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Truth can help shine some light into valley of despair

'A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. By chance a certain priest was going down that way. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he travelled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.' (Luke 10:30-37)

WHAT a perfect pristine summer's day it was yesterday. A bright benign sun beam-ed from a cloudless, azure sky, buffered gently by a soft breeze. It was the sort of day that made you feel good to be alive and content under the comforting canopy of blue.

Unless you were one of the victims who had fallen prey to the priestly predators of Cloyne.

Yesterday was a gloom-filled day for anyone who delved into the damning, dreadful report into the sexual abuse of children in the Cork diocese, but for those who had suffered abuse it must've been a dark, dark day indeed, filled with reopened wounds and revisited pain.

And this bitter black cloud has cast its shadow over the Irish landscape before.

The litany of abuse by twisted men of the cloth was laid bare in the 2005 Ferns Report into the Wexford diocese, the Ryan Report on abuse in the country's industrial schools and the Murphy Report on abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin.

And yesterday the rock was lifted on the Diocese of Cloyne to see what was going to crawl out from under it. And what crawled out was a web of deceit and lies and cruelty -- and at the centre of it is the former Bishop of Cloyne, John Magee.

There was a depressing sense of deja-vu about how proceedings unfolded. In the morning a group of victims were brought to a Department of Justice building, away from the mill of media, to read through the 400-page report.

In a quiet room they would have read so many distressing accounts. Stories rendered all the more horrifying for the starkness of the language, such as this heart-breakingly vivid statement: "I remember the smell of incense, the Bible, the open confessions, the removal of his collar when he wanted to touch me more intimately. He was so big and overpowering. In my mind I have wanted to run away so many times but I can't."

But John Magee, the once-glittering prelate who had served as private secretary to three Popes, did precisely what the victim from his former domain couldn't do. He ran away.

Other prelates came out to face the music, including Cardinal Sean Brady -- but John Magee, liar and coward, was missing.

He chose not to explain how the report found he had misled a previous inquiry and gave a false account of how he was handling allegations. Between 1996 and 2005 the diocese failed to report nine out of 15 complaints, which "very clearly should have been reported".

It was a sombre, serious brace of ministers who walked on to the podium in the press centre in Government Buildings at 3pm yesterday.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter and Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald got straight down to business as they laid out their plans to try and rid the scarred landscape of Irish society of this running sore, this ugly blight.

The scandals and outrages unearthed in the Cloyne Report are myriad, but one of the most shocking aspects was how allegedly good men did nothing and let evil prosper in the diocese -- how guidelines on proper procedure were ignored.

"It is truly scandalous that people who presented a public face of concern continued to maintain a private agenda of concealment and evasion," said Mr Shatter.

"It is difficult to read the Cloyne Report and avoid despair. Many of its findings are for others to account for. But for any failings on the part of the State through the years, we express our profound sorrow."

Ms Fitzgerald lashed into the Vatican, recounting how when the Irish Catholic Church, battered and broken by successive abuse scandals, sought to apply guidelines to prevent it happening again, the Vatican told its clerics that those guidelines were not what they appeared.

"They were not guidelines to be followed. They were not guidelines to protect children. They were 'a study document'. A study document," she repeated.

And so the abuse raged on unchecked, as more children could see no blue sky over Cloyne, just the looming black shadow of a corrupted crucifix.

The sense of betrayal and helplessness and isolation can't be imagined. Ms Fitzgerald pointed out that two-thirds of complaints from victims were "unreported, uninvestigated and unprosecuted" and that "we now know that up until three years ago the Catholic Church in the diocese of Cloyne represented a danger to children".

And then came the inevitable but bone-chilling conclusion: "We cannot say with certainty that the same is not true in other dioceses around the country," she added.

In a nearby hotel, the One in Four organisation, which helps victims of abuse, echoed this grim belief. "I would be acting on the assumption that what we have learned about Ferns and Dublin and Cloyne, it can be taken as read that the same level of cover-up has existed throughout the Catholic Church in Ireland," abuse survivor Andrew Madden said.

What can be done to shine some light into those yet-uncovered valleys of despair? The two ministers have set in motion legislation which will make it a criminal offence not to report abuse.

"For decades we assumed that in every organisation there was a Good Samaritan who would not stand by while abuse could occur. In many case we were right. In some we were wrong. And when we were wrong, childhoods were destroyed," said Frances.

It's time, once and for all, to let the light in.

Irish Independent