November 27th 09
Cherishing all the Children Equally
The report of the Commission of Investigation in the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin has said that clerical child abuse was covered up by the Archdiocese and other Church authorities.
The report was published on Thursday. It also indicted senior members of An Garda Siochana who regarded priests as being outside their remit. The report said that there are examples of Gardaí reporting abuse complaints to the Diocese instead of investigating them and asserts that the relationship between some senior Gardaí and some priests and Bishops was inappropriate.
The 700 page report details particular priests and the abuse perpetrated by them. It also indicts the State authorities who facilitated the cover up by allowing the Church to be beyond the law. It claims that the welfare of children was not even a consideration by State and Church authorities.
This report follows on from the Ryan report which was published earlier in May of this year and which investigated all forms of abuse of children in care in the south. Its 2,500 pages provide a damning indictment of the reformatory and industrial schools operated by Catholic religious orders, which were funded and supervised by the Dublin Department of Education.
Over a thousand men and women gave traumatic accounts of their lives in these institutions to the Ryan Commission. They reported abuse in schools and children’s homes and hospitals and special needs schools and other places.
This Blog commented on the Ryan Report when it was published.
Today’s report will be another watershed in our history.
The relationship between Church and State, between society and clerics may well change for ever. But child abuse is not restricted to children in institutions and perpetrators of abuse are not only clerics. Abuse happens throughout Irish society and in all sectors of society, north and south.
One in four people in Ireland suffers from abuse or knows someone who has been abused. In many cases, the truth of childhood abuse emerges only when the victims have grown up. Sometimes that is triggered by flashback or other remembrance, and the effects can be devastating.
Victims need support, care, understanding and love. Most of all, victims need to be believed, especially if the abuser denies any wrongdoing. Victims and survivors need, as a minimum, acknowledgement of the great injustice that has been done to them.
Many people in families have suffered from abuse. This Blog knows how deeply hurtful and traumatic that can be, especially if a perpetrator refuses or fails to face up to their responsibilities. There is a huge onus on abusers to face up to their responsibilities.
No one should have to deal with abuse or its consequences in isolation. Everyone needs someone to talk to, and anyone who is affected by these issues should talk to someone and particularly to professionals who are best equipped to help.
There is a collective need for society to stand together and support individual victims of abuse and their families. Child protection services need to be strengthened. There are not enough social workers, counsellors or other front line staff. Service providers must be properly resourced, all citizens need to be educated, and our children need to be empowered and protected.
So, we have a lot to do to right the wrongs. If we are to truly cherish all the children of the nation equally, societal change is needed. A just society needs decency, fairness and equality alongside accountability and transparency.
Any reader of the Blog who is affected in any way by abuse should contact the Samaritans, their local Rape Crisis Centre, helplines, or other appropriate statutory or voluntary organisations and services.