Irish abuse survivors first response to Pope's letter

Irish survivors of clerical child sexual abuse have given mixed responses to Pope Benedict's letter to Irish Catholics which was issued this morning.

Describing her feelings as 'despondent' Maeve Lewis, director of victims group One in Four said: "My first response was deep disappointment in the letter. We feel the letter falls far short of addressing the concerns of the victims."

Ms Lewis said the Pope's letter focused too narrowly on lower-rank Irish priests without recognising the responsibility of the Vatican and senior Irish clerics for protecting offenders and dealing with victims.

"There is nothing in this letter to suggest that any new vision of leadership in the Catholic church exists," she said.

The letter also does not refer to the resignation of the head of the church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, which victims groups have demanded, she added.

Michael Murphy, a survivor from Dublin said: "The tragedy is that many of the people who were abused have simply left the Church now. I'm not sure they will hear this apology. Some have got out of the habit of praying. I'm not sure this message will bring them back. And  partly because of all these events - many more people who weren't abused will have been so scandalised they have given up on organised religion. The Church has a great deal of work to do to reach people."
John Kelly, from the Irish Survivors of Child Abuse group, said: "The Irish people and the victims are entitled to expect firm actions from the Pope. We are entitled to expect that the Pope make those who committed crimes or covered up crimes, including bishops, be made accountable," he said.

"The words coming out at the moment seem to be positive. Whether they will act upon them and whether they will go far enough is another matter. We need to see the words turned into action."

Patrick Walsh of Irish Survivors of Abuse said the letter was "unprecedented" and there was much about it that he found "encouraging". 

He said: "There is an awful lot of call to prayer as you would expect of course from a man whose stock in trade is prayer. The context is of course inappropriate,  as a pastoral letter is addressed only to practising Catholics. But I cut through all that stuff and what I see here is a very important historical document, unprecedented in the history of the Holy See, absolutely unprecedented."

Tags: survivors

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