Irish Bishops’ Conference launch: ‘Towards Healing’, a Lenten pastoral reflection on child sexual abuse

08 Feb 2005





On behalf of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, the Primate of All Ireland and Archbishop of
Armagh Dr Seán Brady and the Bishop of Limerick, Dr Donal Murray, today launched a
pastoral reflection for Lent on responding to child sexual abuse entitled: Towards

At the press conference, which took place in St Patrick’s College Maynooth,
Archbishop Brady said: “tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.
Lent is a time of reflection, a time when we set out to improve our lives
in the light of the Gospel. This makes it an appropriate time for the Church
to reflect on its journey of becoming more faithful to the Gospel in its
response to the issue of Child Sexual Abuse.”

Bishop Murray said, “The Good Samaritan is our model. We must not, like
the priest and Levite in the parable, pass by on the other side, failing
to see somebody’s suffering because we are too wrapped up in our own business
to notice. To be a Good Samaritan means being available to listen, to learn,
to understand and to offer wholehearted help.

Bishop Murray continued, “Over the last ten years, we have learned a great
deal about the measures needed to respond effectively to the issue of abuse
(see below). We wish to share what we have painfully learnt. The cry for
healing needs to be heard from all victims of child sexual abuse – whether
abused by priests or others.”

“The first step in the process of healing is to learn to understand the
enormous impact of that betrayal on the victim. The healing journey has
many dimensions and is different for every individual. The steps could
include such things as ongoing counselling/family counselling or it may
be that a person’s education has been blighted by the experience of abuse
and that some kind of educational provision would help. We recognise the
journey of healing may need to continue for a long time.

“The task of accompanying those in need of healing is a task for all of
us. All Christians, not just bishops and clergy, through their gifts
and skills and time and friendship, must aim to bring healing to those
who have suffered child sexual abuse.

“One of the greatest losses for those who were abused as children is that
it has often made it hard for them to see the Church as a source of hope
and consolation and strength. We would dearly love to be able to restore
what was taken from them.”

Bishop Murray concluded, “There are many resources in the Church community:
spiritual direction; counselling; educational skills; financial know how;
medical and psychiatric expertise. We are asking people with these skills,
and many others, to consider putting them at the service of the journey
towards healing. Easter promises healing and hope beyond anything we can

Further information:
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)

Notes for Editors
* Towards Healing, the Irish Bishops’ Conference pastoral reflection for
Lent 2005 is available on the website of the Catholic Communications Office
at and is being distributed
throughout dioceses and parishes on the island of Ireland. It is also being
sent to groups representing victims of child sexual abuse.

* Chronological order of publications and initiatives taken by the Irish
Bishops’ Conference in relation to child protection:
1994 – Irish Catholic Bishops’Advisory Committee on Child Sexual Abuse
by Priests and Religious convened under the Chairmanship of Most Rev.
Laurence Forristal, Bishop of Ossory. Its purpose was to identify
guidelines for Church policy in instances or suspicions of child
sexual abuse by a priest or religious. The membership of the Committee
included representatives from the professions of Psychiatry, Paediatrics,
Law, Canon Law, Clergy, Religious and Communications.

1996 – Publication of Child Sexual Abuse: Framework for a Church Response
(commonly referred to as: ‘The Green Book’) (
This report recognizes the paramount need to safeguard the welfare of children.
It emphasizes the need for a strong commitment to prevention through a
range of measures to reduce the risk of such abuse in the future.

1997 – National Resource Group established, under Chairmanship of Bishop Forristal.
Its key terms of reference were:
* to serve as a resource for the Catholic Church in Ireland in responding
to the issue of Child Sexual Abuse by priests and religious;
* to facilitate the implementation of the recommendations of the
“Green Book”.
Throughout 1997 the National Resource Group provided training programmes
for all personnel appointed by dioceses – delegates, deputy delegates,
support persons and priest advisors.

1998 – The National Resource Group organised a Consultation Seminar for English
speaking Episcopal Committees dealing with Child Sexual Abuse – representatives
of the Episcopal Conferences of eleven countries participated (Dundrum, Co
Tipperary 18-21 May).

1999 – Bishops’ Committee on Child Abuse established under the chairmanship
of Bishop Eamonn Walsh to liaise with the Government proposed Commission to
Inquire into Child Abuse (Laffoy Commission). Membership of the Committee
included representatives from the professions of Psychology, Canon Law,
Counselling, Teaching, Clergy and Religious.

2001 – January – The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland were commissioned
by the Bishops’ Committee on Child Abuse to conduct a research project to
examine the impact of clerical child sexual abuse on: (i) victims and their
extended families; (ii) perpetrators and their extended families; (iv) colleagues;
(v) parishes and the wider community. The results of this extensive study:
Time to Listen, were published in December 2003.

2001 – July – The Child Protection Office of the Irish Bishops’ Conference
was established and Mr Paul Bailey was appointed as Executive Director.

2001 – September – The Bishops’ Committee on Child Protection was established
under the chairmanship of Bishop Eamonn Walsh and it replaced the Bishops’
Committee on Child Abuse.

2002 – April – The Bishops’ Conference announce a Nationwide Independent
Audit into handling of all complaints of child sexual abuse by diocesan
priests or religious in diocesan appointments as far back as 1940.

2002 – July – Judge Gillian Hussey was appointed as chairperson of the
Catholic Church Commission on Child Sexual Abuse (Hussey Commission)

2002 – September – Judge Hussey announces the members of her Commission which
drawn from the professions of Social Work, Psychology, Law, Law Enforcement,
Criminology, and a Social Historian.

2002 – December – Judge Hussey decides to cease the work of her Commission
following the announcement by the Minister for Justice for the: “preparation of a
scheme for a statutory basis for a new mechanism for investigating into matters of
significant and urgent public importance”. It was the Minister’s intention
that such a scheme would include the handling of clerical sexual abuse. Thus,
Judge Hussey believed her Commission would be duplicating the work of the State.

2003 – June – The Working Group on Child Protection, chaired by management
consultant Ms Maureen Lynott, was established by the Bishops’ Conference, Conference
of Religious in Ireland (CORI) and the Irish Missionary Union (IMU) to develop a
comprehensive and integrated child protection policy for the Irish Catholic Church.
The Working Group had representatives from Social Work, Psychology, Law
Enforcement, CORI, the Bishops Committee on Child Protection, Teaching as well as
two survivors of clerical and religious sexual abuse.

2003 – August – A set of good practice guidelines entitled Working with Children
and Young People in the Catholic Church Community in Ireland were developed by the
Bishops’ Child Protection Office in collaboration with its Committee on Child Protection.
These guidelines were distributed to all dioceses and religious congregations.
See: (

2003 – December – Publication of Time to Listen – Confronting Child Sexual Abuse by
Catholic Clergy in Ireland. This report was a milestone in that it was the first
occasion internationally in which the Catholic Church had commissioned independent
research into clerical child sexual abuse. The study not only assessed the impact
of abuse on victims and abusers, but it also examined these effects on their families,
colleagues and on wider society. See: (

2004 – The Bishops’ Child Protection Office commences its National Training Initiative
in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth. Twenty participants from nine dioceses are being
trained as Child Protection Trainers. Following their accreditation in June 2005, they will
train Facilitators in their own dioceses to provide information and support in developing
safe practice procedures for dealing with young people within parishes.

2005 – January – The Working Group on Child Protection (the Lynott Group)
unanimously endorses its final report Our Children, Our Church. This is a
comprehensive and integrated child protection policy for the Irish Catholic Church.