Priests in 'Hurt' Parish Reach out to Sex Abuse Victims

By David Quinn
One in Four [Ireland]
July 13, 2004

PARISHES in the Ballyfermot/Cherry Orchard areas of Dublin have taken the innovative step of distributing leaflets to 7,000 households, detailing the organisations to contact in the event of being a victim of sexual abuse. The Ballyfermot area is where one of the most notorious cleric sex abusers, Fr Tony Walsh, was based. He is estimated to have abused dozens of children. Ballyfermot is also where the high-profile cleric, Fr Michael Cleary, was based. After his death, a scandal erupted when it was revealed he had an affair with a woman named Phyllis Hamilton.

The leaflet acknowledges the "trauma inflicted on some parishioners by priests who abused young people, while serving in Ballyfermot. As a result, people's lives have been damaged and the trust and confidence parishioners had in the Church undermined. Priests and Church workers serving in these communities have been dismayed." The leaflet then tells people how to contact the Dublin Diocesan Child Protection Service. It also invites those who have been victims of sex abuse to contact non-Church organisations such as the South Western Area Health Board, An Garda Siochana, the National Counselling Service, the ISPCC and the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.

The leaflet also promises an annual service, "for those who have suffered and are affected by abuse." At the first of these services, which was held recently, Fr Paul Thornton, Parish Priest at Our Lady of the Assumption, Ballyfermot, stated: "The Church was so important for so many people. It gave them identity and somewhere to turn in times of trouble. "For many the actions of abuse closed this off to them and they could not stand by an institution that harmed its most vulnerable members". The leaflet was distributed by the three parishes in the Ballyfermot/Cherry Orchard area.

David Quinn
Religous Correspondent - Irish Independent


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