Money is no compensation

The LA archdiocese of the Catholic Church is to pay an average of $1.3m (E940,000) to each of the 500 people involved in claims of sexual abuse.

Once this $660m settlement is complete the Church in the US will have paid TWO BILLION DOLLARS since 1950. It’ll take much more than a few extra collections at Sunday Mass to cover that.

I’m not bitter. I’m angry.

For decades perverted priests destroyed children’s innocence, irreparably scarring untold numbers of people. For some the trauma was too much and the ensuing depression and guilt — because many victims feel guilty — saw them take their own lives. I don’t think we will ever know the full extent of clerical sex abuse.

Head of the archdiocese Cardinal Roger Mahony told the faithful:

There really is no way to go back and give them that innocence that was taken from them. The one thing I wish I could give the victims … I cannot. Once again, I apologize to anyone who has been offended, who has been abused. It should not have happened, and it will not happen again.

These words are not enough. I am willing to accept they are sincere — even if Mahony’s reputation is tarnished by claims  he protected a priest who molested 20 children, including a nine-month-old baby (he says he did not know the man was a paedophile — but they still ring hollow given the scale of the issue.

Giving money to the victims, while certainly making their lives easier, can never compensate for abuse of trust and body. Besides, the Church isn’t even stumping up all of the cash.

Archdiocese attorney Michael Hennigan said:

The archdiocese will pay $250 million, insurance carriers will pay a combined $227 million and several religious orders will chip in $60 million. The remaining $123 million will come from litigation with religious orders that chose not to participate in the deal, with the archdiocese guaranteeing resolution of those 80 to 100 cases within five years

I don’t recall when the sex abuse scandals first came to the popular Irish consciousness. In fact I have been aware of it for so long there are times I forget it was not a problem isolated to my island nation.

Perhaps the most damning case was that of Ferns diocese. A report by the government identified more than 100 allegations of child sexual abuse made between 1962 and 2002 against 21 priests. It found the Church authorities failed to tackle the problem after they became aware of it, while the police failed to properly investigate complaints.

The inquiry also found Bishop Donal J Herlihy treated claims of sex abuse by priests in his diocese as a moral problem.

In his defence, I must point out that by 1980 he realised there was a psychological element; however, he still appointed these priests to posts for which they were unsuitable.

The worst cretin to have served in the diocese was Seán Fortune. This serial child molester, who killed himself in 1999 while awaiting trial on 66 counts of abuse involving 29 boys (although I can’t say they were all in Ferns), had a reputation for abuse since his days at the seminary. The 2002 BBC documentary Suing the Pope traced his legacy and ultimately led to the Ferns Report.

One diocese. More than 100 claims of abuse. I’m sure you begin to understand why I feel the true extent of clerical sex abuse will never be known.

These priests — and we should never make the mistake of thinking all priests would do this — were put in a position of trust and took advantage of it in the most horrific way they could.

The Church teaches forgiveness, but how can it expect these priests to be granted such a mercy? Should a victim forgive his abuser, he or she is a bigger person than I.

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