Victims' Group Urges Action after Irish Abuse Report

Daniel Burke | Religion News Service | Monday, May 25, 2009

Victims' Group Urges Action after Irish Abuse Report

May 25, 2009

(RNS) -- U.S. victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy say the Vatican should publicly rebuke the religious order that fought to keep abusers' names out of a damning report that details thousands of crimes against minors in Ireland.

The 2,600-page report, released on Wednesday (May 20), describes sexual and violent crimes committed against thousands of young Catholics who lived in residential schools run by religious orders between 1930 and 1990. One order, the Christian Brothers, successfully sued to keep the names of its members out of the report.

"The Vatican has to take real action," said David Clohessy, national director for the U.S.-based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. "The Vatican should publicly censure and, in any way possible, discipline the Christian Brothers for having the audacity to take legal action to conceal predator's names."

The five-volume report by Ireland's Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse cited "a climate of fear, created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary punishment" that "permeated most of the institutions and all those run for boys. Children lived with the daily terror of not knowing where the next beating was coming from."

The Christian Brothers' leader in Ireland, Brother Kevin Mullan, told the Associated Press that the order fought to keep names secret because "perhaps we had doubts about some of the allegations."

"But on the other hand, I'd have to say that at this stage, we have no interest in protecting people who were perpetrators of abuse," Mullan said, adding that the order will "cooperate fully with any investigation or any civil authority seeking to explore those matters."

A number of victims in Ireland said the report is not complete without the names, and the matter is not closed until perpetrators are punished for their crimes. Clohessy agreed and said the church should punish abusers, even if the state does not.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican's top spokesman, said Thursday the Vatican would defer to Irish bishops to comment on the report.

Reports commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have found nearly 15,000 allegations of sexual abuse have been lodged against U.S. clergy since 1950. The same studies have showed that the church has paid more than $2.5 billion in costs related to clergy sexual abuse since 1950.

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