Belfast Telegraph

Priest who survived abuse says Francis wrong to visit

By Donna Deeney

A Catholic priest who told his congregation he did not believe the Pope should come to Ireland next week has said that in light of the sex abuse scandal in Pennsylvania, his words are even more pertinent.

A grand jury investigation into Church abuse in the US state involving 1,000 children and 300 priests over a 70-year period was published on Tuesday.

Fr Patrick McCafferty told his congregation in Corpus Christi Parish in Ballymurphy last weekend that the pontiff should stay away from the World Meeting of Families in Dublin.

Fr McCafferty's opinion centred not on the Pope personally, but other clergy who had " very serious questions to answer" about Theodore McCarrick "a sexual predator who rose very high in the Church's ranks".

The priest, a survivor of clerical abuse himself, said the Pennsylvanian report "added further horror to the whole thing".

"What has added to all of this scandal is the revelation of people in high places who have been guilty of abuse and who have covered up abuse and who knew about each other and who covered up for each other" Fr McCafferty said.

"What I said was not against the Pope, I have the greatest love for the Pope and I trust the Pope, and have every confidence in him.

"He will come, of course, because they are not going to disorganise it because of a priest like me, a nobody in Belfast.

"It was a rhetorical thing, but I actually think he will surprise us when he does come."

Fr McCafferty said he felt he had to address the pain and suffering of survivors and victims and the "loss of trust and credibility".

In the wake of the Pennsylvania report, the Vatican described the abuses detailed as "criminal and morally reprehensible".

It said: "Those who have suffered are his (the Pope's) priority, and the Church wants to listen to them and to root out this tragic horror that destroys the lives of the innocent."

In his homily to his congregation, Fr McCafferty described the sex abuse scandals that have plagued the Catholic Church as "a terrible disease that has infected the sacred ministry of God's Church".

He added: "It is no secret that I myself am a victim of one of those predators who have caused such ruin.

"The harm I suffered was extensive and long-lasting.

"Others have suffered worse and may never be healed in this life.

"They never end - these revelations of shocking crimes - which cry out to God in Heaven.

"It is one episode after another and we are now starting to hear of men in even higher places, bishops, archbishops and cardinals like Theodore McCarrick, like the auxiliary bishop in Chile who was abusing seminarians and had to resign.

"And then there are those who sang dumb. And those now lying through their teeth about what they knew.

"It is an abomination and desecration that will lead certain high-ranking men to the pit of the damned. They will answer for it in hellfire."

Fr McCafferty said he was comforted by the response he received.

He said: "People clapped. I spoke to the people in the parish because I felt strongly it was the right thing to so.

"It was a very emotional homily in many ways, the people know my story anyway, it's not something we talk about all the time, but they know my abuser actually worked in this parish back in the 1980s, although there is no physical trace of any of the buildings that would have been there, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to come here because of the traumatic memories.

"The fact is the people know and they knew my story when I came here and they have been nothing but supportive and kind.

"They are wonderful, wonderful people.

"I said what I had to say because I felt I had to bring the word of God that we had just listened to in the readings to bear upon the situation."

Belfast Telegraph

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