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Pope will meet survivors of clerical sex abuse during his Irish visit, Vatican says

Details of the meeting will not be announced until after it is over.

Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

Updated Aug 21st 2018, 1:40 PM

POPE FRANCIS WILL meet survivors of clerical sex abuse during his visit to Ireland this weekend.

The Reuters news wire service reported the development this afternoon, quoting a briefing by Vatican spokesperson Greg Burke.

According to the Reuters report, Burke told reporters that details of the meeting would not be announced until after it was over and that it would be up to the survivors whether or not they wanted to speak afterwards.

There has been uncertainty in recent months over whether such a meeting would take place. Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said several times at public events recently that he wasn’t certain if there would be enough time for the Pope to meet victims.

Colm O’Gorman, the founder and former director of the One in Four charity and a campaigner for survivors of clerical abuse, said this afternoon 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.

While a pastoral meeting might be appropriate for some people, O’Gorman said the priority for survivors of clerical abuse in Ireland was accountability.

“These kinds of meetings that frankly often look more like PR exercises than having any real integrity – they certainly don’t help us to get to the truth – are really not helpful,” O’Gorman told RTÉ’s News at One.

I can’t overstate the insult that I think the circus that’s been created around the very notion of this kind of meeting is to victims of abuse. It lacks integrity on every possible level.

O’Gorman, who is himself a survivor of clerical abuse, wrote for TheJournal.ie  earlier this month that the Church had fought “tooth and nail” to cover up abuse in every country where such offences had been reported.

“Here in Ireland they used diplomatic immunity to block the case I took against the Vatican in 1998 to try force Pope John Paul II to reveal what was known about the priest who raped me and dozens of others.

It tried to block State inquiries, arguing that it was above the law, that Canon Law was superior to the law of the State. This week we found out that in 2003 the Vatican tried to secure a deal with the State that would allow it to bury Church documents. It wanted to put Vatican and Diocesan archives beyond the reach of any investigation. It didn’t get the deal it wanted, so instead it simply withheld the documents and refused to engage with the various statutory inquires established by the Oireachtas.

Pennsylvania abuse

In a letter published yesterday 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”.

More than 1,000 child victims were identifiable, but the “real number” was “in the thousands,” the grand jury estimated, given those children whose records were lost or who were afraid to ever come forward.

Victims were often traumatised for life, driven to drugs, alcohol and suicide, the grand jury said. The only recourse was to recommend changes to the law and expose what had happened to make sure such widespread abuse was never repeated.

One cleric raped a seven-year-old girl in hospital after she had her tonsils out, the report said. Another child drank juice, only to wake up the next morning bleeding from his rectum and unable to remember what had happened.

Irish visit 

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.

The visit was confirmed in March of this year.

Speaking at the launch of the itinerary for the visit in June, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said that a meeting with victims and survivors groups had not yet been added to the schedule but was “very high on the list of priorities”.

Earlier this month, Martin told the Irish Times that “time is very tight” for the Pope to meet survivors of abuse.

0273 Amnesty YES Campaign_90541847 Campaigner Colm O'Gorman Source: RollingNews.ie

O’Gorman is organising 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”.

O’Gorman has asked people who have been “abused or hurt by the Catholic Church” and those who “wish to stand in solidarity with those who have been abused” to attend the event.

Reporting

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach told reporters he would like the church to introduce mandatory reporting.

“While that may not be the law in every country in the world I think it is good practice and perhaps something the church and other institutions might consider implementing.

“Just because it’s not the law in every country doesn’t mean it isn’t the right thing to do.”

Varadkar said that the church could learn from law changes across Irish society.

- Includes reporting by AFP 

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