Government's efforts to help children of priests questioned

The Catholic Church has 'owned the wrong' of the culture of silence that surrounded priests who fathered children — but the State has not, according to campaigner Vincent Doyle.
Government's efforts to help children of priests questioned

Coping International, which helps children of priests around the world, has received the backing of the Vatican and of senior archbishops here for its work. File Picture: Tim Boyle/Getty Images

The Government's efforts to assist the children of priests have been questioned after the newly published mother and baby homes report revealed almost a dozen incidents where members of the clergy were or could have been the father of a child.

Coping International, which helps children of priests around the world, has received the backing of the Vatican and of senior archbishops here for its work, yet according to its founder Vincent Doyle, the Government has not followed suit — even after a UN report on Ireland raised concerns over the "lack of measures to ensure that children fathered by Catholic priests are able to access information on the identity of their fathers".

Mr Doyle said: "The Government's denial of the marginalising effects that accompanies the birth of children of the ordained, since 2014 to date, is itself a shadow of the regrettable intolerance that drips off each of the 3,000 pages of the mother and baby home report."

In that report, at least 11 references are made to priests either being responsible for a woman becoming pregnant or as possibly being responsible, ranging from the 1930s up to the 1990s.

In one case, a woman born in a workhouse and who then lived in industrial schools and a Magdalene laundry "was raped by a priest", according to the report.

Vincent Doyle is the founder of Coping International, which helps children of priests around the world.

Vincent Doyle is the founder of Coping International, which helps children of priests around the world.

In another, it was "in the mid-1950s that a witness, born in a mother and baby home, was later told by her mother that she had become pregnant having been raped by a priest".

Another woman, raped by an older man, "sought advice from her parish priest. He initially wanted to go with her to meet the birth father with the intention of ‘negotiating for the right thing’, but then he himself started acting inappropriately, making a pass at her, telling her ‘he wished it was his baby so he could look after her’."

"Another witness, who gave birth in a home during the 1970s, told the committee that a priest, ‘in his 30s’, sexually abused her ‘regularly — multiple times’, there, saying to her: ‘It doesn’t matter because you’re already pregnant. You do this and I’ll pray for your soul’," the report said.

Mr Doyle, whose own father was a priest, said the Catholic Church has "owned the wrong" — but the Irish State had not.

That denying attitude is part of the problem that permitted the intolerable and inhumane conditions as experienced by the women and girls in the mother and baby homes — turning a blind eye, denying, and avoiding.

"In essence, the Irish Government is doing the same thing as happened in the past, in part, denying the existence of harm and its cause and source."

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