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28th Session: Geneva, 16-20 June 2003

Agenda Item 5b  (iii) Sexual Exploitation









1.      One In Four is an organisation run for and by people who have experienced sexual abuse. We provide therapeutic and advocacy services for women and men who have experienced sexual abuse. Through this work we are continually informed by client’s experiences and it is within this capacity that we make this submission on the sexual exploitation of children to the Committee on Contemporary forms of Slavery.

Article 39 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

“States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to promote physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of a child victim of: any form of neglect, exploitation, or abuse; torture or any other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; or armed conflicts. Such recovery and reintegration shall take place in an environment which fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child.”

2.      The UNCRC sets out the rights guaranteed to children and young people in all areas of their lives and imposes obligations on parents, family, the community and the state in this regard. Ireland signed the Convention on 30th of September 1990 and ratified it two years later. The Holy See signed and ratified the Convention in 1991.  Too often the focus of state party responses to historical rights abuse is directed towards prevention of future abuse, an essential aim, but there is little response to historic abuse. In many ways the rights of those abused children, who are now adults, continue to be ignored, they continue to be abused through neglect and further exploitation. Essentially you cannot prevent what has already happened. Any state party to the Convention has an obligation under Article 39 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to vindicate the rights of children who have been abused. It is not enough to act to prevent future abuse; State Parties have an obligation to vindicate the rights of those of their citizens who they have historically failed to protect.

3.      It is essential to recognise that these children, who are now adults, are entitled to an appropriate response and to the same level of response as laid down within the Convention. It cannot be acceptable that State Parties abandoned and neglect such child victims as soon as they reach adulthood.  Article 39 requires that State Parties “take all appropriate measures to promote physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of a child victim of: any form of neglect, exploitation, or abuse; torture or any other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. It does not state that in cases where children reach adulthood prior to receiving care and support that they no longer matter. The fact is that the impacts of child sexual exploitation and abuse are long lasting. Simply because the traumatized child now exists inside a 30, 40, 50 or even 90 year old adult does not mean that they are not worthy of or entitled to the same level of response as laid down in Article 39.

Legacy of child sexual abuse

4.      In many cases the legacy of child sexual abuse can be profound on an individual, leaving them enslaved to their previous traumatic experience(s). The most common psychiatric impact of child abuse and child sexual exploitation is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, (PTSD).

5.      Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can be seen as an overwhelming of the body's normal psychological defenses against stress. Thus, after the trauma, there is abnormal function (dysfunction) of the normal defense systems, which results in certain symptoms. The symptoms are produced in three different ways:

1.       Re-experiencing the trauma

2.       Persistent avoidance

3.       Increased arousal (an increased fear, panic and anxiety response)

6.      Many Irish and International studies have proven this link. Research undertaken by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland on behalf of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre [1] discovered that 14 percent of women who had an experience of sexual abuse in their past, reported a number of symptoms which would have met the criteria for full PTSD at some point in their lifetime. A further 11 percent of women met the criteria for sub syndromal PTSD and 16 percent of men reported similar PTSD in the past. Kilpatrick & Saunders (1997) reported that almost 30% of US adolescents who were sexually abused had at some point experienced PTSD.

7.      A further legacy of child sexual abuse, which can leave an individual enslaved to that experience is the vulnerability to further re-victimisation. Experiences of re-victimisation are common amongst adults, sexually abused as children who did not receive appropriate support and care. According to SAVI (2002) a significant number of participants experienced re-victimisation. The patterns include associations between child and adult experiences of sexual violence. The data available cannot determine that childhood abuse ‘causes’ adult sexual assault, but it is a marker of risk for later abuse.  This study found that in Ireland the risk of adult contact sexual violence was higher in all the groups who were abused as children (SAVI, 2002, pp 71). In particular, women who had experienced penetrative sexual abuse as children had a 16-fold increase in the risk of adult penetrative sexual abuse and a 5-fold increase in the risk of adult contact sexual abuse.  For men the increase is higher but the size of increase is harder to assess.  However, they argue that men who had experienced penetrative sexual abuse in childhood was had a 16 fold increase in the risk of adult penetrative sexual abuse and a 12 fold increase in risk of adult contact sexual abuse.

8.      International studies have also found similar risk patters for re-victimisation for men and women who experienced childhood sexual abuse. A Norwegian study found 63% of women abused by violent spouses had also been abused in childhood (Schei, 1990). A London study of 2,500 women showed that different types of abuse (physical and sexual) co –occurred in childhood and adulthood. The risk of rape or other sexual assault in adulthood was on average three times higher for those who had been sexually abused as children (Coid et al 2001). Herman (1981) attributes re-vicitmisation in part to failures of self care and self protection within intimate relationships.

9.      Additional psychological consequences of childhood sexual abuse in adulthood, enslaving men and women in their adult lives according to SAVI (2002) include:

v        effects on personal identity,

v        effects on interpersonal relationships,

v        other symptoms of mental health difficulties and

v        effects of their knowledge or awareness of sexual abuse issues.

10      Many people who have experienced sexual abuse turn to self-destructive behaviours in order to cope with the negative self-perception which they carry into adulthood. Such behaviours can include - self-harm, addiction(s), suicidal tendencies and eating disorders.  It has been found that 70 to 80% of women and men who have experienced sexual abuse report excessive drug and alcohol use (Zeiter et al., American Journal of Public Health). The US National Victim Centre discovered that rape victims are four times more likely than non-victims to have contemplated suicide and thirteen times more likely to have actually made a suicide attempt. (US National Victim Centre 1992). Draijers comprehensive study of women who had experienced incest had much higher levels of psychosomatic and psychiatric symptoms than their counterparts who had not been abused (Draijer, 2002). Significantly elevated symptoms included nightmares, sleep disturbances, eating disorders, self destructive behaviour and suicide attempts.

Personal testimony Colm O'Gorman

11. In my own personal experience of sexual abuse perpetrated by a Roman Catholic Priest in Ireland the impacts were long lasting and extensive. I was unable to fulfil my real potential for most of my adult life, instead I was trapped in a cycle of self hatred and self doubt where I blamed myself for the abuse and turned all of my anger and distress inwards. I was unable to value myself as a human being with rights and needs and instead viewed myself as foul and evil. I viewed further abuse throughout my childhood and early adulthood as further evidence of my badness, failing to ever consider that I deserved a life free of abuse, free of blame and guilt for crimes that I did not commit but were perpetrated upon me as a boy.  In this way I remained caught in the dynamic of my childhood experiences and remained vulnerable to and victim of further exploitation and abuse.

12.  What we can see therefore is that adults who have been abused as children and do not receive appropriate support to work towards recovery may continue to re-experience the trauma of their childhood abuse. They may, often on a daily basis, relive that experience. Such adults in effect continue to be victims of abuse long after they have grown beyond childhood, and we assert are therefore entitled to have their rights vindicated under Article 39 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Irish Experience

13   What is perhaps unique about the Irish experience of child sexual abuse in recent years is the revelation of many cases of sexual abuse and exploitation involving clergy of the Roman Catholic Church.  That is not to say that the clergy of that church are responsible for ALL sexual abuse of children in Ireland but there is evidence to suggest that there is a significant problem of sexual abuse perpetrated by clergy form the Roman Catholic Church. SAVI (2002) tell us that you are more likely in Ireland to be sexually abused by a member of the religious than by your own father. A remarkable statistic when you consider the obvious fact that there are many, many more fathers in Ireland than members of the clergy.

14   This phenomena means that the Irish experience of sexual abuse involves not one, but two state parties to the United Nations: the Republic of Ireland and the Holy See. The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has played a partnership role with the Irish State in the provision of education and social care. As the Holy See governs the religious and diocesan authorities that manage and deliver such services that sovereign state has had a role and responsibility in how women and men from amongst its personnel sexually exploited and abused children and young people. More significantly we will see that sovereign state has, thus far failed in any meaningful way to accept responsibility for its negligence and failure to protect children as it expressly committed to do as a State Party to both the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child and The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

15.  In Ireland there has historically been very few education or social care institutions that have not been governed by the Catholic Church. In many ways Irish society has benefited from this input, but there are also significant problems associated with the ways in which social care and education have operated especially in the context of child protection. From the foundation of the Irish State in 1922, the Catholic Church has had a primary role in the provision of social care and education and the formation of legislation and social policy. In reality the Catholic Church has in the past been more powerful a political body that the State Government in the Republic of Ireland.

Irelands Response to Sexual Abuse

16.  Child sexual abuse as a social and political phenomenon came to the public domain in the 1980’s, when a number of horrific sexual abuse scandals entered the public domain. It became apparent that there were serious shortfalls in our health, social and legal systems to recognise and respond effectively to incidences of child sexual abuse. Following these public revelations and the failures of the Irish childcare system to respond, Ireland up-dated its archaic legislation on childcare and through the Childcare Act 1991. This piece of legislation placed statutory responsibility on each health board for the protection of children. It also assigned powers to our police force to remove a child to a place of safety if they believe that child to be in danger. 

17.  In 2001 the Irish Government published extensive national guidelines, titled Children FirstNational Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children. These are intended to support and guide health professionals, teachers, and members of the Garda Síochána (police) and the many people in sporting, cultural, community and voluntary organisations who come into regular contact with children. It states that any person who suspects that a child is being abused, or is at risk of abuse should make a report to the health board or the Gardaí without delay. This simple message is based on the view that everyone has a duty to protect children and it is not just the job of social workers and other health professionals. Reports should be made to the statutory authorities without delay.

18. In relation to adults who have experienced sexual abuse the Irish Government established a National Counselling Service in 2000. This therapeutic service is primarily focused on women and men who experienced abuse whilst in institutional care in Ireland, although it has extended its services to men and women who have experienced sexual abuse outside of institutional care.

Holy See Response to Clerical Sexual Abuse

19.  In examining the response of the Holy See we must examine the submissions and statements made to the United Nations by the Holy See but also the actions of the institutional church, governed by the Holy See, in Ireland.

20. At the International meeting on the sexual exploitation of children through prostitution and pornography in Bangkok, 9-11 September 1992, a Final Declaration was adopted for general distribution. After defining the nature and characteristics of "contemporary form of slavery", it sets out a number of guidelines for those who wish to combat this evil and concludes by saying: "The sexual exploitation of children is a grave crime against the truth of the human person. Each person is the image of God, the child of God. Each life is a precious gift of God. In each face shines the great dignity of the human person. Children, who are the most vulnerable members of society, must be guaranteed enjoyment of all the rights which appertain to human persons. They must be loved, protected and respected in a special way. Every abuse against their dignity is a crime against humanity and against the future of the human family. The children of the world trapped in prostitution, pornography and sexual exploitation cry for help. The Lord calls His people to action. Deliberating, resolving and acting together, we pledge to respond" (annex 24).

21.  This statement was made in response to the Holy See’s obligation to report on their ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. They acknowledge that children are the most vulnerable members of society, and that they must be loved, protected and respected in a special way and they pledge to respond. In the following section we will outline the Holy See’s response to clerical sexual abuse on an institutional level and its response to clerical sexual abuse in the Irish context.

22.  Sexual abuse of women and men by the clergy has existed throughout history of the Catholic Church and other Christian churches also. The institutional church, through its Bishops and other leaders has continually attempted to defend and explain its behaviour through a number of assertions or claims. These have become standardised and are regularly repeated by church spokespersons. The first of these is that the church leadership never fully understood the destructive nature of sexual abuse of minors until the many recent cases that have entered the public domain. They admit they would have seen such actions as sins and therefore the remedy chosen was to admit guilt and do penance and cover up and control the problem as tightly internally as possible.

23.  On examination of Canon Law and documents through the ages from the Holy See we can ascertain that the church’s leadership has recognised and had unique knowledge from the earliest centuries that sexual abuse of minors is a heinous crime, so much that in the past, guilty clerics have at various times ex-communicated, removed from the clerical state and cut of from financial assistance. Thus the destructive nature of child sexual abuse is clearly not a new issue for the church.

24.  As far back as 117AD Canon Law has recognised clearly the nature of clerical sexual abuse ‘… (Bishop) Athenagoras characterised adulterers and pederasts as foes for Christianity, subjected them to excommunication, then harshest penalty the church could inflict. The Council of Elivra (305) severely condemned pederasts[2]’. Penitential books also identify clerical sexual abuse. The Penitential of Bede, dating from England in the 8th century, advises that clerics who commit sodomy with children be given increasingly severe penances commensurate with their rank. Laymen who committed such crimes were excommunicated and made fast for three years; clerics not in holy orders 5 years; deacons and priests, 7 and 10 years respectively and bishops who sexually abused were given 12 years of penance[3]. The Third Lateran Council (1179), a medieval equivalent to the Vatican Council II, decreed that clerics who commit sins against nature be confined to a monastery for life or leave the church. After 1250 the penalties became much harsher with sodomy linked to heresy[4]. There is even an indication that offenders of sodomy were subjected to severe punishments including fines, castration, exile and even death.

25. In 1568 Pope Pius V, issued a papal decree in yet another attempt to curb this terrible abuse. Entitled Horrendum, it declared that ‘Priests who abuse are deprived of all offices, benefices, privileges, degraded and turned over to secular courts for additional punishment’ [5].

26. The present Code of Canon Law contains a Canon (C. 1305) that specifically identifies sexual contact with a child by a cleric as an ecclesiastical crime. This Canon repeated a similar law in the 1917 Code. The prior Code included sexual abuse of children as a specific Canon or law because the problem of child sexual abuse was recognised at the time the Code was being compiled (1903-1917).

27.  The Holy See in the past has denied knowledge of clerical sexual abuse and has blamed secular society for its corruption and how it has affected the priest hood. The Pope publicly addressed the issue of clerical sexual abuse on three occasions: a letter to the American Bishops, dated 11 June 1993, an address at the World Youth Day in Denver, August 1993 and to the Irish Bishops 26 June 1999.

28.  In his letter to the US Hierarchy the acts of abuse themselves are named as ‘sin’ but a significant section [6]in the letter to the US Hierarchy outlines the Pope’s belief that the secular media sensationalises the scandals and therefore is partially responsible for them.

29.  In Denver the Pope acknowledged the problem of sexual exploitation but essentially blamed it on American social disorganisation and moral decay that had finally contaminated the clergy. This opinion was short-lived given the public exposure of numerous clerical abuse cases in European countries.  The Pope addressed the Irish Bishops in 26 June 1998. In this speech he spoke of his distress as a result of allegations of clerical sexual abuse.

30.  In recent years the Catholic hierarchy have continually claimed that they did not know about sexual abuse, they did not understand its long term implications, sexual abuse was not recognised as an issue at that time. At all costs members of the clergy have pronounced and continue to pronounce on a daily basis that they did not know. However the above evidence from Canon Law and Penitential Book clearly show that the Holy See, as a Sovereign state to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, historically had unique knowledge of child sexual abuse and clerical sexual abuse. Will we now show that in the Irish experience the Holy See has failed to protect children from abuse and to provide then with adequate support as they have committed to under Article 39 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Clerical sexual abuse – Ireland

“And so, what better wish can I express for every nation and the whole of mankind, and for all the children of the world than a better future in which respect for human rights will become a complete reality throughout the third millennium, which is drawing near". (Pope John Paul II, address to the General Assembly of the United Nations, 2 October 1979).

31. In a statement to the Executive Council of the World Tourism Organization, Pope John Paul II spoke on the issue of the degrading practices of sex tourism. He spoke of the thousands of children who had been abused and robbed of their physical and moral dignity asking for the protection due to them under international agreements and demanded by the conscience of mankind.

32.  On a daily basis One In Four receive calls from people who were sexually abused by members of the clergy, devastated people who are not believed, who claim that the church did not responded humanely nor with compassion. They have been re-vicitmised through the sharing of that traumatic experience. It is with this individual and personal knowledge that we present the Irish Church response to clerical sexual abuse.

33.  The first public case of clerical sexual abuse, which shocked the Irish nation and contributed to the collapse of our Government of that time, was that of Fr Brendan Smyth in 1993. This case highlighted the absolute failure of the Church to deal with one of the country's most notorious paedophile that left ruined lives in his wake wherever he was sent. The priest's sexual abuse and rape of children continued in Britain and in the US and the scandal was only highlighted when victims came forward in large numbers after a UTV television programme was broadcasted. He was finally brought to account when he pleaded guilty to 74 incidents of sexual abuse of 20 young people over a period of 36 years. His order, his superiors and bishops all came in for criticism for their failure to safeguard children. It emerged that his behaviour was known to fellow clergy, a number of bishops and in later years, Cardinal Cahal Daly. A psychiatric report before the courts described Smyth as a life-long compulsive paedophile. Smyth served two prison terms in Northern Ireland before being handed over to the State authorities in 1997. He died in prison at The Curragh camp in 1997.

34.  Following this case a large number of clerical sexual abuse cases emerged into the public domain in Ireland. According to Article 39 UNCRC the response to sexual abuse by a State Party should take place in an environment which fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child. As we shall see in the coming section this was not the manner in which the Irish Catholic Church, under the direction of the Holy See responded to individual allegations of clerical sexual abuse.

35.  In Ireland, when an allegation of clerical sexual abuse was disclosed in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, the Hierarchy (through Bishops) and its clergy all responded to these allegations in a uniform fashion. They either ignored the problem initially and thereafter, as a result of public pressure, removed the alleged offender from their parish and either moved them to another area, unbeknown to the next parish or sent them for treatment to cure them of their offences. The placement of alleged offending priests from parish to parish was the norm up until the late 1990s. Fr Noel Reynolds, a self confessed and convicted paedophile, was moved from parish to parish despite numerous complaints to the Arch Bishop. His final placement was as chaplain to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dublin until 1995. The Hospital, with children and young persons was not told of the allegations, despite the fact that continual allegations of sexual abuse was made to the Cardinal in the early 1980s. The hospital itself was only informed of the allegations in 2002.

36.  When Bishops went a step further in sending the alleged offender for apparent treatment it was rarely named as paedophilia but rather treatment for alcohol problems or emotional and psychological issues. Even when the church did refer specifically for treatment relating to sexual offences against children they could be less than honest in their referrals. In the case of Fr James Doyle, from Wexford, who was convicted of sexual assault in 1995, the then Bishop, Dr Brendan Comiskey sent him for treatment in the UK. In the referring letter to the treatment centre in the UK, Dr Comiskey said that there was no mention in Fr Doyle’s records of paedophilia tendencies. However, in a letter dated as far back as 1982 in his records, a psychiatrist recommended that It would also seem desirable that he should have a change in role, away from working with young people…’

37.  In the Dublin Arch Diocese a major clerical abuse scandal broke in October 2002, following the television documentary Cardinal Secrets. This Archdiocese is currently facing 450 legal actions as a result of clerical sex abuse. The documentary made allegations of sexual abuse against seven priests, six of whom are convicted sex offenders. In ALL cases continual and frequent allegations were made to the Arch Bishop and the Bishop of the time, dating back as far as the early 1970s and 1980s up until the 1990s. In ALL cases the response was to move the alleged offender from parish to parish without informing the parishioners of the allegation. In ALL cases the sexual abuse and rape of children continued in the next parish leaving a trail of sexual abuse and rape of children spanning hundreds of miles.

38.  In ALL cases the Irish Civil authorities (An Garda Siochana) were never notified or informed of the allegations. In the cases that were later reported to the Gardai by the individual victims themselves, the Church would not co-operate with any of the investigations.  In the case of Fr Paul Mc Gennis, convicted of child sexual abuse in 1998 and who admitted to Arch Bishop as far back as 1995.  Cardinal O’ Connell would not hand over any files to the civil authorities and never informed the Gardai that this priest had confessed his actions to him. He argued that under Canon Law he was not obliged to share confidential information. Up until last year the Dublin Arch Diocese refused access to any files and maintained silence at all levels.

39.  This situation was NOT unique to the Arch Diocese of Dublin in April 2002; the Diocese of Ferns in Wexford was under immense public scrutiny following the BBC Documentary Suing the Pope. It involved the case of Fr. Sean Fortune, a priest alleged to have abused a number of boys over decades and over many parishes. Fr Fortune committed suicide in 1999 while on bail while facing 29 charges of sexual abuse. It was again discovered that the Bishops of the time KNEW about allegations of clerical sexual abuse. They sent Fr Fortune for treatment and placed him back in other parishes, in a position where he worked closely with a number of children and young people. Fr Fortune was not removed from ministry until 1995, more than 16 years after the first known complaints and some four years after the Holy See had ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. He continued to have uncontrolled access to children until his arrest.

Personal Testimony – Colm O’ Gorman

40. I was sexually abused by a Catholic Priest, Fr. Sean Fortune between 1981 and 1983. For two and a half years I was repeatedly raped, sexually assaulted, humiliated and degraded. In 1995 I reported this sexual abuse to the police and a major criminal investigation was initiated. Fr. Fortune was arrested and eventually charged with 66 charges of sexual assaults on 8 boys. He was sent for trial in March 1999 but committed suicide whilst on bail awaiting an assessment of his fitness to stand trial.

One of the most disturbing aspects of what was uncovered about this case was the suggestion that the Church had clear knowledge of Fr Fortunes sexual abuse of children. It was reported that they had from the early 1980’s at the latest received numerous complaints and allegations of sexual assaults perpetrated upon young boys by Fr Fortune. Yet he remained in ministry and was a very high profile priest involved in all levels of community work and most worryingly in working with young people. It was through this work that Fr Fortune gained access to his victims and through his authority as a priest that he silenced and further abused those children, myself included.

It was horrifying to me as a person reared in the catholic faith to realise that the Church which had dictated to me the morals by which I should live had, it appeared, knowingly allowed one of its priest to continue to sexually abuse and rape children. That I was less important to that church than its position in society, its wealth and its ego was a devastating realisation and one that caused me enormous distress. That my right to live free of rape and exploitation was less important than their fear of scandal was shattering.

In 1998 I instituted a civil action against the Bishop of Ferns, the diocese which managed Fr Fortune and governed his work as a priest and the Papal Nuncio, inter alia, The Pope. The church initially denied all responsibility and knowledge of Fr Fortunes activities. Eventually because of the scandal and public outcry that followed repeated media exposure of the case the Bishop of Ferns, Dr Brendan Comiskey resigned. The Church however through its lawyers continued to deny responsibility and seemed to blame me for the abuse I experienced. In letters from their lawyers they asked me if I had ever been paid money by Fr Fortune?

The only response form the Holy See, in the person of the Papal Nuncio was to indicate that he would challenge the jurisdiction of the court in my suit. That as a representative of a sovereign state he was immune to suit, he had diplomatic immunity. It was an incredible development: The representative of the Holy See in Ireland was refusing to answer questions about his responsibility for and response to complaints of sexual abuse and rape perpetrated by one of their priests. The Holy See seemed to be using its privileged position as a sovereign state to avoid being held to account for its failures. Failures in national civil law in Ireland but also under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In April 2003my Civil Case against the Bishop of Ferns settled upon a statement of negligence by the Apostolic Bishop of Ferns Dr Eamonn Walsh. The statement on behalf of Bishop Walsh read:

'He acknowledges and sincerely regrets the distress, trauma and hurt caused to Colm O'Gorman by virtue of the acts of sexual abuse perpetrated on him between 1981 and 1983 by the late Fr Sean Fortune.

'He further acknowledges the failure of the Bishop at the time to recognise and act on the threat posed by the late Fr Fortune to Colm O'Gorman. Bishop Walsh wishes to apologise unreservedly to Colm O'Gorman for these failures and for the harm which he suffered in consequence.'

This set a precedent in the way the Catholic Church responded to cases of clerical sexual abuse. The Bishop is only answerable to Rome and thus the Vatican and the Holy See. It is our assertion that when the Bishop acknowledged the negligence and failure of the Bishop of that time to act in this regard it is also an acknowledgement of the Vatican and the Holy See.

41.  As outlined above, the Catholic Church’s stated position that they did not understand the implications of clerical sexual abuse is untrue. It came to light in Ireland in February 2003 that most of Ireland's Catholic dioceses had insurance in place as far back as 1987 to cover liabilities likely to arise from clerical child sex abuse. The fact that the Catholic Church saw fit to take out insurance cover against liabilities arising from clerical sexual abuse shows that as an institution it had a clear awareness and understanding of the reality of clerical sexual abuse and a clear awareness of its unique liability for that abuse. It also exposed the Church’s real priorities and the gross dishonesty of its protestations of the past 15 years that it had little awareness or understanding of clerical sexual abuse. It also demonstrated beyond any doubt that the Catholic Church callously acted in the face of such clear knowledge of clerical abuse to protect its financial wealth and did nothing of substance to protect abused and vulnerable children. In the final settlement with their insurers, the Catholic Church set up a collective fund, administered by the four Archbishops of Ireland. This exposes the lie that there has not been a concerted “whole Church” approach to this issue. It is clear that far from acting in isolation, the Irish Bishops have had a joined-up, collective policy of responding to and dealing with clerical sexual abuse in Ireland for almost sixteen years. It is also finally clear beyond any doubt that the scandal of clerical of sexual abuse is a scandal of institutional rather than individual corruption.

42.  The Catholic Church claim that they are NOW responding to child sexual abuse by focusing on the prevention of future abuse.  The Dublin Archdiocese has made child protection and prevention of future atrocities a priority. In 1996 the Catholic Church in Ireland prepared guidelines for members of the clergy to follow when a suspicion of child sexual abuse came to their attention[7]. It was discovered in January 2003 that they were not following the very guidelines they compiled. Section 3.14 of the guidelines state: ‘Each bishop or religious superior should appoint a specific person  - the Support Person – to be available to those who allege that the have suffered abuse and their families’.  In the case of Marie Collins, who was abused in the late 1960’s by convicted paedophile Fr. Mc Gennis, she was not allocated such a person. When she questioned Cardinal Desmond Connell he stated that in his opinion such guidelines were merely voluntary codes, which he himself did not need to follow as they were not enforceable under either Canon or Civil Law.  However, in October 2002 Michael McDowell, Minister for Justice made it clear that Canon Law is not on a higher plateau than State law.

43.  One of the most positive steps taken by the Catholic Hierarchy was the established in February 1997 of Faoiseamh, a church agency, founded to listen to and, if required, arrange face-to-face counselling, for victims of abuse by members of Religious Orders. Faoiseamh is completely confidential except with the express wish of a particular client to provide further contact.

44.  In March 2003 the Irish Government intervened to deal effectively and respond to the scandals of clerical sexual abuse. The Minister for Health & Children, Michael Martin established the Ferns Inquiry to inquire into the handling of allegations of child sex abuse in the Diocese of Ferns. The Minister for Justice has promised that an Inquiry into clerical sexual abuse in the Dublin Arch Diocese will be established in the coming year.


45.  In his message to the World Summit on Children on 22 September 1990, Pope John Paul II said:

"The Holy See's prompt accession to the Convention on the Rights of the Child ... accords with the Catholic Church's bi-millenary tradition of service to those in material or spiritual need, especially the weaker members of the human family, among whom children have always received special attention. In the Child of Bethlehem, Christians contemplate the uniqueness, the dignity and the need for love of every child. In the example and teaching of her Founder, the Church perceives a mandate to devote special care to the needs of children; indeed, in the Christian view, our treatment of children becomes a measure of our fidelity to the Lord himself."

46.     The response of the Catholic Church Diocese's (under the direct governance of the Holy See) has been one that has sought at all costs to protect the institution rather than honour its commitments under the UN Declaration and Convention on the Rights of the Child. From 1987 when the Dioceses took out insurance to protect themselves against financial liability arising from civil suits taken by victims of clerical sexual abuse at a time when they later declared that they had no understanding or awareness of the phenomenon, to the introduction of Child Protection Guidelines in 1996, guidelines which the Archbishop of Dublin, Cardinal Desmond Connell, told one victim of abuse he had no obligation to follow as they were not enforceable under either Canon or Civil Law and which many dioceses failed to implement in full or implemented selectively, the Catholic Church has endeavoured to be seen to respond only in the wake of emerging scandal. That the responses should have any real merit or impact either in terms of child protection or victim support has seemed to be of little consequence. The Catholic Church and the Holy See has demonstrated that the prevention of scandal and their continued unquestioned authority are their greatest priorities. The prevention of, or response to, the rape and sexual assault of children by its clergy has at best come a poor second in its order of priorities.

47.     In Conclusion our assertion is that the Holy See and the Irish Republic failed to protect children against a wide range of abuses under both the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child and the UN Convention on the rights of the Child. In this submission we have dealt in particular with the area of sexual exploitation and forced labour: covered by the Declaration on the Rights of the Child and article 39 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

48.     Whilst there have been responses from both State parties to such abuses it is our assertion that the Holy See in particular has failed to live up to its responsibilities and obligations under the declaration and convention. The Holy See in particular must establish procedures that are effectively implemented and adhered to which will prevent or respond to clerical sexual abuse in the future.

49.     One In Four wishes to strongly state our contention that the convention should apply not simply to protect against future abuses but also to respond to past failures and abuses of the rights of children. We urge both State parties to honour their commitments under the convention and to urgently act to vindicate the rights of those who were sexually abused as children.


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Appendix A

Terms of Reference Ferns Inquiry

a.       To identify what complaints or allegations have been made against clergy operating under the aegis of the Diocese of Ferns in relation to alleged events that transpired prior to 10 April 2002 and to report on the nature of the response to the identified complaints or allegations on the part of the Church authorities and any public authorities to which complaints or allegations were reported.

b.      To consider whether the response was adequate or appropriate judged in the context of the time when the complaint or allegation was made and if the response to the complaint or allegation appears inadequate or inappropriate when judged by those standards to identify if possible the reason or reasons for this and report thereon.

c.       To consider the response of the diocesan and other Church authorities and the State authorities to cases where they had knowledge or strong and clear suspicion of sexual abuse involving priests of the Diocese of Ferns and to consider whether that response was adequate or appropriate judged in the context of the time when the knowledge was acquired or the suspicion formed.

d.      Insofar as responses are seen to be inadequate or inappropriate and, insofar as it may be possible to identify explanations for that inadequate or inappropriate response, to consider whether those factors remain applicable and to what extent they have been addressed subsequently.

e.      To examine and report on the levels of communication that prevailed between diocesan and state authorities, to consider whether more appropriate norms of improved communication between the diocesan authorities and the state authorities is are now desirable or practical.

f.         To identify and report on any lessons which might usefully be learned from how complaints or allegations were handled in the past which will result in improved child protection.

g.      To identify and report on any difficulties or shortcomings in current laws and regulations and to make recommendations as to legislative or regulatory change that would remedy these.

h.       In the event of the withholding or withdrawal of full co-operation from the Inquiry by Church authorities or any State authorities, or any suggestion that co-operation is being withheld, to report that fact immediately to the Minister for Health and Children. In the event of the Minister for Health and Children receiving such a report he will then grant the Inquiry statutory powers.

i.         At the conclusion of their inquiries, to deliver a full and final report to the Minister for Health and Children who will lay it before the Houses of the Oireachtas and publish the report in full subject to legal advice.

j.         In the event of the Inquiry not producing a final report within 12 months of the date of appointment by the Minister, the inquiry will publish an interim report and indicate a date for the Inquiry´s final report.

[1] This report is a national study of Irish experiences, beliefs and attitudes concerning sexual violence. McGee, H. Garavan, R., De Barra, M. Byrne, J and Conroy, R. (2002).The SAVI Report - Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland. Dublin: Liffey Press in Association with the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.

[2] Johansson and Percy, pp. 162.

[3] Johansson and Percy, pp. 168.

[4] Johansson and Percy, pp. 168.

[5] Pietro Card, Gasparri, editor. Codicis luris Canconici Fontes. Volumen 1, ‘Concilia Generalia – Romani Pontificis’, Romae, Typis Polyglottis. 1926. See n. 128, S. Pius V, const. Horrendum, 30 August 1568.

[6] John Paul II to the American Bishops, June 11, 1993, in Origins, CNS Documentary Service, July 1, 1993, Vol. 23, No 7: “Public opinion often feeds on sensationalism and the mass media play a particular role therein....So then venerable brothers, you are faced with two levels of serious responsibility: in relation to the clerics through whom scandal comes and their innocent victims, but also in relation to the whole of society systematically threatened by scandal and responsible for it.”

[7] Irish Catholic Bishop’s Advisory Committee on Child Sexual Abuse by Priests and Religious (1996) Child Sexual Abuse – framework for a church response’. Dublin: Veritas Publications.


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