Clerical sex abuse victims ‘feeling silenced again by hype of visit’

The announcement that Pope Francis may not meet victims of clerical sexual abuse in Ireland has pushed one victim to organise a demonstration during his visit to Dublin.

Clerical sex abuse victims ‘feeling silenced again by hype of visit’

By Aoife Moore and Stephen Rogers

The announcement that Pope Francis may not meet victims of clerical sexual abuse in Ireland has pushed one victim to organise a demonstration during his visit to Dublin.

Colm O’Gorman said: “It is staggering on the part of the Vatican, they can’t even be bothered to go through the motions of making it appear that this matters to them.

“It’s become a trope, he goes to a country and has a confidential meeting and releases a statement about how moved he was by victim testimony, expresses sorrow and regret and we move on. I’m not sure that meeting would’ve had any value anyway, but the idea that it’s an afterthought, that is utterly unacceptable.”

Mr O’Gorman was repeatedly raped by a priest in Co Wexford for three years, beginning just a year after Pope John Paul II’s visit to Ireland in 1979, when he was 13.

“When I heard Pope John Paul’s quote: ‘Young people of Ireland, I love you’, it sickened me, he didn’t,” he said. “It’s important that all that has happened here over decades isn’t just swept aside of convenience of the Vatican.

I respect people’s desire to have faith, I would never deny people their opportunity to profess their faith, but it cannot be at the cost of people all over the country struggling with the hurt and the trauma the Church has caused.

The event, to be held in the Garden of Remembrance on Sunday, August 26, at 3pm, invites anyone who has been hurt by the Church, and those who support them, to attend.

“The response I have had has been extraordinary, so many people have come to me to tell me their stories, they need a space to name the fact,” Mr O’Gorman added.

“I’m being contacted by people who have never spoken out, and the visit is really affecting them. They are feeling silenced again by the hype of this whole visit.

“I know people who couldn’t cope, who couldn’t survive, and ended their life because of their abuse, I knew I had to do something.”

He said that although Pope Francis may be viewed as a more liberal and modern pope than his predecessors, his record on abuse is stark.

“I like and admire many of the things that Francis has to say on poverty, social inclusion and refugees. However I think some of it is overstated. On abuse issues he has been shocking.”

Meanwhile, the Association of Catholics in Ireland has said “strongly supports [abuse survivor] Marie Collins in her call to Pope Francis to admit the responsibility the Vatican and church leadership hold for allowing a catalogue of abuse to happen and for protecting the perpetrators when this became known”.

“Marie rightly points out that saying sorry for what happened is no longer acceptable, the Pope must take the opportunity of the World Meeting of Families to set out how he plans to deal with the abuses taking place around the world and to commit to action,” ACI said in a statement.

What better occasion to do so than the WMOF, an event attended by families from 116 countries, an appropriate place for him to speak on this crisis in the church which has had devastating effect on so many families.

The ACI said it welcomes the visit of Pope Francis, supports his initiatives to bring about reform and renewal and recognises the hope he has engendered of a brighter future for the church.

“ACI is committed to the pursuit of a reform and renewal agenda in the Irish Catholic Church based in the spirit of Vatican II. It is committed to helping to re-build (through words and deeds) a united Church based on the teachings of Jesus Christ — a Church that is inclusive, compassionate, accepts the equality of all believers by virtue of their baptism and acknowledges its failures.”

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