Belfast Telegraph

Clerical abuse victims call for zero tolerance approach

Members of a global survivors group gathered in Dublin on Friday to recount their stories on the eve of the Pope’s visit to Ireland.

Clerical abuse victims have called for a zero tolerance approach to be taken against priests involved in the child abuse scandals.

A global survivors group also proposed a list of abusive priests be made public in an effort to protect others.

Members of the Ending Clerical Abuse (ECA) group – aimed at holding the Catholic church to account for clerical sex abuse – gathered in Dublin on Friday to recount their abuse stories on the eve of the Pope’s visit to Ireland.

Pope Francis’ two-day papal tour of the country begins on Saturday.

ECA founder Peter Isely said: “[The priesthood] is the only occupation in civil society where you can rape and sexually assault a child and remain working as a member of that occupation.

“That’s the problem.”

Mr Isely was sexually assaulted as a child in the United States.

The group also wants a no tolerance approach to be adopted against any bishop involved in the cover up of child sex crimes.

Here is a simple axiom of justice: It’s not okay to cover up for child sex crimes Peter Isely

“Here is a simple axiom of justice: It’s not okay to cover up for child sex crimes,” Mr Isely said.

The survivors criticised the Pope’s child protection commission and said new leadership was needed before any reforms would be made.

Mr Isely said the commission had failed to deliver any meaningful reform since it was formed four years ago.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was set up to investigate clerical sexual abuse.

It is headed by Archbishop of Boston Sean O’Malley.

Mr Isely said: “It’s pretty clear that the commission and this mechanism has failed, it has simply failed.”

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Pope Francis wrote to the world’s Catholics earlier this week apologising for the atrocities of clerical sexual abuse (John Stillwell/PA)

Peter Saunders described himself as a survivor of clergy abuse at the hands of two Jesuit priests at his school in southwest London.

“One of the things that drives me is that one of my two brothers went to the same school as I went to and he was also abused six years before me by the same priest who abused me,” he said.

Mr Saunders said he subsequently found out the same priest had abused hundreds of boys.

He added: “I survived, I sometimes think of myself as a thriver at times… but my brother Michael didn’t survive.

“The drugs and alcohol that consumed him even before he left school eventually took his life.”

Mr Saunders said when the Pope wrote of a culture of death within the institution earlier this week, it was one of few times he agreed with him.

Pope Francis wrote a letter to the world’s more than 1.2 billion Catholics earlier this week apologising for the atrocities of clerical sexual abuse.

“For every ten survivors who survive and thrive and go on to lead something of a normal life, there are survivors who did not survive,” Mr Saunders said.

“There are victims who did not survive and went to an early grave because of what happened to them.”

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