Clerical Sex Abuse a Betrayal, Says Brady
Victims Must Be Our First Concern: Primate

By Alf McCreary
Belfast Telegraph [Northern Ireland]
September 5, 2003

Child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy is "a scandal and a betrayal," according to the Roman Catholic Primate Archbishop Sean Brady.

He told the Belfast Telegraph today: "It has done serious damage to those who were abused, and they must be our first concern. Because clergy were trusted, they were afforded access to families.

"Child sexual abuse was a betrayal of that trust, and it has emerged as a huge challenge because it has left many people disillusioned, angry and embittered."

Archbishop Brady said: "Forgiveness is a key element in all of this and I ask the forgiveness of all those who have been abused by Catholic clergy."

He said that compensation for the victims was a big concern. "How we fund compensation is already under discussion, but the first thing which the victims look for is not necessarily compensation. They want to be heard, and they want recognition that very serious damage was done to them.

"The victims and their families have to be our first concern. We have spent an immense time wrestling with this, and my hope is that as a Church we can learn from our mistakes in the past."

The Archbishop said that a special helpline service is being offered not only for people affected in Ireland but for those living abroad.

He said: "The helpline service will offer to listen to and, if required, to arrange face to face counselling by independent counsellors at a convenient location for people abused by members of religious orders. Several dioceses contribute financially to this service and refer to it individuals who require counselling."

Archbishop Brady said that it had adversely affected the morale of the priesthood.

"Some are angry at those who carried out the abuse, and angry at the way it was handled by their superiors. I hope that the worst of the revelations are over, but we have a long way to go in working it out and in bringing about the healing of the hurts."

The Archbishop underlined that the Catholic Bishops Conference expects to approve shortly a comprehensive and integrated Child Protection Policy.

He said: "This will be applied throughout Ireland, and extended to all priests, religious, Church personnel, employees and volunteers."

He also said that two years ago the Bishop's Committee for Child Protection had commissioned an independent study by the Royal College of Surgeons on the impact of clerical child abuse in Ireland.

"This will be the first such study to be commissioned from an independent organisation by the Catholic Church, and it is nearing completion. Hopefully the study will increase understanding of the problem of child sexual abuse by clergy and will identify changes needed for the future."


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