Letter: Soviet-style `boot camp' for priests

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The Independent Online
Letter: Soviet-style `boot camp' for priests

Sir: My experience of others revealing the secrets of the Roman Catholic "boot camp" at Stroud is that they are diligently sought out to account for their revelations. I hope your correspondent may evade detection.

Reports of child sex abuse by priests and religious have rightly rocked the Roman Church. Its past complacency caused much unnecessary suffering. The effect of so many stories breaking within a short period means that some priest friends of mine in Ireland no longer wear their dog collars. What was once a magic key to every heart has now become a spur to verbal and sometimes physical abuse from a disillusioned people.

The Roman hierarchy is still in shock. It has developed a strategy of openness and candour that it hopes will restore the confidence of the people. At the sharp end of this policy is the priest who has "failed".

The Roman Church has yet to reach a balanced perspective on the whole matter of its sexually active clerics. The once over-protected priest has now become guilty on the slimmest suggestion or gossip.

In some dioceses the "child protection teams" set up as a reaction to the horror stories have acquired the status of the Holy Inquisition. They beg parishes to shop their priest - to report any and all sins. In one parish I know of where the gay priest was "suspected", the diocesan child protection team begged for information to damn the man. When they received none they blamed the people for their laxness.

The Roman Church was strong to hide its evil priests; it is doing a double injustice to its clergy now because it is so afraid. Fear has always been the enemy of truth.

The Rev MARTIN REYNOLDS

Cardiff

The writer is an Anglican priest

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