Following my attendance at the week-long February meeting in the Vatican on ‘The Protection of Minors in the Church’, I am pleased to see that Pope Francis has so quickly issued further specific concrete actions to deal with the issue of abuse. The need to do so was highlighted during and following the meeting, and this apostolic letter in the form of a Motu Proprio Vos Estis Lux Mundi (You are the Light of the World), marks a significant move for the global Church.
Survivors of abuse and the faithful expect the Church to model best practice in the protection of children and vulnerable persons, to have robust procedures to deal with any allegations, and to ensure proper management of all cases.
Yesterday’s announcement represents another aspect of what the Holy Father has called, ‘the commitment to personal and collective conversion, the humility of learning, listening, assisting and protecting the most vulnerable.’ This continual work is extremely important in the path of purification in the Church.
Whilst the letter issued by the Pope yesterday is primarily about universal Church law, it affirms many of the practices which we are already observing in Ireland, particularly the need to report promptly all allegations to the statutory authorities and to fully respect and cooperate with State laws and investigations.
The letter also affirms the involvement of lay people, the thoroughness of investigations, and the care and protection offered to those who have been harmed. I wish to express my thanks to the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland for ensuring that our procedures are continually evaluated and improved, and to the agencies Towards Healing and Towards Peace, which have spearheaded a major outreach to survivors of abuse in the Church.
The scope of this new universal Church law also emphasises particular dimensions of safeguarding and response which we will need to ensure are fully observed, such as the care which vulnerable persons need, the protection of those who report abuse, the avoidance of any culture of silence and the offence of ‘covering up’ – actions or omissions intended to avoid or interfere with civil or canonical investigations, and abuse of authority.
I have spoken today with the Chairman and CEO of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland asking them to assist the Episcopal Conference in ensuring that our standards and guidance are in keeping with what this new Church law requires.
Notes to Editors
- Archbishop Eamon Martin is Archbishop of Armagh, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Dromore, and Primate of All Ireland.
- Support provided by the Catholic Church in Ireland for victims and survivors of abuse includes:
– The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland;
– Towards Healing; and,
– Towards Peace.
These agencies constitute the pastoral response and support services to survivors who suffered child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in Ireland. Please see further details below:
The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland provides advice on all aspects of case management, including notification of allegations and support for the complainant. Its chief executive is Ms Teresa Devlin. If you are concerned about a child or young person or wish to report a child safeguarding suspicion, concern, knowledge or allegation you should contact the statutory authorities. As the Catholic Church in Ireland has a mandatory reporting policy you can also contact the NBSCCCI by:
– Telephone 00 353 (1) 505 3124
Towards Healing Counselling & Support Services is available to survivors of Church, Religious and Institutional abuse. The Towards Healing director is Mr Michael Lyons and the service provides lay independent and fully accredited counsellors to support survivors. Towards Healing may be contacted by:
– Freephone (UK & NI) 0800 096 3315 or (RoI) 1800 303 416
– Mobile number for Hearing Impaired Clients +353 (0) 85-8022859
Towards Peace is a service offering spiritual support to survivors of physical, emotional or sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic Church personnel in Ireland. Support is also available for family members of abuse survivors. The vision of Towards Peace is to provide a safe supportive space, where people who have been affected by abuse in a Church context can be accompanied as they seek their own experience of spiritual peace, one step at a time. Towards Peace provides spiritual support through one-to-one spiritual direction sessions, with a qualified spiritual companion. Up to twelve sessions are offered and there is no cost. The director of Towards Peace is Ms Una Allen who can be contacted by:
– Telephone: + 353 (0) 1 5053028 and on +353 (0) 86 7710533
For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long +353 (0) 86 172 7678