Beyond Belief: Amnesty, the Catholic Church and child abuse

Today a little more is told of the shocking truth about the role of the Catholic Church in Ireland in the endemic physical and sexual abuse of children and its systematic cover-up. The Child Abuse Commission report tells of how church officials encouraged violence and shielded paedophiles.

I heard my colleague Colm O'Gorman, Director of Amnesty in the Republic, on Radio 4 this morning telling his moving and powerful story. He has now published a book, Beyond Belief, of that story, which he previously visited in a BBC Panorama documentary.

As a fourteen year-old boy, Colm was one of those child victims. As a man, he became a survivor who took on the Vatican, successfully sued the Church in Ireland, had the Papal Nuncio clinging to his diplomatic immunity and helped force the resignation of the Bishop of Ferns. There's a lot more in this interview from the Herald.

The publication today of the report into the Church's involvement in the physical and sexual abuse of children in Catholic-run institutions is a testament to the work of Colm and many other survivors. Another report next month is due to focus on the abuses carried out by priests in parishes.

In human rights campaigning, we believe in shining the powerful light of truth into the dark corners of abuse.

In his life, Colm O'Gorman has managed to do that already in challenging Ireland's most powerful institution. As Amnesty's Director in the Republic, he continues in that vein. I am proud to call him a colleague.

UPDATE: Amnesty's official response just released and not yet online:

“Today’s report is a catalogue of the greatest human rights abuses in the history of the State,” said Amnesty International Ireland Executive Director Colm O’Gorman.

“The responses that need to be heard above all are the responses of those who lived it.

“We cannot allow ourselves to dismiss this report’s implications for Ireland today. Along with a whole raft of other measures, the Government must fulfill its obligations and commitments to introduce constitutional reform in this area.

“Unless the most fundamental law of our state demands that we place children’s rights and children’s dignity at the heart of decisions about their welfare they will remain at continuing risk of abuse and neglect, under the radar of the state bodies who are meant to protect them.”

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