’Reilly’s comments. He said in particular the treatment of nuns had been “seriously unbalanced” and he had tried hard to get them to tell their story. He said there were women who were deeply hurt by what had been written about them but had been afraid to go public about it or had been told to stay keep quiet as it was better not to say anything.

In response to the comments from Mr Madden and Mr O’Gorman, he said the abuse had been acknowledged and apologised for for 16 years.

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