Friday 20 April 2018

Papal visit 'could spark a backlash' from abuse victims

Pope Francis
Pope Francis

Sarah MacDonald

A Papal visit by Pope Francis to Ireland could spark angry protests by survivors of clerical sexual abuse.

Marie Kane met the Pontiff last year in the Vatican and told him about her abuse at the hands of a Dublin cleric.

The 44-year-old mother of two told the Irish Independent that she personally would welcome a visit by the Pope but "my view does not represent all survivors and there are a lot of really angry people. There could be a backlash".

For her, a papal trip would be "a gesture of openness".

"It would demonstrate a willingness to confront the demons of the Church's past," she said.

The Carlow-based counsellor said a big gesture of solidarity and repentance towards a large group of survivors was needed if trust is to be rebuilt, adding: "It could be an opportunity for him to meet other survivors and give him an opportunity to translate his words into action."

Another Irish survivor of clerical abuse, Mark Vincent Healy, who met the Pontiff last year, said: "I would very much welcome Pope Francis to Ireland in 2018 as long as it is managed far better so as not to 'anger' clerical child sexual abuse survivors and their families through misrepresenting the very words of the Pontiff."

He said Pope Francis "talks directly with conviction about these matters but it gets out in a way that is unfortunately quite inflammatory".

Mr Healy expressed the hope that, by 2018, survivors would be celebrating a litany of actions being taken by the Church to alleviate their distress.

When he met the Pope last year, he asked him for his support in establishing an evidence-based approach to alleviate the suffering of survivors - who experience high rates of self-harming and suicide.

"I would like to greet Pope Francis again publicly and personally thank him if he supports my call for such research as a major gesture of solidarity and repentance in relation to survivors."

Meanwhile, a prominent member of the Association of Catholic Priests said he is "not impressed" with the possibility of a visit by Pope Francis - which he termed as "a jamboree".

"I don't need the drama of a visit," Augustinian Fr Seamus Ahearne, who is a parish priest based in Finglas, said. "I would much prefer that we respect the age of Pope Francis and conserve his energy and reduce his trips abroad."

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News