Pope Visit: Abuse Survivors Call on Church to Make Amends, Not Apologise

The Telegraph
September 15, 2010

Survivors of clergy abuse have called on the Pope to make amends rather than offer more apologies, on the eve of his historic visit to Britain.

Adults who were either sexually assaulted or beaten by Roman Catholic priests and nuns when young said they wanted the Vatican to open up its secret files on abusers to the police.

They agreed that they did not want to be “wheeled out” for a “PR stunt” with Benedict XVI while he is in the country this week, although some said they would like to talk to him on their own terms.

It is widely expected that the Pope will meet abuse victims privately, as well as publicly expressing regret for the clerical sex abuses that have emerged worldwide in recent years. But five survivors and a lawyer who held a packed press conference in London on Wednesday morning said they did not know of anyone who had been invited for an audience.

The group acknowledged that the Pontiff’s arrival had helped them highlight their cause, but added that they were offended by his presence and said it had reawakened their painful memories.

Peter Saunders, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, 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'."

He added that he wanted the church to fund independently-run support and counselling centres, claiming: “The Catholic Church is the richest organisation in the world. They could make resources available, no strings attached, and I know they would have the backing of the majority of the people who still follow their particular religious faith."

Margaret Kennedy, of Ministry and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors, said: "Some survivors do want to meet the Pope and some want to tell him quite strongly how they feel. But we have been refused three times access to the Pope. This 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'. It's secret, secret, secret."

She demanded "truth, justice and accountability" from the Pope, adding: "We don't want to hear another apology."

Sue Cox, who was abused aged 10 on the day before her confirmation, asked: “Why the hell would we be wheeled out in order to comply with this publicity campaign? Why would we want to take part in a PR stunt?

“Saying sorry is easy, offensive and inadequate, what he needs to do is make amends.”

She said she was offended as an abuse victim, a taxpayer and the mother of a homosexual son that the British Government is spending ?10m on Benedict XVI’s four-day visit.

David Greenwood, a solicitor who said he was handling 200 live cases of alleged clergy abuse, said: “Some kind of funding for proper counselling would be a start.”


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