Two Year Study and Survey of Irish Clergy Sex Scandals Released

Time to Listen: Confronting Child Sexual Abuse by Catholic Clergy in Ireland
( [email protected] ) Dec 05, 2003 11:46 AM EST

DUBLIN, Ireland – The Roman Catholic bishops, upon releasing their 332-page report on the damages of the sex scandals in Ireland, formally apologized and promised to improve systems to protecting children.

"For what has happened we are truly sorry and, while we cannot undo the wrongs of the past, we can use this research to help us deal with victims of abuse with understanding, compassion and sensitivity," said Bishop John McArearey on behalf of the Irish Bishop’s Conference.

The Church-commissioned report, entitled, “Time to Listen: Confronting Child Sexual Abuse by Catholic Clergy in Ireland, was released after two years of work by psychologists at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

The report not only reiterated the damages cause by the scandal to the victims, church and wider society, but stipulated the current sentiments of the Irish people towards their church through a massive survey of 1,300 people.

The result of the survey was daunting: 77 percent of the heavily Catholic Irish, believed the Church had not done enough to respond to the issue.

"This study makes painful reading, not least for a bishop," said Archbishop Sean Brady, president of the Irish Bishops Conference and leader of Ireland's 4 million Catholics. "It tells of mistakes made in responding to those who came to the church seeking sensitivity and compassion."

Overall satisfaction with the church stood at 44 percent. While 66 percent said they sought moral guidance from the church, just 32 percent did on matters of sexual morality.

The report said the scandals had dented people's faith in religious practice. Some 36 percent said they prayed or attended Mass less frequently, and 41 percent wouldn't automatically trust a newly arrived priest.

Some 65 percent said they would be happy if their child became an altar server, while 56 percent would be happy if their son wanted to become a priest.

The findings had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

"Clearly in relation to clerical sexual abuse we failed many young people over too long a period. For what has happened we are truly sorry," Bishop John McAreavey said at a press conference unveiling the report.

The report concluded that victims and priests both suffered because of the church hierarchy's incompetent management.

"Some (priests) reported attempts to conceal their identity in public to avoid being identified as clergy as a consequence of the issue. They reported a loss of public credibility and trust and a sense of low morale. Fear of a false allegation of abuse was also a concern," the report's executive summary said.

"In retrospect, both those abused and their family members described a great sense of guilt because they had chosen to report the abuse to the church rather than civil authorities. Many felt that other children may have been protected from abuse if they had chosen to report it to civil authorities instead," it said.

Within the last decade, more than 100 Irish clergy have been convicted of sex offenses in the last decade.