Tuesday 16 July 2019

'Abysmal and appalling' - survivors of clerical abuse slam Pope's visit and lack of plan 'to address hurt'

Peter Isely, founder of the Ending Clerical Abuse group, at a press conference ahead of the Pope’s visit (Danny Lawson/PA)
Peter Isely, founder of the Ending Clerical Abuse group, at a press conference ahead of the Pope’s visit (Danny Lawson/PA)
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

Survivors of clerical abuse have branded the visit of Pope Francis as “abysmal and appalling” because he failed to identify an action plan about what he is going to do to address the issues of hurt caused by the Church in Ireland.

Speaking after the Pontiff admitted he was not aware of the Magdalene Laundries or the mother and baby homes, they questioned how he could be so out of touch with the deep pain and ongoing anguish that emanated from such institutions.

“It is unbelievable. It’s an inescapable reality and truth to us here in Ireland. No matter what happened he should have been fully briefed about what he was coming to regarding the pain and suffering here,” said Mark Vincent Healy, who was abused by two priests in his time in school in Dublin.

“One thing is for certain, he didn’t know. You can blame it on himself for not asking questions, or those who surrounded him. I can’t imagine that the Archbishop didn’t brief him, and there are other service providers to the Pope who are feeding him information on what he’s coming to in Ireland,” he added.

Another survivor of abuse, Peter Isely from America, was also critical of Pope Francis.

Against the backdrop of the former Magdalene Laundry on Sean McDermott Street he said it is a place of “silence, horror, and trauma”, and it represents for every survivor in the world the silence of that horror.

“What the Pope has said many times is that he is sorry, that he feels bad. And we appreciate that even though some have difficulty with what that means. The opportunity he had here was telling what he was going to do about it. If you want this to end, how are you going to end it? That he didn’t do,” he added.

Mr Vincent Healy and Mr Isely were speaking as a group documenting the abuse crisis in the Catholic Church added the names of seven clergy to its public database of clerical abusers in Ireland.

Aiden Corless lights candles in an artwork of clay children’s shoes at the site of the former Tuam home for unmarried mothers in Co Galway yesterday. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
Aiden Corless lights candles in an artwork of clay children’s shoes at the site of the former Tuam home for unmarried mothers in Co Galway yesterday. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
Protesters at the visit of Francis demonstrate on the Ha’penny Bridge. Photo: REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Catherine Corless and husband Aiden (Niall Carson/PA)
People read aloud names of children as they gather at Tuam (Niall Carson/PA)
The faithful wait in the rain ahead of a visit from Pope Francis to Knock Shrine. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
Pope Francis leads the Angelus at Knock Shrine. Photo: REUTERS

The co-director of BishopAccountability.org, Anne Barrett Doyle, said that although the list now stands at more than 90 individuals it is still only “a fraction of the number of abusers who have sexually assaulted children in the Republic and in Northern Ireland.”

“According to the Irish Church’s own safeguarding audits they admit to more than 1,300 accused clergy since 1975. We have barely seven percent of those priests listed in our database,” said Ms Barrett Doyle.

“More than 1,200 accused priests remain unidentified to the public. Many may still be in ministry, others may have left the priesthood and may work and live in unsuspecting communities. What are the implications of such concealment for child safety, for survivors, and how has this massive ongoing concealment affected the ability to hold Irish Church’s to account?” she asked.

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