Belfast Telegraph

Catholics 'appalled' by church sex abuse: archbishop

By John Coonney

Catholics have been left "angered and appalled" by the scale of clerical child sexual abuse in a church "shaken by wrongdoing", a senior cleric has admitted.

Preaching at Mass on the summit of Croagh Patrick yesterday, Archbishop of Tuam Michael Neary told pilgrims that the shocking revelations would end only when all survivors had told their stories.

Archbishop Neary, who led the climb of Mayo's holy mountain, celebrated the 10.30am Mass on a wet and windy morning as thick swirling mist shrouded the peak.

Pilgrim numbers were down from last year, because many locals had done the climb on Friday, before heading to Croke Park for Mayo's All-Ireland championship win against Cork.

Archbishop Neary told the pilgrims that they had come to the sacred spot where St Patrick had first raised Christian hopes of salvation more than 1,500 years ago.

Referring to the shocking Cloyne, Murphy and Ryan reports, Archbishop Neary said it was understandable that many faithful Catholics were experiencing distress and discouragement.

"We are very conscious of the enormous difficulties besetting our church, chiefly in the number of innocent people who have suffered through the wrong-doing of some priests," he said.

"Many are angered and appalled by what they have learned.

"Indeed, these feelings are shared by priests, religious and, yes, bishops too."

Last month's report into the Co Cork diocese criticised former bishop, Newry native John Magee, for his handling of complaints of child sex abuse against priests.

It sparked a row between Church and State over child protection practices, and a landmark rebuke of the Vatican by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

A Vatican response to the Cloyne Report is expected before the end of this month.

Archbishop Neary recalled that last week a woman asked him when it would all end.

"The honest answer is that it will not end until every survivor has told their story and until every victim is facilitated in embarking on their journey to real healing, where true dignity is accorded."

Geoffrey McCafferty, a veteran of 20 previous climbs, came "extra prepared" for the bad weather, but found it "hard enough".

Asked how the abuse scandals had affected his belief, Mr McCafferty said that he while he had been shocked, it had not shaken his faith in the Church.

"There are bad apples in every profession," he said.

Croagh Patrick, nicknamed the Reek, is an important site of pilgrimage in Co Mayo. On "Reek Sunday", the last Sunday in July every year, more than 15,000 pilgrims climb it. The mountain has been a site of pilgrimage since before the arrival of Celtic Christianity. Saint Patrick reputedly fasted on the summit for 40 days in the fifth century and built a church there.

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