By Edel Kennedy
Friday November 27 2009
THE survivors of clerical sex abuse have called for people who covered up the scandal and failed to remove accused priests from their parishes to be prosecuted.
Speaking after the release of the report yesterday, the Church was accused of “denial, arrogance and cover-up”, with survivors saying there was no regard within the Catholic Church for child welfare. They also called for an investigation into child sex abuse in every diocese across the country.
“Despite all the evidence in the (past) reports, not one single person has been convicted of recklessly endangering children,” said Maeve Lewis of support group One in Four. “That absolutely has to change.
“Where the abuse could have been prevented, those people are as guilty as the sexual offenders themselves. And, therefore, today we are calling on the DPP to immediately instigate criminal investigations into all those who colluded and conspired to protect the Catholic Church and allowed children to be sexually abused.”
She said she considered these people — including the Church hierarchy — to be as guilty as the people who abused children.
Marie Collins, who brokered the historical apology with Cardinal Desmond Connell after being abused by a priest identified as Father Edmondus in the report, said the report confirmed the Church had a policy of covering up.
“What this tells us is that it wasn’t individual men going their own way,” she said.
“It was policy, a system, it was throughout the Church. And, therefore, wherever the Catholic Church is, that system would have been in place. It’s not just rogue elements going their own way, this was a system of cover-up, protecting the institution and it’s going to be the same wherever the Catholic Church is.”
She also referred to the gardai, some members of which were heavily criticised for not formally investigating some allegations of abuse.
She pointed to a case in 1960 when gardai were given physical evidence of abuse. But instead of launching an investigation, they handed the evidence to then Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, leaving the accused “free to abuse”.
“I think the gardai in that case simply abdicated their responsibility,” she said. “From this report, we know this happened in many other cases.”
Andrew Madden, who sought a public inquiry 10 years ago, said the State had little interest in protecting children.
And he hit out at former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern for failing to launch an inquiry when Mr Andrew revealed to him that his abuser was still working in a Dublin parish.
“There has not been a proactive desire by the Government to act in the safety and welfare of children,” he said. “It’s only when they’ve been embarrassed into it (by media reports).”
The survivors said the Church was “incapable of self-monitoring” and raised concerns that their current guidelines still allowed the bishops to investigate allegations of abuse against a priest and did not force them to hand the information to the authorities.
Meanwhile, John Kelly, of Survivors of Child Abuse, called on the Pope to visit Ireland and apologise, not only to the victims, but to all members of the Catholic Church.
Referring to members of the Catholic Church, he said they should be prosecuted for obstruction of justice because the Church was aware accusations had been made, but in many instances the priests were simply moved along.
“Not only did they know, they could have prevented hundreds of other children being abused. That’s the crime.”
– Edel Kennedy