LEICESTER, United Kingdom – It took “far too long” for the Church to understand that both sexual abuse and its cover-up “will no longer be tolerated,” according to the bishop opening the annual conference of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland.
Bishop Dermot Farrell of Ossory said Oct. 26 that many people have felt “anger and dismay” after recent revelations about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church across the globe.
Just before Pope Francis visited Ireland for the World Meeting of Families in August, the Church in the United States was hit with the double blow of the exposure of the years of sexual misconduct of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the shocking details in a Pennsylvania grand jury report into clerical sexual abuse in six dioceses in that state. Since then, further reports were published in several European countries, including Germany and the Netherlands.
“Despite the many reports and serious findings in this area here in Ireland in recent years, these reports from overseas were nonetheless dreadful. They have negatively affected many, many people, in particular victims and survivors of abuse, families and the community of faithful,” Farrell said.
“It is still right, however, that the truth of these crimes would come to light, so that the abuse itself can be addressed and ultimately healed by a genuine response that is willing to go even deeper than the childhood terror inflicted on so many children,” the bishop continued.
The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland was founded in 2006, and has issued reports on sexual abuse in every diocese in Ireland as well as the country’s religious orders.
The Oct. 26-27 conference in Kilkenny is its third national meeting, and has the theme ‘Be Not Afraid.’
Farrell praised the “exemplary safeguarding standards and the clear mechanisms” of the board, saying they have allowed the Church to “respond vigorously” to sexual abuse complaints.
“I want … to acknowledge the National Board’s contribution to addressing the grave issues, serious wrongs and tragic failures over the previous decades that have come to light in our land in and in our Church, as the scale and depth of the sexual abuse crisis in Ireland has been revealed,” Farrell said.
“This terrible scandal has undermined the lives of many children and vulnerable people — young and not so young; it has eroded trust and good will and hangs like a cloud over all who seek to witness to the Good News,” he said.
The bishop also praised the courage of abuse survivors, “who first brought the horrific truth of sexual abuse to light (and) must continue to be matched by our courage to listen to the survivors and, to respond in truth and in justice to all of them.”
Farrell said the Catholic Church in Ireland “has been dismayed because of the devastating harm that has been done to children and for the way the leaders failed, for whatever reason, to respond, or responded very poorly, when in many instances there were grave indications that children had been abused.”
He said if such reports had been acted upon in a timely manner, rather than denying or covering up the abuse and silencing victims to prevent scandal, it would have prevented others from being sexually abused.
“We are now going through a period of rightful indignation, and necessary purification. It took far too long to arrive at a position where both sexual abuse of the most innocent in our communities and its cover-up in the Church will no longer be tolerated,” said the bishop.