In advance of the meeting of all Irish Bishops with the Holy Father in Rome, survivors of institutional abuse and clerical abuse have made their views known.

Meeting with representatives of four survivors groups

On 7 October last a meeting took place between representatives of four survivors groups – Right to Peace, Alliance Support Group, Irish SOCA and Right of Place – and the Irish Bishops Conference.

At that meeting it was agreed that a representative group of bishops would continue to meet with survivors: Bishop Colm OReilly, Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, Bishop John Mc Areavey, Bishop of Dromore, Bishop John Buckley, Bishop of Cork and Ross and Bishop John Fleming, Bishop of Killala.

The first meeting of this group took place on 11 December last.

A second meeting took place on 7 February 2010 in Maynooth involving Mr Tom Hayes of the Alliance Support Group, Mr John Kelly and Mr Patrick Walsh of Irish SOCA, Mr Michael OBrien of Right to Peace, Mr Michael Walsh of Right of Place and Bishop OReilly, Bishop McAreavey, Bishop Buckley and Bishop Fleming.

Todays meeting informs Irish bishops in their preparations for their visit to Rome next week to meet Pope Benedict XVI.

Bishop John McAreavey said

Todays meeting was constructive and helpful to us as we prepare to meet the Holy Father next week. The meeting focused on the ongoing concerns of survivors. We intend to relay these concerns to Pope Benedict both verbally and in the form of written submissions which were presented to us today by survivors and which directly represent their views.

Open Letter to Pope Benedict XVI

on behalf of Marie Collins, Andrew Madden and One in Four

Dear Pope Benedict,

As the Irish bishops gather in Rome for their meeting with you, we are writing to ensure that the voices of the survivors of abuse by Catholic priests have a place in your deliberations.

The distress, anger and frustration experienced by survivors since the publication of the Report of the Commission of Investigation into Sexual Abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin (the Murphy Report) is enormous. Many who have suffered throughout their lives from the impact of sexual abuse by priests in childhood now realise, having read the Report, that their pain and suffering could have been avoided if senior churchmen and the civil authorities had acted properly in response to complaints received from earlier victims.

Survivors find in incomprehensible that the Vatican and your representative in Ireland, the Papal Nuncio, saw fit to hide behind diplomatic protocols to avoid co-operating with the Murphy Commission.

Bishops Donal Murray, James Moriarty, Eamon Walsh, Raymond Field and Martin Drennan were all bishops in the Archdiocese of Dublin during some of the period investigated by the Commission. When the Report was published each of these Bishops attempted to remain in office by insisting that the findings of the Report did not warrant their resignations. They initially took no responsibility for either their actions or their failure to challenge a culture of cover up which they instead became a part of. Since then Bishop Murray has resigned and his resignation has been accepted by you. We understand that Bishops James Moriarty, Eamon Walsh and Raymond Field have offered their resignations too, which we urge you to accept without any further delay. We would also urge you to remove Bishop Martin Drennan who still refuses to accept any responsibility for his part in supporting a culture of cover up during his time in Dublin.

The core finding of the Murphy Report was that the sexual abuse of children by priests was covered up by the Archdiocese of Dublin and other Church authorities over much of the period 1975 2004. Furthermore it found that the Dublin Archdioceses pre-occupations in dealing with cases of child sexual abuse, at least until the mid 1990s, were the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church, and the perseveration of its assets. All other considerations, including the welfare of children and justice for victims, were subordinated to these priorities.

This finding was rightly accepted by the Irish Catholic Bishops in their December 2009 statement where they said that they were shamed by the extent to which child sexual abuse was covered up in the Archdiocese of Dublin. They also said that they recognised that this indicated a culture that was widespread in the Church. We also now request that other bishops throughout Ireland who engaged in this culture of cover up in their own dioceses should resign from their positions instead of waiting to see the extent to which they are criticised in any future Reports should the Commission of investigation be expanded to include their dioceses.

Responsibility for child protection properly rests with the civil authorities. We ask you now to instruct the Irish bishops to comply fully with civil child protection guidelines, including the mandatory reporting of all concerns or complaints to the civil authorities for investigation.

The lives of thousands of Irish people have been devastated by sexual abuse by priests. We ask you to write, not only to Irish Catholics, but to all people of Ireland, accepting fully the harm that has been caused by the acts of omission and commission of the Catholic Church and its priests and bishops in Ireland.

Yours sincerely,

Marie Collins, survivor of Clerical Abuse,
Maeve Lewis, One In Four
Andrew Madden, survivor of Clerical Abuse