Redemptorist editor: 'Time to broaden narrow focus on clerical abuse'

 The editor of  religious magazine, Reality, has called publicly for a recognition that sexual abuse is “widespread in society” and that men and women in the Church are “no more likely than others to abuse”.

In the June editorial of the Redemptorist magazine, Reality, Fr Gerry Moloney, CSsR, says “a sense of balance and perspective” is needed in relation to the Church and child protection.

He underlines that: “This is not to take the heat off the Church, or to deny that it still has many issues to address”. Rather, writes Fr Moloney, “It is simply to acknowledge that if as a society we are serious about safeguarding children we need to look beyond the failures of the Church to all areas where abuse occurs, and demand that strong action be taken.”

Referring to CARI 2009 annual report, in which the charity makes a number of observations about the state of child protection in Ireland, the Redemptorist highlights CARI’s concern that despite the increased public awareness of child sexual abuse, very little attention is given to the needs of children suffering abuse today. Services for children between 2 and 18 who have been affected by child sexual abuse are, the report says, “hopelessly inadequate”.

Fr Moloney notes that “Despite an increase in demand for its services, the charity has had to radically cut its staff and services due to a lack of funding.” He also refers to the Ombudsman for Children’s criticisms of the HSE’s failures on child protection.

Referring to the “few howls of outrage at the failures that were exposed, or calls for resignations or for heads on plates” which the CARI and Ombudsman’s reports sparked, he writes, “Condemnation of the HSE and the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs was certainly not on a par with that routinely levelled at the Catholic Church”.

Acknowledging that the media have done the Catholic Church in Ireland and throughout the world “an extraordinary service in highlighting the problem of clerical sex abuse and its cover up”, the Reality Editor adds, “The Church has been forced very painfully and publicly to acknowledge its sins.” However, he underlines that “Though a lot of work remains to be done, it is now becoming a safer environment for children than in the past.”

What is needed now, believes Fr Moloney, is “a sense of balance and perspective in relation to the Church and child protection”. Admitting that clerical sex abuse is “especially repulsive” and the Church’s record for so long “has been appalling” and that there is a need for top down reform in the Church, he adds, “but none of this must allow us to lose sight of the facts or of the broader picture”.

This broader picture is “that sexual abuse is widespread in society (as many as one in four children will experience sexual abuse before the age of 18, according to the charity One in Four) and current research and opinion suggest that men and women within the Catholic Church appear to be no more likely than others to abuse, and that the prevalence of abuse by clergy has fallen sharply in the last 20-30 years.”

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