Sunday 8 December 2019

Force bishops to stand down, survivor of abuse urges Pope

Pope Francis (right) watches as Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, shows him news on a tablet during a meeting at the Vatican
Pope Francis (right) watches as Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, shows him news on a tablet during a meeting at the Vatican

Sarah Mac Donald

ONE of the two Irish survivors of clerical abuse who met Pope Francis urged the pontiff to change the church's rules on clerical celibacy and let priests marry as well as force bishops who fail to act on abusive priests to stand down.

Marie Kane, who is originally from Bray, Co Wicklow, but now lives in Carlow with her family, described yesterday's private meeting with the Pope as "a very positive experience" and a "huge vindication" for her.

Speaking publicly for the first time about her abuse and the cost to her life, she said: "I am 11 years trying to get justice in some shape or form and it hasn't happened."

She added that the Pope "seemed genuinely sorry".

The 43-year-old said the Pope "listened intently" to her and "at times seemed frustrated by what he was hearing".

In his first official meeting with survivors since his election in March 2013, the Pope met two survivors from Ireland, two from Britain and two from Germany following Mass at his hostel in the Vatican.

Ms Kane was invited to meet the Argentinian pontiff a month ago by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, who she said "has been very good to me".

Of the encounter, she described it as "pretty amazing". "There were no time constraints on the meeting and the only others in the room were Marie Collins, who came as a support to me and (Cardinal) Sean O'Malley who acted as translator," she told the Irish Independent.

The US prelate heads up the Vatican's new Commission on the Protection of Minors.

Ms Kane said: "I was able to say what I wanted to say."

Her ordeal, which began when she was 12, was covered in the Murphy Report into the mishandling of allegations of clerical abuse in the archdiocese of Dublin.

Her abuser was taken out of ministry but not defrocked.

Asked about the significance of the meeting for survivors and the church, Ms Kane said: "There is still a long way to go."

One of the things survivors would like to see is greater accountability in relation to bishops who covered up abuse.

"Until people like Sean Brady are gone, I will never believe that there is change and I said that to Pope Francis and he understood that. He heard what I said and understood where I was coming from," she said.

She told the Pope that "cover-ups are still happening and you have the power to make these changes".

The mother-of-two presented the Pope with three letters.

One she had written herself, in which she called for the sacking of bishops who mishandled or covered up cases of abuse as well as for an end to celibacy.

She also presented the Pope with letters from her son and daughter in which they said how their mother's experiences had meant they had grown up without any faith ritual.

In his sermon at a Mass for the survivors yesterday, the Pope lashed out at the "sacrilegious" and "despicable" actions of those priests and bishops who sexually abused children.

"Before God and his people I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you," he said. "And I humbly ask forgiveness. I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves."

Bishops who had allowed their priests to molest children and minors "will be held accountable", he said.

He admitted that the church had been guilty of "complicity" in covering up what he called "despicable actions" and "grave sins" and said members of the Church should "weep before the execrable acts of abuse which have left life-long scars".

Irish Independent

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