Victims of Paedophile Priests Aim to Confront Pope during Scottish Visit

By Chris Watt
Herald Scotland
September 12, 2010

As Scotland prepares for the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI in four days' time, victims of child sex abuse in the Catholic Church are preparing a welcome gift of their own.

Members of a UK survivors group have written a book charting their experiences at the hands of Catholic clergymen, and they plan to present the book to the pontiff after he arrives in Scotland this Thursday.

Dr Margaret Kennedy who founded support group Minister And Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors (MACSAS) said that while the Pope would travel with the "accolade and dignity" given to a head of state, abuse survivors are not afforded the same respect.

She said: "Many survivors have to almost live in fear, shame, guilt because when they report [the abuse] they are made to feel like pariahs, disloyal, aggressive, money-grabbing, false allegations and so on."

Three attempts to arrange a handover of the book have been rejected, MACSAS added, but they will attempt again during the Scottish visit.

Kennedy said the campaign's aims were clear. "We don't want words anymore from the Vatican, we want action," she said. "The actions have not happened concrete, discernible decisions about who is going to care for survivors of clergy abuse. What are they going to do to repair our lives?"

Noel Chardon, 64, from Hounslow in west London, works on the MACSAS helpline. He said he was abused by a member of the Christian Brothers of Ireland during his schooldays in Australia. He moved to the UK 40 years ago. Male victims in particular struggle to talk about abuse, he said.

"We can look at our perpetrators and it's quite right that we should, but I actually look far beyond them and I look at the bishops and the cardinals that support and cover up and just move from one area to another," he added.

Chardon said priests even used threats of "mortal sin" in the confession box to stop him reporting the paedophiles who abused him as a child. Clergymen are more dangerous than other child sex offenders, he said, because they can use these avenues to coerce their young victims.

The Catholic Church has come increasingly under pressure to recognise the extent of the problem, and since he took office some have said Pope Benedict has done more to address the situation than his predecessors. Earlier this year he issued an apology to those abused by Catholic priests in Ireland.

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