|Pope's Visit: Catholic Abuse Survivors Demand Justice
By Sam Jones
September 15, 2010
Survivors of abuse within the Roman Catholic church repeated their demand that the pope hand over all information on abusive clergy, in advance of his arrival in the UK tomorrow on a controversial state visit.
They told a press conference in central London today that repeated apologies meant nothing and they wanted "truth, justice and accountability".
Peter Saunders, a survivor of Catholic abuse who is now the chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac), said: "We need the pope to say, 'I will hand over all the information I have about abusing priests wherever they are in the world. I will hand it over to the authorities of the countries where these people are being protected.'"
Saunders said the visit had drawn attention to "the absolutely outrageous conduct of the Catholic church in the UK and other parts of the world". He said many Catholics had been horrified by the abuse and should not be tarred "with the same brush".
Margaret Kennedy, of Minster and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors said: "I know what it is like to have a man in a collar invade you. The collar is meant to be a symbol of purity."
She said she and others were fed up with empty apologies and wanted to see legal action taken against the abusers. Kennedy also hit out at the church's treatment of abuse victims who wanted to talk to the pontiff.
"This visit means the only way survivors can meet the pope is by protesting in the street or behind closed doors, where it's orchestrated, managed, controlled. Abuse is about control. The pope is saying 'you come to me and you don't tell anyone what I tell you'."
Sue Cox, 63, from Gaydon, Warwickshire, described herself as a "recovered Catholic". She recalled being raped by a priest in her bedroom just before her confirmation.
"He was fat and smelly and he stank of stale sweat and whisky and incense," she said. "My mother came in and disturbed him and said I should pray for him and that what happened was part of God's plan. I don't think it was one of his better ones."
Cox said the abuse had led her to self-harm, become an alcoholic, develop an eating disorder and enter an abusive marriage at the age of 17.
The pope's visit, she said, angered her for many different reasons. "I'm offended … as an abuse survivor, I'm offended as a woman, and I'm offended as the very proud mother of a gay son."
She dismissed the pope's apologies and his decision to meet survivors of abuse as "a PR stunt".
"Saying sorry is easy. It's offensive and it's inadequate. What he needs to do is make amends," she said. "I don't want an apology. Sorry is a smokescreen. I want him to make amends to the victims of these horrendous people."
Chris Daly, who was abused by nuns at a Sisters of Nazareth children's home in Aberdeen, told the press conference that the experience had "cast a shadow as long as a lifetime" on him.
"I am broken by what happened to me," he said. "For minor misdemeanours – pillow-fighting and so on – the nuns had very brutal forms of punishment like putting us out in the snow in our underwear for three-quarters of an hour. We were punched, kicked, hit with whatever came to hand."
Daly accused the church of treating survivors as the enemy and said he would like to see it "taken to task … in the civil courts in Scotland".
Protesters yesterday described official estimates of the cost of the pope's state visit as "risible", and claimed it could reach ?100m.
Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, said he expected the security costs of the four-day visit to be "absolutely massive". He said he believed the costs of the trip – which will be funded by the British taxpayer and the church – could end up being five times the official estimates.
"We've had a leak from the police force that's co-ordinating … that the whole thing could go as high as ?100m. That seems plausible to me," Wood said. He cited a newspaper report that had put the cost of policing at ?10m in Scotland alone, and said he expected the figure to be similar in Birmingham and London.
"All the disruption is going to be absolutely massive," he said. "We'll be paying the police overtime. I think the numbers that the government are talking about are risible. I imagine there's going to be an unholy row between Westminster and Holyrood over this."
Last week, Meredydd Hughes, the chief constable of South Yorkshire police, who is co-ordinating the policing operation, confirmed that the multi-stop tour would require an unprecedented policing operation, the total cost of which remained unclear.
"We will know the cost after the event," he said. "The total cost is ?20m–?11m funded by the church and ?9m funded by the state – but we're talking about ?1m to ?1.5m in policing costs."
Lord Patten, the prime minister's representative for the visit, said yesterday that he may have overestimated the cost of the visit. "The costs that I suggested at the outset for the state aspects of the visit are probably on the high side," he said. "I said then that I was expecting a cost of between ?10m and ?12m."
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