"If You Tell, You Go to Hell"

By Nick Martin
Channel 4 News
September 16, 2010

[with video]

As Pope Benedict continues his visit to Britain, Channel 4 News north of England Nick Martin meets three clerical sex abuse victims who tell him their harrowing stories.

Therese Albrecht looks me straight in the eyes and says: "I planned the whole thing; I was going to buy a gun, go see the priest who abused me, shoot him in the head and then kill myself - that's how bad it got."

She did not, because she feared she would go to hell for killing the priest.

Ms Albrecht is a straight talker. A former New York cop, she was abused at the age of eight by her parish priest.

"The priest who abused me controlled me through fear," she said. "There was a rhyme: 'If you tell, you go to hell.' It worked. I didn't tell. Not for a long time."

Life's work to protect children

I am spending two days with three women who have made it their life's work to prod and pester the Vatican. They want the Pope to do more to protect children who come into contact with priests intent on abusing them.

And they are not satisfied with the Pope's expressions of regret on the first day of a four-day state visit to the UK.

"We have heard the apologies, now we want action," said Barbara Blaine, the president and founder of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

"I was abused by my priest from the age of 13. My family looked up to him, the whole community looked up to him. It was horrendous, embarrassing but I was just a child and I didn't understand what was happening," she said.

The pair have travelled from the US to be in Edinburgh for the papal visit. With them is Barbara Dorris, a retired gym teacher who was raped at the age of six by her parish priest.

"The priest told my mother to put me in my best dress and send me to church to help out," she said.

"My mother was so proud that I had been chosen. I was a special chosen one. She didn't know that he was raping me."

SNAP says the way the Catholic church is dealing with emerging cases of child abuse at the hands of priests is inadequate and it is looking to the Pope for action.

The Catholic church says there has been radical changes to the way they deal with this issue and that priests found guilty of abusing children should never have access to youngsters again.

But SNAP wants to see a register formed so that priests who they say have been "credibly accused" of child abuse could be named and shamed so that parents can protect their children.

But as I witnessed in Dublin, not everyone agrees with them.


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