A CATHOLIC priest came under fire last night after claiming that far too many wives and mothers "failed miserably" to deal with the abuse of their children by other family members.
Fr Paddy Banville, a curate in the Ferns Diocese, said a significant percentage of the population was implicated in the cover-up of abuse.
Writing in this week's 'Irish Catholic' newspaper, he said Irish society did not want to hear the truth about child sexual abuse in Ireland.
"There is another category of people that will match the failure of the bishops and probably surpass it; the wives and mothers of Ireland, not exclusively wives and mothers but far too many who failed miserably to deal with the abuse of their children by other family members.
"In exposing abuse within the Catholic Church, we have opened the door to hell and stepped inside the front porch, and standing there in horror some have dared to peer further, into the hallway and reception areas of a very dark and unexplored house," he wrote.
"In time I believe Ireland will discover there is nothing particularly unique in the Catholic bishops' bungling attempts to deal with clerical abuse . . . in fact, I believe covering up is a typical response to child abuse right across the board, at least until very recently."
Reacting to his comments, the One in Four organisation said it had nothing to say about somebody "who could show such complete lack of understanding about sexual abuse".
The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) said the comments were a good argument for a second nationwide report into the extent of sexual abuse and violence in Ireland.
The first such report in 2002 found that more than 80pc of children were abused by those known to them and that just 3.2pc of abusers were clerics.
However, DRCC chief executive Ellen O'Malley-Dunlop said that since those findings, a plethora of reports on child sexual abuse had been published and new comparisons were needed.
"To put the onus on the mothers of Ireland in the context of what happened to the victims of clerical child abuse is just shocking," she said.
Last night Fr Banville stood over his comments.
"I know the church failed miserably (in dealing with child sexual abuse) but in time I think we will come to realise that this is a mirror image of the failure in wider society," he told the Irish Independent.
He had not argued that wives and mothers had exclusively failed to deal with the abuse of their children, but was saying that for a mother to discover that their child had been abused and fail to do something was "perhaps the most horrific failure of all".
"It is not just wives and mothers who knew of abuse. So did husbands and fathers, brothers and sisters as well as citizens and priests.
"I am not in any way defending the church but the church is just the beginning of a much bigger picture," he said.