In order to acknowledge the importance and significance attached to the publication, the findings and recommendations of the HIAI Report into Historical Institutional abuse which was published on Friday, 20 January, Bishop Noel Treanor together with Bishop Donal McKeown returned home on Friday night from the Irish Bishops Ad Limina visit to Rome to be present in their respective dioceses and to offer their personal apologies to the victims and survivors of abuse.
Please find below an extract from Bishop Treanor’s homily delivered in St Patrick’s Church, Donegall Street , Belfast on Saturday evening and again in St Peter’s Cathedral, Belfast earlier on Sunday 22 January:
Extract from Homily delivered by Bishop Noel Treanor
In these days and in the weeks ahead, as we digest the bitter findings of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, led by Judge Anthony Hart, we are plunged once again into a self-doubting darkness as Christians, as a Church and as citizens, and as a body politic in Northern Ireland.
We have heard terrible accounts of emotional, physical, psychological and sexual abuse – stories that we need to take to heart in order to grow a culture of kindness, civility and care for others.
With this Report we have heard yet again and sadly of how through the criminal, evil and sinful actions of some our Church betrayed its mission of care for the very people – the innocent, the weak, the lonely – that Jesus sought out for his love and care. Instead of making the Good News, of which they were ministers, a living, caring and joyful force in the lives of those entrusted to their care, they did the opposite : they caused them to live and suffer “in the land and shadow of death” (Mt 4.16). In the shame and sorrow that breaks our hearts, in the deep and pervasive sense of betrayal that surrounds us all, we need open our hearts in sorrow, apology and shame to victims and survivors. We need to listen in sorrow and shame to the living and saving Word of God and make it alive and active in our efforts to care for, support and help to heal those who suffered in these institutions.
Like the Bishop of Derry, Donal McKeown, I have returned home on Friday night from the Irish Bishops Ad Limina visit to Rome to be present in the diocese in order to acknowledge the importance and significance we attach to the publication, the findings and recommendations of the HIAI Report into Institutional abuse which was published on Friday, 20 January.
It is with a profound sense of shame and horror that I acknowledge the harrowing findings of this report ; it shows and concludes that there were pervasive systemic failures leading to the abuse of children over many decades within institutional care homes run by the Church, the state and other voluntary organisations. The Report makes for hard, painful reading that shocks us.
In the name of and on behalf of the Diocese of Down and Connor, I apologise wholeheartedly, unconditionally and unreservedly to all those who suffered physical, emotional, psychological or sexual abuse and who have carried the heavy burden and dark legacy of such appalling experiences from childhood.
The report raises many important safeguarding issues and it is incumbent upon us as a Diocese to examine carefully the findings and conclusions of this report and to work closely alongside religious congregations and other state, voluntary and church providers of institutional care to assist the Executive Office of the Northern Ireland Assembly to address and implement its recommendations.
I pay tribute to the courage of the survivors and victims who bravely came forward during the Inquiry. We can barely imagine the pain and suffering involved in their efforts to revisit and describe in words a dark, disappointing, lonely and infernal time in their lives in order to give their evidence.
Yes, it’s true that care and kindness was also found and experienced in these institutions : good people worked in them. It’s true that Good and dedicated Religious did great work for those entrusted to them both during their stay and in later life. But the tragic, historical, harsh, cold reality is that cruelty and abuse of various kinds was endured and suffered there by many innocent children. The good done and the care given was thwarted, undone and almost evaporated from memory by the cruel betrayal of the abusers.
Alas there was also the silence and the fear to challenge the cruelty and the abuse. From this systemic failure we in our time have much to learn in terms transparency, accountability and respect for advocates of justice and integrity who may disturb accepted practice and established ways of doing things.
What happened to victims and survivors at the hands of those who abused and maltreated them should not have happened. And it should never have happened at the hands of priest, religious or baptized Christian. In our times we must continue to do all in our power to promote a culture of protection of children, minors and vulnerable adults in our times – and the challenges in this area are real and many.
Today it is my prayer and hope that this HIAI Report and the implementation of its recommendations will assist the onward recovery of victims, survivors and their families as they seek out truth and justice and inner spiritual peace. I also pray that this report will assist others who have been abused to find the strength and courage to come forward and report that abuse to the statutory authorities or to the appropriate safeguarding representatives, such as the Diocesan Safeguarding Office.
Let us pray that in response to the HIAI Inquiry and Report, our local Church in this diocese and all involved in the statutory and voluntary sectors will have the grace and strength to respond with honesty, integrity and good will to the Report’s Recommendations and their implementation so that the light of justice, truth and peace may shine upon us and facilitate in our society the cultivation of a civilisation of love, courtesy and care for all.