While the Catholic Church in Ireland has been severely criticised – and rightly so – for its past failings in dealing with clerical abuse of children, it would be wrong to overlook what it is currently doing to safeguard the most vulnerable of its flock.
Virtually every parish in Ireland has a volunteer trained in child protection on its books. A total of 2,356 volunteers are in place in 1,230 of the island’s 1,365 parishes. Identification and training of volunteers for the other parishes is well advanced.
Down and Connor diocese, which runs from the North Coast down to near Newcastle in Co Down, has by far the largest number of trained volunteers at around 450.
None of this work guarantees that no child will be abused in future, but it is encouraging that all of the 197 allegations of physical, emotional and sexual abuse made in the past 12 month related to incidents which were historic.
There were no contemporary claims of abuse.
With the help of dedicated lay people, the Church can regain some measure of its lost respect, but it must work hard at it. The vast majority of its clergy are good men who feel they too have become victims of the abusers, having their reputation blackened by association. It is in their interests also that positive action by the Church continues and that the Church truly reflects its virtues not its vices.