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Clerical abuse survivors asked: Has the Church supported you?

Support and advocacy group asks for survivors to complete questionnaire to build picture of official response to abuse claims.

Dr Margaret Kennedy, left, representing MACSAS at a press conference in London.
Dr Margaret Kennedy, left, representing MACSAS at a press conference in London.
Image: AP Photo/Akira Suemori

A SURVIVORS’ SUPPORT group is asking survivors of clerical abuse in Ireland to take part in a research project to discover the extent of the assistance offered to them by the Catholic Church.

The appeal has come in the wake of the recent Vatican Apostolic Visitation.

The Visitation, a group of high-ranking officials from the Vatican which came here in November 2010, was led by Archbishop of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Their mission was to inspect the country’s four archdioceses and seminaries in Maynooth, Milltown, Belfast and the Pontifical College in Rome, along with other religious institutes, to see how child protection guidelines were being understood, implemented and operating.

The Visitation published its findings on 20 March and proposed a number of reforms, including new child protection classes for trainee priests. The Visitation said that it had met with survivors of abuse here so as to better understand their issues. The findings read:

Particular attention has been given to the assistance offered by the Church in Ireland to victims of past abuse. All the Visitators acknowledge that, beginning with the Bishops and Religious Superiors, much attention and care has been shown to the victims, both in terms of spiritual and psychological assistance and also from a legal and financial standpoint. It has been recommended, therefore, that, following the example given by Pope Benedict XVI in his meetings with victims of abuse, the Irish diocesan authorities and those of the Religious Institutes continue to devote much time listening to and receiving victims, providing support for them and their families.

Their meetings with the victims of abuse helped the Visitators to understand better various aspects of the problem of the sexual abuse of minors that took place in Ireland. The Visitators and the Church in Ireland are thankful for this contribution and want to assure them that their well-being is of paramount concern for the Church.

Now, a group called MACSAS – set up in the UK in 1995 to offer support to victims of clerical abuse from all Christian backgrounds but also to be active in promoting child protection – is asking survivors of clerical abuse here if their experience tallies with the assertion of the Visitation that:

…much attention and care has been shown to the victims, both in terms of spiritual and psychological assistance and also from a legal and financial standpoint.

Dr Margaret Kennedy, founder of MACSAS and now living in Ireland, told TheJournal.ie that she hopes to compile the experiences of a large number of abuse survivors to establish a comprehensive picture of the Church’s response to them in the aftermath of the abuse scandals.

Those interested in taking part are being asked to fill out a questionnaire, which can be downloaded from MACSAS’s website or downloaded directly from here. It can then be emailed to macsas1@hotmail.com in confidentiality.

Dr Margaret Kennedy was the focus of an RTÉ Would You Believe documentary in 2010 after a letter she wrote to the Irish Times asked for attention to called “to an almost forgotten report known as the McCoy report, an internal report by the Western Health Board and the Brothers of Charity into abuse carried out against people with disabilities in institutional care”.

Download MACSAS questionnaire here>

Vatican visitors propose Church reforms to deal with abuse fallout>

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