The Commission of Investigation Report into the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne has shattered the illusion that we were dealing with historic cases of abuse and historic failures to properly and sensitively deal with victims. It is deeply shocking that at times when wider society was aware of the violent impact of abuse that the Church and other individuals failed in their duty.
Our primary concern must be with the victims of this awful litany of abuse which was compounded by the actions of those charged with its prevention and investigation. The deceitful cover-up and abdication of responsibility amounted to an unnecessary further abuse and re-victimisation. The journey and healing of the victims is not yet complete and society must continue to offer support and comfort and ensure that all steps are taken to achieve justice on their behalf.
We must commend the courage and bravery of those who came forward to report abuse. They stood against a culture which encouraged secrecy and silence in the pursuit of truth and justice.
The Church as an institution should have been there as a support for vulnerable members of its community, it should have provided a supportive faith community in which young people could develop. Instead the report shows that this position of trust was betrayed. The victims and their families were betrayed. The Church’s congregation was betrayed. Those clerics who upheld the true Christian values of the Church were betrayed.
The findings show that the Church alone was not solely culpable for the disgraceful handling of reported abuse cases. Clearly arms of the State also failed in their responsibility towards our citizens.
When previous reports into child abuse were published we mistakenly assumed that lessons had been learnt, that practices and procedures had changed. We now know that this was not the case. It cannot be acceptable to assume that we have learned from the publication of this report. Action must be taken to ensure compliance with the Children First Guidelines. We must also put the promised children’s rights referendum to the people.
The publication of this report must mark the crossing of the Rubicon; there can be no more societal tolerance of child abuse. Regardless of where it occurs, regardless of who is the alleged abuser, suspected cases of child abuse must be reported. It must be an immediate priority for the Dáil to enact legislation making it an offence to withhold information regarding the abuse of children.