Belfast Telegraph

‘Staggering’ that Pope may not meet abuse victims, says protest organiser

Victims of church sexual abuse are to meet during the Papal Mass at a protest event.

The announcement that Pope Francis may not meet victims of church sexual abuse in Ireland has pushed one victim to organise a demonstration during his visit to Dublin.

Colm O’Gorman said: “It is staggering on the part of the Vatican, they can’t even be bothered to go through the motions of making it appear that this matters to them.

“It’s become a trope, he goes to a country and has a confidential meeting and releases a statement about how moved he was by victim testimony, expresses sorrow and regret and we move on.

“I’m not sure that meeting would’ve had any value anyway, but the idea that it’s an afterthought, that is utterly unacceptable.”

Mr O’Gorman was repeatedly raped by a local priest in Co Wexford for three years, beginning just a year after Pope John Paul II’s visit to Ireland in 1979, when he was 13.

I know people who couldn't cope, who couldn't survive, and ended their life because of their abuse, I knew I had to do something Colm O'Gorman

He said: “When I heard Pope John Paul’s quote: ‘Young people of Ireland, I love you’, it sickened me, he didn’t.

“It’s important that all that has happened here over decades isn’t just swept aside of convenience of the Vatican.

“I respect people’s desire to have faith, I would never deny people their opportunity to profess their faith, but it cannot be at the cost of people all over the country struggling with the hurt and the trauma the church has caused.”

The event, to be held in the Garden of Remembrance on Sunday August 26 at 3pm, invites anyone who has been hurt by the church, and those who support them, to attend.

“The response I have had has been extraordinary, so many people have come to me to tell me their stories, they need a space to name the fact,” Mr O’Gorman added.

“I’m being contacted by people who have never spoken out, and the visit is really affecting them.

“They are feeling silenced again by the hype of this whole visit.

“I know people who couldn’t cope, who couldn’t survive, and ended their life because of their abuse, I knew I had to do something.”

Mr O’Gorman added that although Pope Francis may be viewed as a more liberal and modern pope than his predecessors, his record on abuse is stark.

“I like and admire many of the things that Francis has to say on poverty, social inclusion and refugees, however I think some of it is overstated.

“On abuse issues he has been shocking.”

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Colm O’Gorman was repeatedly raped by a local priest in Co Wexford for three years (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr O’Gorman points to Pope Francis’s appointment of Cardinal Pell to the third most powerful position in the Vatican and his comments on abuse victims in Chile.

Cardinal Pell is the highest-ranking Catholic official in the world to have faced trial over historical sexual offence allegations.

Mr O’Gorman said: “His visit to Chile last year unmasked how similar Francis is to other popes.

“He attacked abuse victims of causing scandal to the church, and only later apologised due to global outrage.

“This is why those who have the capacity to stand up and speak out, because if we don’t it reinforces their dismissal of the abuse and our experiences,” he said.

Another protest against the Papal Mass took the form of the Say Nope to the Pope campaign.

Organisers encouraged those who objected to the visit to apply for the free tickets to the Phoenix Park Mass and not attend, saying it was “a sign of peaceful and silent protest against the church and its crimes”.

More than 5,000 people have shown support for the protest on social media.

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