So much for Church's remorse over the sex abuse scandal

There are occasions when I genuinely despair of the direction our society is headed. Within the past seven days, the Government has sentenced the family of an autistic child to a future of bankruptcy; a cache of secret files has been unearthed, recounting the most abominable abuse of helpless residents in our nursing homes; and the Roman Catholic Church has proved yet again that it has absolutely no intention of dealing with the predators it has harboured and protected for decades.Of the three bitter injustices listed above, the latter is perhaps the most infuriating, as the Church hierarchy has had ample time to come to terms with the horrific damage their callous mismanagement of abuse cases has inflicted on countless victims.The hypocrisy of ‘moral leaders’ like Cardinal Connell is almost laughable. The thought of him scuttling to his lawyers in an attempt to stem the avalanche of criticism and condemnation that was surely about to rain down on him would actually be funny, if it were not for the fact that the documents he is trying to suppress could mean the end of a cycle of anguish for so many.“Anger doesn’t even begin to describe what’s inside me right now” Ben (not his real name) told me. Ben is a survivor of clerical abuse, and his case is awaiting trial. “There is a culture of secrecy and collusion within the religious community in Ireland. It’s obvious that nothing has changed.

“If the Church really wanted to see those bastards brought to justice, they would have stopped Cardinal Connell from getting his injunction. He’s part of a larger organisation, and has to follow orders. They’re all in it together.”Ben was abused by two different priests. His ordeal began when he was four years old, and ended when he was 16. He is in his 30s now, and tells me that he still carries the memories of what happened to him “like a tattoo — I see that damaged kid every time I look in the mirror.’So far, one of his abusers has been prosecuted, but not for his molestation of Ben. “I was so young when he did it to me, I couldn’t remember dates or precise details. So, when they were putting the case together, my situation wasn’t much good to them. “You read about these monsters who have been raping kids for decades, and they’re put away for five years on 20 counts of indecent assault — the reality is they interfered with children literally thousands of times. But they can only get them on what they can prove.”Ben is very clear about how the behaviour of Cardinal Connell makes him feel. “Worthless,” he says. “At the end of the day, this man was the boss of the creeps who ruined my life, and here he is saying that he values them more than he does me. He is telling me very directly that he doesn’t give a damn about the frightened kid that I was. I know it shouldn’t hurt, but it does.”Ben is articulating a prominent aspect in the psychology of the abuse victim, something that is particularly relevant for survivors of clerical abuse. We must not forget that for countless children who experienced abuse at the hands of the clergy during the SeventieSeand Eighties, a major barrier to disclosure was the apparent unbelievability of their experience.PriestSeand nuns were supposed to be closer to God than anyone else, and therefore beyond reproach. Sex was still a taboo subject. The suggestion that a priest or nun might behave in such an abhorrent manner was utterly unthinkable.Therefore, recognition of the suffering experienced by clerical abuse survivors is a hugely symbolic thing. To have somebody in authority in the Church — as Ben puts it, ‘the boss’ — acknowledge the rightnesSeand truth of their plight validates what happened.In one fell swoop Cardinal Connell has demonstrated complete and utter apathy towards the foul social evil his organisation allowed to flourish unchecked, begetting levels of hurt, grief and despair that he probably cannot even begin to comprehend.The Roman Catholic Church has many things for which it should feel remorse. The industrial schools, the Magdalene Laundries, the persecution of the gay community, the marginalisation of women, the suppression of contraception, the condemnation of the labour movement — all these things illustrate an institution clearly out of step with the needs of the people it professes to serve.As the investigations into clerical abuse continue, the Church haSean opportunity to show that it is truly sorry for what it did (and failed to do).It is time for someone in the Church to stand up and cry: ‘enough’. The sleight of hand, the smoke and mirrors has to stop.Shane Dunphy is a child protection expert and lecturer. He is the author of ‘Wednesday’s Child’ and ‘Last Ditch House’ Sean Morrin
Youth Support Worker
The Rainbow Project

Queen Street, Derry BT48 7EG

Telephone 028 71283030www.rainbow-project.orgRegistered Company Office

2-8 Commercial Court, Belfast


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