Priests' homes 'not thought safe'
A leading Irish cleric has warned that a priest's home is now regarded the least safe place.
Father Aidan Troy, who 10 years ago shot to worldwide prominence as he shielded Catholic schoolgirls from loyalist protesters in Belfast, said the Church could have been a haven for suicide prevention.
But in the wake of several damning inquiries into clerical child sex abuse in Ireland, the Paris-based priest believes that chance may be lost.
Fr Troy supported about 25 families who lost loved ones to suicide during his latter years serving in Ardoyne, north Belfast.
"Back in 2003 when I first started dealing with the issue of suicide I had a view that every parish in Ireland could have been a great central place of focus for suicide prevention, a safe place where people could go to talk," he said. "Now the priest's house is the least safe place; this is a huge disappointment to me."
Ahead of his address to the Console suicide prevention conference in Dublin this Friday, Fr Troy has warned that Ireland has lost one of society's greatest pillars of strength since the extent of clerical abuse has begun to be exposed.
The priest, who defended young schoolgirls besieged by loyalist mobs blockading their route to the Holy Cross School in Ardoyne for several months in 2001, also warned that significant social change can lead to a rise in suicide rates.
"I must acknowledge that the abuse scandals are a big issue if I am to continue to operate in a Church that's so discredited," he said. "To help prevent suicide, we need to restore spirituality, though not necessarily in the form of organised religion."
Fr Troy was heavily critical of the Church's handling of clerical abuse two years ago when he accused the hierarchy of "a wholly inadequate response to the horrendous abuse that has been uncovered". He also publicly attacked Cardinal Desmond Connell's legal bid to prevent a state inquiry into the Archdiocese of Dublin examining sensitive files on priests.
Following four devastating inquiries since 2005 into abuse in Ireland, Fr Troy will this week address the crises which have rocked the Church to its core. Fr Troy will discuss the issue at the fifth suicide prevention conference in Dublin this Friday organised by the Console support group. President Mary McAleese will open the conference at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.