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Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Irish Church rebuts Baroness Hollins comments on response to abuse survivors
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Addressing an International Conference on the Sexual Abuse of Children within the Catholic Church at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome yesterday, Baroness Sheila Hollins stated that very few victims had counselling or therapy, saying:  “In Ireland it is said that very few victims have had any counselling or therapy.  It is believed that very few had received an apology and hardly any had received compensation.  But in my experience the lack of an admission of guilt and of an apology is usually the biggest barrier to healing and recovery”.

The Church media office responded by saying: This statement grossly misrepresents the reality and extent of the ongoing outreach to survivors by Irish bishops and religious congregations which exists through the Church’s all-island Towards Healing counselling service.

The Towards Healing service (formerly known as Faoiseamh), now jointly funded by bishops and religious congregations, provides confidential counselling and other support services to survivors of clerical, religious and institutional abuse with independent and fully accredited therapists.  Counselling is offered to survivors within seven days after their initial contact with Towards Healing.

Since 1997, Towards Healing has provided counselling and other support services to over 5,000 survivors of clerical, religious and institutional abuse, involving 250,000 separate sessions.  In 2011 alone there were 29,000 counselling sessions delivered to survivors and the figure annually is over 20,000.  In addition, the Towards Healing service offers group therapy, and a bridging service designed to facilitate survivors accessing other statutory and/or non-statutory services appropriate to their needs, such as psychiatry, services for the homeless, medical, dental, welfare and educational services.

In 2011 bishops and religious congregations committed €10 million co-funding to the Towards Healing service over the next five years.  €20 million had been spent on the confidential helpline and counselling service up to last year.  In addition many bishops pay for counselling for victims who prefer to use their own counsellors.  A number of dioceses have facilitated and funded counselling services for survivors who live abroad.  In the context of this reality, it is difficult to understand how Baroness Hollins would consider such a service as a service to “very few”.
In terms of the issue of compensation to abuse survivors in Ireland, also highlighted by Baroness Hollins in her comments yesterday, one available example is the Archdiocese of Dublin as it regularly publishes such information.  The Archdiocese of Dublin is the largest diocese in the country covering 30% of  the Catholic population on the island.  To date the Archdiocese has provided compensation to victims amounting to €13.5 million (€9.3 million in settlements and €4.2 million in legal costs for both sides).

Regarding the issues of apology and failure raised by Baroness Hollins: on many occasions bishops and congregational leaders have apologised publicly and privately to survivors – individually and to their representative groups – and to all in civil and religious society outraged and let down by the Catholic Church’s failure of moral leadership and accountability.  Church apologies to survivors have been well documented by the media.

The Church in Ireland has also established a structured dialogue with survivors, and representative groups, in order to facilitate on going dialogue.

The normal opening hours for the Towards Healing service are Monday and Wednesdays, 11am to 8pm and on Fridays 11am to 4pm.  Its freefone helpline numbers are: from the Republic of Ireland 1800 303416 and from Northern Ireland and Britain 0800 0963315.


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Tags: Baroness Sheila Hollins, International Conference on the Sexual Abuse of children, Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, victims

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