November 08, 2005

High noon for Catholic church


The Catholic church has been a pillar of Irish society. Now it is being rocked to its foundations by allegations of clerical child abuse

Candles were lit at St Maryís Cathedral in Dublin a few days before a report was published on child abuse.

The news itself was not new. But its horrific nature woke Irish society from its autumnal slumber. An investigation into just one diocese in the south of Ireland disclosed over 40 years of clerical child abuse, which claimed over 100 victims. 21 priests were implicated in sexual abuse of children in their care. Another five cases did not figure in the inquiry because their late inclusion prevented in depth scrutiny. The Ferns Report, named after the diocese, ran 271 pages long, detailing the extent of sexual cruelty and exploitation suffered by children between 1962 and 2002. It also reveals the nature of the cover-up by the bishops and the sometimes cavalier approach of both the police force and the regionís health authorities.

Though clerical child abuse was common knowledge (priests had previously been convicted in court), the Ferns Report had the effect of a bombshell because of the high number of priests accused. The inquiry shows that up to 10% of the clergy in the diocese had behaved inappropriately towards children. Furthermore, the report details the sadistic and degrading acts committed against children aged between six and 16. And when the bishops became aware of the allegations, they stood idly by. At best, they transferred the priests to other ministries, but some of them were allowed to return without any assessment into whether their behaviour had changed.

Posted by kshaw at November 8, 2005 05:54 AM