November 13, 2005

Irish children abused in a land of deference

Irish Independent

IT IS difficult to overstate the importance of the Ferns Report. It is a landmark document in the context of child sexual abuse - abuse compounded in its gravity because the actors were members of the most trusted group in our society.

The victims suffered not only sexual, physical and psychological abuse, but also the betrayal and inaction of a church that placed the protection of the most vulnerable below the priority of protecting themselves.

I heard a chilling description of what these abusive clergy did to their victims as the equivalent of "eating their souls". Unlike other forms of ill-treatment, sexual abuse of children by priests, and the subsequent disbelief of their stories is uniquely destructive of the individual spirit. Given the scale and brutality as outlined in the Ferns Report, the capacity to heal and even forgive among some victims is awesome.

The report, however, is a landmark in another aspect. It will change forever the special relationship that has existed for many decades between church and state.

This cannot happen unless the old relationship ends: the unrelenting deference, which constituted relations between state and church. Only then can the State act as it should - objectively.

Posted by kshaw at November 13, 2005 08:52 PM