Bishop on Abuse

Statement of Bishop McAreavey

This weekend every single person in the country is struggling to come to terms with the Dublin Report that was published this week. 

We cannot find words to express our horror and revulsion at the content of the report.  It will take time for us to respond fully to it.  Our thoughts are with those who suffered and whose childhood and whole lives were blighted.  We once again apologise for what was done and for the way it was handled by those in positions of trust. 

Apologies are very important but insufficient.  They have to be backed up by a dertermination to change our behaviour and attitudes.  Today I want to address how this is happening in this diocese.  The telling of the truth is an important step on the road to healing.  Those who have suffered are foremost in out thoughts and prayers at this time.

Coming to accept the truth about the abuse of children and young people has been painful and distressing for Catholic people who would like to hand on their faith and love for the Church to their children.  The publication of the truth has shamed us.  It is no comfort to us to know that the abuse of children and young people was a feature of our wider society.  The fact that such abuse happened among us and was not addressed effectively when it was made known is a source of deep sorrow and shame to us.

Over recent decades when the extent of this abuse became known and acknowledged, the Church set about learning how to ensure that such incidents would not happen again.  With the help of men and women in Ireland and abroad who have expertise in social work and related professions, the Church learnt important lessons and has put new arrangements and procedures in place. 

Beginning in 1996 the Catholic Church in Ireland put in place procedures to handle complaints: in more recent years the Church has worked tirelessly to ensure that where children are involved in the life of the Church they will be safe.

The Church continues to work closely with the civil authorities to comply with the requirements of the law and to ensure that good practice in regard to the safety of children and young people and vulnerable adults is followed by all clergy, all church personnel and lay volunteers.  Every priest in ministry has received training in safeguarding practices and has been vetted in accordance with the civil law.  Currently every volunteer in parishes or in church organisation is required to attend an awareness-raising session and volunteers in certain roles are also vetted in accordance with the law. 

In the diocese of Dromore the Committee for Safeguarding Children, with the help of suitably-trained laymen and women from the diocese organised fifty-seven safeguarding awareness-raising sessions over the past year: a total of 1620 volunteers attended these sessions.  This Committee decided that all staff and volunteers had to attend an awareness session by 30 September 2009 if they wished to continue in church ministry.

Organising the sessions around the diocese, parish by parish and for every church organisation has been a time-consuming and demanding task.  I am deeply indebted to the men and women who have given generously of their time in presenting the courses and in helping with the process of vetting Church personnel.

The work of safeguarding children, young people and vulnerable adults is an ongoing task.  For example, in future special procedures will have to be followed before any person can be accepted as a volunteer for any Church activity.  The process will involve the completion of an application form; taking up references; being vetted if required by Civil Law and attendance at a short course on safeguarding children.  This process will be implemented in order to guarantee, as far as is humanly possible, the safety of children, young people and vulnerable adults.  Those who suffered in the past deserve no less from us.

As members of the Church we turn to Mary, Mother of the Church, in words taken from a hymn to Our Lady of Fatima:

O Mother of sorrow, hail!
We mourn for the evil done,
O soften our selfish hearts
And lead us back to thy Son.

John McAreavey

Bishop of Dromore

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