PARISH PRIEST CRITICAL OF SERIOUS FAILINGS
Fr Michael Fitzgerald, parish priest of Mitchelstown, this week criticised ‘serious failures’ in tackling clerical child sex abuse and called on everyone to remember the victims.
Speaking to The Avondhu in the wake of the public outcry after the findings of the Murphy Report were published, Fr Fitzgerald said that more help and support should be available to all victims of child sexual abuse.
“There was serious failures within the church when it came to handling these cases,” Fr Fitzgerald said.
“To my knowledge it has been reported that something like 3% of clergy have been guilty of the sexual abuse of children and obviously this is horrifying and painful to us as members of the Church. But we must also spare a thought for the people who have and are still suffering sexual abuse from people other than clergy within their community.
Many are suffering and need help. We must also help the person who has committed the abuse and I think this is important to be said as well. We must help them to face his or her grave disorder and to confront the damage they have committed. I think it is important for us to bring healing to the whole situation,” Fr Fitzgerald told The Avondhu.
The Mitchelstown PP said that we must remember that paedophilia is a compulsive disorder.
“The child victims of this disorder are terribly damaged and need every support to come through their suffering. Some clergy have committed serious crimes with this disorder and there were many failures within the Church when it came to handling these cases”, Fr Fitzgerald said.
When asked if those bishops named in the Murphy Report should now resign, Fr Fitzgerald commented, “I wouldn’t like to pass judgment on any one of them as I am not sure that I would have been any smarter 20 years ago. But we are a lot wiser now than we were 20 years ago, even the specialists then were slow to realise how compulsive the disorder is.
"The important thing is that all of us be alert to safeguard children and put practices in place to do that. And, I am satisfied that we have certainly come a long way in putting those practices in place.”
There have been an increasing number of calls for the bishops named in the Murphy Report to resign as the country comes to terms with the findings of this long awaited report into child abuse within the Catholic Church.
“Over the years we have learned that there are three things that a sexually abused person needs - to be believed and to be listened to; that there be an acknowledgement by the person who committed the abuse and a sincere apology made and reparations made for the damage done; finally that safeguards are in place that no other child is put in danger by that person or by anyone else. This has been my experience over the years,” Fr Fitzgerald said. Fr Fitzgerald contends that, above all, we remember the victims.
“We must put the practices in place to ensure that children are not in danger in any way,” he said. When asked if he felt that the bishops would deal with the findings of the Murphy Report differently from now on, Fr Fitzgerald said that they had been struggling with the problem.
“I think it has been a great torment for them, they have been grasping with this problem and trying to face these issues. Mistakes and failures have been made but, as I said at the beginning, I am not passing any judgment on them, we are all a lot wiser now than we were 20 years ago,” Fr Fitzgerald said.
When pushed on the question of the bishops resigning and faced with the facts that many people feel that this is the only correct and moral action for them to take Fr Fitzgerald would not be drawn.
“I am passing no judgment on them, and they can well speak for themselves. I am not going to tell them what to do,” he concluded.
Thursday 3rd December 5:59pm