Survivor fury that abuse labelled 'mistake'
Published 08/03/2014 | 02:30
Survivors of clerical abuse have lashed out at the Association of Catholic Priests over its description of incidents of abuse by priests as "mistakes".
Marie Collins told the Irish Independent she was "shocked" by the ACP's comment.
And a priest, who was himself the victim of clerical abuse, described the ACP's attitude as "despicable".
It came after ACP's Fr Sean McDonagh and Fr Tony Flannery "raised the difficulties around historical allegations" with the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church this week.
On its website, Fr Tony Flannery stated that they had "questioned the justice" of excluding many older priests from ministry "because of a mistake or mistakes they made in their earlier life" where there was "no pattern of re-offending".
Abuse survivor Marie Collins hit back. "Any adult who has sexual contact with a minor is not in a 'relationship', it is abuse, legally and morally," she said.
She said the suggestion that perpetrators should be allowed to return to ministry was "exactly the same thinking that led to priests who were known to have abused being moved into a different parish only to abuse again".
"Time showed how dangerous these attitudes are – as it has been shown that my abuser had sexually assaulted other little girls over a period of 30 years," she added.
And Fr Paddy McCafferty from Belfast accused the ACP, which represents over 1,000 priests in Ireland, of being "completely unmindful of the devastation wrought in the lives of those on the receiving end of your so-called 'mistakes'".
Fr McCaffery blasted the ACP's attitude, stating that any priest who abuses a child "has forfeited the privilege of ministering to God's People".
He said: "If he is wise, he will spend the rest of his days in penitence before he has to face God's Judgement."
Following a flurry of outraged comments on the ACP's website, Fr Tony Flannery posted a clarification in which he said he fully accepted that the word 'mistake' was not the best choice of word.
He explained that he was referring to cases where men with the emotional and sexual development of teenagers had been ordained in their twenties and "where these very immature young priests got into a relationship of this nature".
He said in some cases this was the only time in their lives that they crossed the line and there were no further allegations made against them.