Victims of abuse by priests speak out: 'There's this wall of silence'

Victims of abuse by Roman Catholic priests yesterday met the Pope. "He was moved by what they had to say and expressed his deep sorrow and shame" over what they had suffered, a Vatican spokesman said. Other abuse victims also spoke out yesterday.

Sue Cox, from the Protest the Pope organisation, was first abused by her family priest 50 years ago.

"I was brought up in a very strict Catholic family. The first time I was abused was the night before communion and I had to go to confession the next day with the same person. The second time, he raped me in my own home. I was distraught; when my mother found out – she disturbed him [during the rape] – we couldn't talk about it. She mumbled something like, 'pray for him', and 'it was all part of God's plan'. I didn't think it was a very good plan."

Therese Albrecht of the US group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (Snap)

"I was eight when I was raped and sodomised by a Catholic priest. I was distressed and destroyed. It ruined my life and when I finally managed to speak out I found the church would not act. I was also sexually abused by a nun. So I found my voice and we have come to England to protest. I have come from the US to give a message that he [the Pope] needs to do more to protect children from predator priests. I go to Catholic mass once in a while. It's very traumatic for me. But I still love God.

Barbara Blaine, Snap president

"I was abused as a child by a priest in my church. When I finally got the courage to speak up, they made a lot of empty promises and did nothing. I found other people and we realised we were not alone. We are disappointed by response of the Pope so far. Grand apologies are not enough."

Sarah Reader, a film-maker from south London

"I'm a lapsed Catholic. I hear the Pope on all these holy rants and I think it's dreadful. My friends watch this stuff in the news and then they look at me, and they can't connect the two, because they know what happened. There's almost a belief that it's not as bad as normal abuse if a member of the church is responsible for it. We can never be compensated for this. It sits with you for ever. I think it's ironic how he's come here and called Britain an aggressively secular society and he's implied we're heathens when they're still covering up the abuse of children."

Christina Short, from London

When this happens to children, who do they report to? There's this wall of silence. Who believes you? A child doesn't understand what's happening to them, and they're terrified. In Catholicism the priest is next to God, this is the man who you go to for confession, this man is meant to absolve you of your sins – if he's abusing you, what then? As an adult I can't figure out the answer. The church just wants to hush it all up."

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