Pastoral Letter of Bishop Eamonn Walsh, Apostolic Administrator of Ferns
29 OCTOBER 2005
PASTORAL LETTER OF BISHOP EAMONN WALSH
APOSTOLIC ADMINISTRATOR OF FERNS
The publication this week of the Ferns Report brings to a conclusion
the comprehensive work of Mr. Justice Frank Murphy and his Team.
In welcoming and accepting the findings of this Report I would like
to acknowledge their painstaking and dedicated work, and to also
acknowledge those who were so brave and courageous in coming forward
to the Inquiry to recount their horrific stories of sexual abuse. The
Report provides important lessons for the Church in the areas of child
It is inexcusable that some priests of the diocese sexually abused children.
I am unable to attempt to describe the mental and emotional state of a
child or teenager sexually abused by a priest or the loneliness of
carrying such a harrowing secret through the growing up years and
Those who were abused describe some of the elements of what they
experienced: the fear of not being believed; being manipulated into
thinking it was their fault; becoming distant and angry with people
who may have had knowledge or who perhaps knew what was happening;
trust in the Church, and priests, shattered; being distrustful,
confused and fear-filled in relationships, God and Church contact
contaminated, sometimes permanently.
I yet again sincerely apologize to all who have suffered in these or in
any other way through the sexual abuse by a priest of the Diocese. For
those who have been abused or where that abuse was compounded by the
response, or lack of response by the Diocese, words of apology cannot
be left unspoken.
I wish to acknowledge and accept the findings of the Inquiry, that some
priests who were ordained for the diocese should not have been ordained,
and would not have been, had those who made complaints or expressed
suspicions been heard. Some young people were abused because some priests
wrongly chose to remain silent, perhaps out of an erroneous sense of
loyalty or through an unwillingness to believe that a fellow-priest
could be an abuser – dismissing people’s suspicions in a way that would
be seen as naïve in the extreme today. There is no doubt that abuse could
have been avoided had there been better understanding and monitoring of
all activities involving children.
This is not a time for excuses. There are hard lessons to be learned
from the findings of the Inquiry. There is much to be done to repair
the damage to those who were abused. The diocese is committed to doing
all it can to help in repairing the harm that has been done. We are acutely
aware that this will be a long process. We are also aware that some of
those whose trust in priests and the Church has been shattered may have
a real difficulty in accepting any help from us.
Many of the recommendations of the Inquiry are already being addressed.
Those outstanding will be acted upon immediately:
* A diocesan child protection policy and code of conduct are now in place.
* Counselling is available to all who have been abused.
* The priests of the diocese are doing what they can by contributing
through the St. Ibar’s Trust, which they have set up to help provide
counseling services for those affected by abuse.
* Structures have been put in place to ensure the highest possible
standards. Primary among these is the Diocesan Advisory Panel, which
oversees the ongoing implementation of policy.
* Regular Child Protection Liaison Meetings between the diocese, the
Gardai and Health Board.
* Education in child safety issues has been provided for the priests of
the diocese, and it is now being provided for every parish in the diocese.
Widespread awareness of the issues involved in child safety will call us
all to higher standards.
I wish to thank the people of the diocese for their continued support of
our priests and diocese. Your trust and loyalty have been tested. You have
been let down and your task of leading your children in the faith has been
made more difficult.
I wish to acknowledge the commitment of our priests and to thank them
publicly for their continued faithful service of their parishioners amidst
the horror and the sorrow of discovering that some of their fellow priests
had caused such dreadful suffering to innocent children and their families.
The name of their priesthood has been sullied by the actions of others.
I encourage communities and parishioners to work with their priests as we
try to learn together the lessons so starkly taught to us by our shock at
events in the diocese. This is a time for repentance and sadness, but it
is also a time of hope, determination and learning. We have an opportunity
and an obligation to do things better now and in the future. Let us place
our trust in the love of God who promises” to wipe away every tear from
our eyes and to make all things new”(Rev 21:4,5).
In conclusion, may I quote from the very apt words of writer Heather Parsons:
“The time has come to find a new tomorrow. For in that new tomorrow,
there is another new beginning. The cloud has risen and the light
has come through.” (A Light Between The Hills, p.163)
+ Eamonn Walsh
Apostolic Administrator of Ferns