Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Clerical abuse must now go to inquiry

St Patrick’s Day 2010 was not a good day for the Catholic Church in Ireland. The day which marks the man who brought Christianity to this island was besmirched by his successors.

First there was the apology from Cardinal Sean Brady for his failure to help two children, aged 10 and 14, who had been abused by a priest in the 1970s. He was present when they were asked to sign confidentiality agreements not to talk about the abuse to anyone outside the Church.

There is little doubt that Cardinal Brady is, as he said, sorry and ashamed for his inaction, but his apology cuts little ice with those who suffered abuse at the hands of priests and watched as the Church did nothing to help them. It comes too late and victims are fed up hearing apologies which are not followed by action.

After all the revelations about paedophile priests and criticism of the Church’s inaction, the |comments on radio yesterday of Monsignor |Maurice Dooley shocked listeners. Astoundingly he said he would not inform police if a paedophile priest told him in confidence of his crime. It was exactly that attitude which allowed abusers free rein to continue their vile crimes for decades.

A story in this newspaper today reveals how one Londonderry girl suffered such abuse for years, from the tender age of eight, at the hands of a priest. The Church authorities did nothing and only when the family took court action were they given a £12,000 settlement and an “apology” from the offender. Such apologies are worthless. Bishop Seamus Hegarty, in whose diocese the offences |occurred, stands accused, at the least, of being uncaring to the family. What action will he now take?

The argument for a wide-ranging inquiry into clerical abuse of minors in Northern Ireland parishes is now compelling and should be initiated as soon as possible. The Catholic Church must |co-operate fully if it is to retain even a smidgeon of moral authority with its flock.

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