An open letter to the Catholic Church, from victims and survivors of clerical abuse

An open letter to the Catholic Church, from victims and survivors of clerical abuse

following the publication of IICSA’s report into the Catholic Church on 10 November 2020

We want to thank IICSA for its report on the Catholic Church. We welcome its findings, highlighting the Church’s gross failings to protect children and others from abuse.

We are grateful that the Inquiry has exposed the Church’s treatment of victims and survivors when it comes to reparation and care, showing how the Church perpetuates an adversarial culture in their dealings with us.

The report clearly shows the Church’s lack of willingness and ability to change of its own accord.

There should be no comments or crocodile tears from Church hierarchy, saying this Inquiry report is a ‘wake-up’ call. The Catholic Church has been here before, with the Nolan Report in 2001 and the Cumberlege Report in 2007, both followed by broken promises and shocking inertia.

The Church has had victims and survivors hammering on its door for decades, pleading with it to listen to our cries for help, to stop the abuse of us and others, and to put proper safeguarding measures in place, a theme repeated in evidence given to IICSA.

Colossal amounts of charitable status Church wealth have been used to employ lawyers and insurance companies, to fight civil claims and to overpower victims and survivors, with tactics to put us off pursuing cases or speaking out, exploiting any legal loopholes they can.

Every effort has been going into protecting the reputation of the Church, its resources and focusing on providing care and support for our abusers, while neglecting us, the victims and survivors.

So many lives have been ruined and some tragically ended, not just because of horrendous sexual, physical, psychological and spiritual abuse, but by appalling cover-ups and a lack of action to protect us and others in the Church’s care.

While we recognise some changes and improving attitudes in a few areas of the Church, they do not go far enough. We very much hope that IICSA will be as hard hitting in its final report, when making more specific recommendations.

We believe there is clear evidence that there must be mandatory safeguarding reporting laws and an independent body to be made responsible for the oversight of safeguarding. Without this, there is little hope of meaningful change, when the Church has repeatedly failed to regulate itself, with catastrophic consequences for so many.

There must be an end to the damage still being caused by a dysfunctional Church, with poor leadership and legal barricades, that keep victims and survivors at arms-length. The immense harm the Church continues to inflict shows a complete lack of Christian values, which the Church publicly claims to live by.

Many of us were children when we were abused. For many of us, our abusers have now died, but we have the rest of our lives to live, carrying the damage and injury done to us. We are not here to be assigned to history and an inconvenient past that can be swept under the carpet. We are part of the future.

Nothing will cause us more despair than to be hearing more of the same, with a future inquiry a few years from now. This is not a time to read and reflect. It is an unconditional demand for change.

RC-A117; RC-A711; RC-A2; Eamonn Flanagan; RC-A343; Graham Wilmer MBE; Daniel Mackle; RC-A23; RC-A20; Caroline Meakin; RC-A37; Deirdre McCormack; Stephen Bernard, DPhil (Oxon); Chris Speight; RC-F1; Gerard McLaughlin; RC-F6; Mark Murray; Jim Kirby; RC-A8; Jeremy Harvey; RC-A5 & RC-A77.

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