Belfast Telegraph

We need action not words, says victim as Pope hosts talks on child protection

Pope Francis, cardinals and bishops at the opening of a global child protection summit
Pope Francis, cardinals and bishops at the opening of a global child protection summit
William Gorry
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

A leading campaigner on historical clerical abuse within the Catholic Church has said words of apology mean little to those left with a life of trauma.

This weekend Irish Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin will be in Rome for a meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican at a summit on the protection of minors in the Church.

Before the trip Archbishop Martin met survivors to hear their views and goes to Rome after delivering the message: "I am truly sorry for what was done to you."

But William Gorry said the time for apologies is long over and action is the only thing that can give comfort to the thousands of people affected by clerical abuse.

"The Archbishop has met with a handful of survivors, but there are thousands of people left living with the memories of abuse at the hands of the Church. As a survivor myself I have heard all these words before," he explained.

"Sadly, the message Archbishop Martin will deliver is not the big picture. For years the Catholic Church has not listened and not support people like me for what we went through.

"I have tried to reach out to the Church. I have tried to make the Church listen, but they do not respond to me.

"Instead, I'm directed to speak to safeguarding. I hear nothing more. That says it all to me and no words of apology can change that. They're hollow without action.

"Today, many of those people who suffered are in the later stages of their lives and many are dying, taking their memories to the grave, without a proper recognition of what they suffered.

"It's only now, so many years later, that we have even heard the word 'sorry'. There is so much more the Church needs to do before any semblance of trust can be restored. So much harm has been done."

Mr Gorry (54) set up the Residential Institutional Survivors Network in a bid to bring together with one voice people who suffered at the hands of clerics.

"Victims in Ireland have never had a voice and they've been repeatedly ignored by the State and the Church. That needs to change. And this isn't simply an Irish issue. It's worldwide."

The Dubliner spent 11 years being beaten and sexually abused at the Sister of Mercy Carmel Industrial School in Co Westmeath after being placed in the home in 1974.

"Having Pope Francis in Ireland last year and at least acknowledging the suffering thousands were put through at the hands of the Church was a step forward, but I am still hurting and tens of thousands more are hurting with me," he said. "People in society who abuse are dealt with by the authorities, but we hear nothing of action being taken against those who abused the likes of me. If abuse is still happening, what is the Catholic Church doing?

"It's time the Catholic Church recognised its responsibilities and at least started to listen to survivors en masse, instead of trying to placate us with apologetic words. I refuse to be swept under the carpet."

Speaking before his visit to Rome, Archbishop Martin assured victims they were uppermost in his thoughts.

"In recent weeks I met with some of you and heard about how you were hurt and violated, about how your young lives were turned into a nightmare by people who betrayed the sacred trust you and your families had placed in them." he said.

"I've learned about how abuse devastated your confidence, your relationships, your family and in some cases your spiritual, emotional, mental and physical wellbeing, when all you wanted was to be believed and supported by the Church. There were too many failures to listen, understand and do what was right and just. I am truly sorry for these failures.

"No wonder so many find it difficult to forgive. You rightly demand complete transparency and prompt co-operation with police and statutory authorities.

"You deserve to be believed, loved and cherished, not isolated and seen as a threat.

"I know nothing I say can undo the terrible wrongs endured, but I once more commit to doing all I can to ensure that Church activities are as safe as possible for children and vulnerable people."

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