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Clergy abuse accusers 'should be identified'

Priests accused of sexual abuse want their accusers identified and allegations against them in writing, a group representing liberal Irish Catholic clergymen has said.

The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), which now represents over 1,000 priests in the Republic and Northern Ireland, has outlined a series of changes it is seeking to the guidelines on the standing aside from ministry for priests accused of abuse.

The ACP believes accused priests need to know the name of their accusers and to see the accusations in writing. They are also seeking changes in the way the news of an allegation is conveyed.

However, abuse survivor Marie Collins says such changes could deter victims from coming forward, particularly if they know their name is to be given to their abuser before a full investigation is under way.

“It has to be remembered that an abuser has a great deal of power over a victim; the fear of their abuser's anger at being exposed is very real for a victim,” said Ms Collins, who was a member of the Lynott Committee which drew up the child protection guidelines, ‘Our Children Our Church'.

She recalled that the members of the Lynott Committee were advised by a senior garda that “if the name of the person making the allegation is given to the accused at the first meeting there is a danger this will interfere with a subsequent criminal investigation”. She also warned that the changes might lead to the accused priest trying to threaten their accuser.

The ACP issued the demand to the chairman of the board of the Republic’s National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, Ian Elliot. The group hopes the areas they are unhappy with will be taken into consideration when guidelines come up for review in January.

In its meeting with Mr Elliot, ACP also questioned the use of Mass for announcing that a priest is standing aside, which it warned “almost inevitably leads to the priest being considered guilty”.

Priests are particularly worried about someone who makes an allegation of abuse but does not want to pursue the matter or make a statement.

Belfast Telegraph