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'Only a proportion' of clerical abuse victims have come forward, Archbishop says

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said that more could be done to encourage victims to come forward.

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin
Image: Sam Boal

ARCHBISHOP OF DUBLIN Diarmuid Martin has said the number of clerical abuse victims who have come forward in Ireland represent only a proportion of the total.

Martin was speaking at the opening of the Catholic Church’s World Meeting of Families at Dublin’s RDS, which culminates this weekend with the two-day visit of Pope Francis.

Addressing questions from the Irish and international media, the Archbishop also said that more could be done to make the judicial system easier for victims of abuse – and that the rate of prosecutions had been low.

Martin, who is hosting the World Meeting of Families, was asked whether he and other senior Church figures felt they were on trial as the event took place, in the wake of further clerical abuse revelations in the US in recent weeks.

“Particularly in Ireland, because of the industrial schools, day schools, Magdalene Laundries, the mother and baby homes and then children abused by priests in parishes – the numbers of those abused is immense,” Martin told a press conference.

The numbers that have come forward is only a proportion of that and there are many people who are still holding in their own hearts the sadness of abuse.

The number of prosecutions had been low, Martin said – adding that even when people came forward and presented their claims to the police and other authorities, there was no guarantee of justice.

“Because of the system in our courts it’s not an easy thing for somebody to have to appear and tell their story.”

The Church in Ireland had made “extraordinary progress” tackling abuse and had done more than just say sorry, Martin said.

We have to make sure that those factors which contribute to and protect abusers that they’re addressed and they’re addressed definitively and that they’re addressed definitively everywhere.

wmof 892_90552046 Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life Cardinal Kevin Farrell. Source: Sam Boal

Martin addressed the media alongside Kevin Farrell, the Irish-American Cardinal who heads up the Vatican’s office of laity and family, and a selection of speakers from the RDS event this afternoon.

The three-day pastoral congress begins a day after confirmation that the Pope will meet survivors of clerical sex abuse during his visit to Ireland.

There had been uncertainty in recent months over whether such a meeting would take place.

Colm O’Gorman, the founder and former director of the One in Four charity and a campaigner for survivors of clerical abuse, said yesterday that the meeting had the appearance of being a “box-ticking exercise”.

He also criticised what he described as the “circus” that had been created by the Catholic Church around the prospect of such a meeting taking place, and said the priority for survivors of clerical abuse in Ireland was accountability.

In a letter published earlier this week Pope Francis condemned the “atrocities” revealed recently by a far-reaching US report into clerical child sex abuse in the state of Pennsylvania.

“Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of many of the victims,” the Pope said in his letter.

We have realised that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death.

The two-year investigation by a grand jury into all but two Pennsylvania dioceses turned up dozens of witnesses and half a million pages of church records containing “credible allegations against over three hundred predator priests”.

Pope Francis will arrive in Dublin on Saturday morning and will attend events in the city throughout the day, before visiting Knock the next morning and delivering a mass to more than 500,000 people at the Phoenix Park on Sunday afternoon.

O’Gorman, himself a survivor of clerical abuse, has organised a demonstration at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin at 3pm on Sunday to coincide with the Pope’s mass.

The Facebook event page states the Pope’s visit will be “marked by an effort to silence and marginalise those whom the church has harmed”.

- With reporting by AFP 

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