Pope's visit

Stop defending the indefensible, abuse survivor tells Catholic Church

Victims advocate Marie Collins at a panel event on safeguarding children and vulnerable adults at the World Meeting of Families at the RDS in Dublin. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Cate McCurry, Press Association

A CLERICAL abuse survivor and campaigner has called for those who refuse to accept that sexual abuse happened within the Catholic Church to stop "defending the indefensible".

Marie Collins said there are still clergy and lay people who believe the abuse scandals are a "media conspiracy" and survivors are trying to "destroy the Church".

Addressing the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) congress in Dublin, Ms Collins - who last year resigned from the Holy See's commission to protect minors in frustration at the Vatican's failure to tackle vital issues around clerical abuse - also called for Catholic families to speak out.

Earlier this week, Pope Francis wrote a 2,000-word letter to Catholics worldwide in which he condemned the crime of sexual abuse by priests and subsequent cover-ups.

He demanded accountability in response to new revelations in the US of decades of misconduct by the Church.

In her speech, Ms Collins said: "Sadly, still in the Church among clergy and lay people, there are those who prefer to believe that all this is a media conspiracy, just survivors trying to destroy the Church and they deny and they defend.

"I'm hoping at this point where they won't believe survivors, they will at least believe the Pope who has now has written to every single Catholic in the world.

"I hope that they will take their energies from defending the indefensible and accept the truth and instead of denial, put their energies into changes that are needed.

"Pope Francis in his letter to every Catholic acknowledged the enormous failures of the Church to safeguard children and vulnerable adults.

"Survivors and victims of abuse don't need a letter from the Pope to know this is a reality. We've been speaking about this for decades."

Around 300 people gathered to listen to Ms Collins, who called for people to "speak up and seek assurance" that there is no place in the Catholic Church for anyone "who would hurt a child or protect a predator".

Three years ago, the Pontifical Commission recommended the establishment of a court to introduce strong sanctions against sexual abusers, but Ms Collins said "it never happened".

She outlined measures she wants the Catholic Church to put in place including introducing the "strongest, safest safeguarding polices" with the strength of Canon Law behind them.

She also called for robust structures to be put in place to hold those responsible for protecting predators in dioceses and the Vatican. She added that there must be strong sanctions against anyone in the Vatican who would stand in the way of this.

"The Church on one hand claims to be on the side of survivors and victims while at the same time they are fighting against the removal of statute of limitations in America and other countries," she said.

"The actions of the Church do not match the words, and are the total opposite.

"If these were removed, it would mean more abusers could be prosecuted and victims receive justice.

"Real zero tolerance should be put in place so that any priest who abuses a child is removed from the Church immediately, that's what real zero tolerance means.

"Sadly Canon law has been used to protect the abuser more than to punish them."

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