'I was a victim of abuse. This is what the Pope must do to stop it'

Share
Related Topics

It was not being raped by a priest at the age of 14 that shattered my faith; it was the horrifying realisation that the Catholic Church had wilfully, knowingly abandoned me to it, the knowledge that they had ordained the priest who abused me despite knowing he was a paedophile and set him free to abuse with near impunity, ignoring all complaints.

And so it is difficult not to be cynical about the likely merit of the pastoral letter that Pope Benedict XVI will publish today.

For a start the letter is intended for the "Irish faithful". The Pope will write not to those who have left or fled his Church traumatised or outraged by acts of depravity and cover-up, but to those who somehow hold faith despite it.

For my part I know what fractured my faith in the institutions of the Roman Catholic Church. I was a faithful Catholic, born into a society where to be Irish meant being Catholic. As a child, I knelt with my family in the evenings to say the rosary and I became an altar boy, finding great meaning as a child in the idea of serving the God my elders spoke of. My faith mattered to me; it had come to me across the generations and gave me a powerful sense of myself and my place in the world.

That faith was strong enough not to be shattered by the abuse. Father Sean Fortune used my fidelity to lure me to his rural parish and sexually assault me. But my faith was so strong, and my need to believe in the goodness of the Church and its priests so powerful, that I blamed myself for his crimes, turning my hatred of the act of his abuse inwards where, for decades, it poisoned my sense of myself. My faith in myself was gone, but not my faith in my church. Over the years I drifted from regular Mass attendance, but I still held the Church in esteem – until that painful realisation of the extent of the cover-up, of my abuse and that of countless others.

If today's letter is to represent a real and meaningful change in how the Vatican deals with abuse, it will have to be a radical departure from previous papal statements.

Firstly, it must not make any attempt to blame anyone else for Church failures. Pope Benedict must not suggest the revelations of clerical crime and cover-up are part of a global media conspiracy as he has previously done. He must not seek to blame the decadence of Western society, the sexual revolution, gays, secularisation or even the Devil, as senior church leaders have asserted over the years.

He must also move beyond bland statements expressing his shock and dismay at the revelations of recent years. As head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, he was the man charged with the management of cases of child sexual abuse on a global scale for more than two decades. He, more than anyone, knows about the scale of abuse across the Catholic Church.

He must not patronise us by telling us what any person with basic reason knows, that child abuse is a "heinous crime". He must not express his regret at the actions of some, or a few, or even many priests. Neither he, nor his institution, can be held responsible for the actions of any individual priest, which has never been the charge levelled against him.

He must end the denial and deceit typified by his constant refusal to properly engage with the charge of cover-up, never mind admit it. In the face of findings of fact in Ireland, the US, Australia and Canada which have detailed the institutional corruption at the heart of these scandals, to do otherwise would be to continue to cover up by a wilful denial to address the issue.

He must take responsibility for the cover-up, and apologise for it. As supreme head of the Catholic Church he must use his power to enforce proper child protection across the global Church. He must also make it clear that those who fail to act to protect children will be properly held to account.

When I was a child I was taught truth and justice mattered. I was taught that I should have the courage to take responsibility for any wrong that I might do others. I was taught that the first step in doing so was to confess my failings. I expect no less from the head of the Church that preached those values to me.



The writer campaigns for justice for clerical sexual abuse victims and is the author of 'Beyond Belief', the story of the boy who sued the Pope ( www.colmogorman.com)

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Yvette Cooper campaigning in London at the launch of Labour’s women’s manifesto  

I want the Labour Party to lead a revolution in family support

Yvette Cooper
Liz Kendall  

Labour leadership contest: 'Moderniser' is just a vague and overused label

Steve Richards
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine