Northern Ireland news

Abusers and those who cover it up 'must be drummed out of church'

Religious affairs journalist Martin O'Brien
Mairead Holland

THE public will want to see new systems in place very soon to deal with the "cancer" of sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy, Irish News columnist and religious affairs journalist Martin O'Brien has said.

His comments come as the first ever Papal summit on the issue began in Rome yesterday, attended by 190 bishops from across the world.

Mr O'Brien said there was recognition that Pope Francis had been slow to get to grips with the problem and that mismanagement, including cover-up of the abuse, had undermined the moral authority of the church.

"Pope Francis is very aware of that," he said.

"The Pope says zero tolerance has to be shown by the church to clerical abuse but that must mean action. It has to be converted into concrete measures."

The religious affairs correspondent said one way of doing this would be by changing canon law - "to drum out of the church clerics who sexually abuse children or vulnerable adults".

He added: "This has been going on for two decades. There also has to be some sort of standing tribunal or court to try the bishops and cardinals who cover up the crime and sin of sexual abuse, to ensure there is no hiding place for them. If they are found guilty they should be removed from ministry.

"Canon law applies to churches throughout the world but we need to have worldwide guidelines on this issue. There are excellent guidelines in place in Britain and the US but what about Asia or Africa or South America?

"The church has to move into a situation where we have universal guidelines that will be rolled out everywhere and will be adhered to."

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