Friday, November 27, 2009

Scores of Irish abuse victims seek counselling

Scores of Irish abuse victims seek counselling
53 mins ago
Padraic Halpin Scores of victims of sexual abuse in Roman Catholic parishes in Dublin contacted counselling services on Thursday after the publication of a report showed archbishops obsessively covered up decades of widespread abuse. Skip related content
Counsellors said the report, which detailed numerous examples of violence and said one priest had abused more than 100 children, triggered victims' memories and prompted large numbers to speak out for the first time.

Faoiseamh, a counselling service set up by the Catholic Church, said calls had trebled this week while the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre saw the number of calls from victims jump to more than 140 on Wednesday alone from a daily average of 25.

"There was an avalanche of calls," Ellen O'Malley-Dunlop, the Centre's chief executive, told Reuters.

"Most of them were first time callers in a lot of distress whose memories were triggered. They felt terribly bad that they hadn't spoken out themselves before, but the nature of this crime is that it silences people," she added.

The inquiry came six months after a similarly damning and even more graphic report about floggings, slave labour and gang rape that were common in Church-run industrial and reform schools earlier in the 20th century.

Dublin's Rape Crisis Centre said the number of callers rose 300 percent in the period after the release in May of the so-called Ryan report, but rose even more sharply on Wednesday.

"Last night it was much higher and while we had older people calling during the Ryan report, last night there were a lot of younger men in their 30s who were utterly distraught," O'Malley-Dunlop said.


Victims' groups urged Justice Minister Dermot Ahern to extend the investigations to all archdioceses in the country, but the auxiliary bishop of Dublin said time and money should instead be poured into improving child protection services.

Bishop Eamonn Walsh told Reuters that a similarly extensive report into abuse in other areas of Dublin alone would take a number of years and would simply come up with the same result.

"We can do two things; we can spend the next 10 years raking over what happened between 1960 and 2000 or we can learn from what has happened, distil it and say what do we need to do now," Walsh said, referring to the period covered by the new report.

"Let's put our energy and money into safeguarding children through civil and church services ... What we want to have is professional people doing the job that we as church people did in a ham-fisted way in the past with disastrous results."

Walsh said that any priests who read the report and realised their action had put children at risk should leave their posts.

"We all have to look into our conscience and ask how did we deal with the issues and if there is anything in our behaviour that is putting children at risk, then we're not fit for the job and should leave it to somebody else," he said.

"That holds for everybody, myself included."

(Additional reporting by Antonella Ciancio, editing Tim Pearce)

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