Monday 18 March 2019

Empty apologies from bishops an insult to victims

Andrew Madden

The reaction of the Catholic hierarchy to the publication of the Murphy report last Thursday is extremely annoying and deeply hurtful.

I had a meeting with Archbishop Diarmuid Martin some months ago; I made it very clear to him that if the Commission of Investigation found that the handling of allegations of child sexual abuse against priests by bishops was found to have contributed in any way to more children being sexually abused by those priests, then the very least the bishops needed to do was to own up to their part in that and apologise for it very clearly -- they should not hide their own actions behind apologies for what the abusing priests had done.

The report showed that many children were sexually abused by priests whom the bishops knew were a danger. Indeed, in the case of former priest Ivan Payne, the commission identified at least seven boys who were abused by him after I had reported him to church authorities in 1981.

When I listened to Dr Martin's statement in response to the Murphy report, the only references to the bishops' part in the causing of that abuse was "devastating failings of the past", "misread the risk" and "failed to recognise the theft of childhood".

There was no such flowery language in the Murphy report and Dr Martin belittles the findings of that report, and the feelings of many victims, with his words.

Less than 24 hours after the report was published, Bishop Eamonn Walsh and I were on the same radio programme. The bishop insisted that none of the cover-up detailed in the report was deliberate. I was shocked by yet another attempt to undermine and minimise the findings of the report.

Again, in chapter after chapter, the Murphy report reveals bishops misleading medical professionals about what they knew about abusing priests referred for assessment, using "useless" medical reports to justify reassigning those priests, ignoring other medical reports advising against reappointing priests and giving other paedophile priests glowing references when they were leaving the Dublin Archdiocese to join other dioceses.

The bishops were singing from the same hymn sheet by Sunday -- but not in their churches. No, they were on all the television and radio programmes independently arguing the very same point: that there was no need to investigate the other dioceses around the country. That alone is reason enough to rouse suspicion. The bishops were concerned about the cost to the taxpayer of such additional work -- does their concern for the cost of these investigations extend to offering to pay the €3.6m cost of the commission?

Why were they not so concerned about taxpayers' resources when religious orders only paid €127m of €1.3bn to the cost of the Redress Board?

Bishop Donal Murray insists that he did not mishandle allegations of child sexual abuse by priests, even though the Murphy report describes his handling as "inexcusable". He too shows contempt for the commission and the victims by behaving the way he has -- and now we learn that priests and "lay people" in his diocese have issued a statement of support for him. Is there any diocese where priests and "lay people" have rallied round so speedily (or at all) to issue a statement in support of a single victim?

There was talk recently about a service of atonement at the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin planned by more "lay people" in response to the Ryan and Dublin reports.

This service has the full support of Dr Martin, providing it has the support of victims. I have now written to the organisers and told them not to bother, as any words expressed by bishops or anyone else at such a service would be utterly meaningless.

Andrew Madden is a survivor of clerical abuse

Irish Independent

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