One of the two Irish victims of clerical sex abuse who had a private audience with the Pope told him that senior cardinals involved in covering up child abuse should be removed from their positions.
Marie Kane, 43, who had never spoken publicly about the abuse she suffered at the hands of a cleric in the Dublin archdiocese, was one of two Irish survivors of abuse who met Pope Francis at his Vatican hotel yesterday. The Irish survivors were assisted by abuse campaigner and abuse survivor Marie Collins.
Two survivors from Britain and two from Germany also had individual meetings with the Pope which lasted approximately 30 minutes each. It was the pontiff’s first meeting with victims of clerical sex abuse.
Ms Kane, whose case was covered in the Murphy report into abuse in the Dublin archdiocese, said the Church needed to root out and remove people that covered up abuse of children.
“It was important for me to explain from a survivor’s point of view that it’s important; the Church needs to change. It can’t have certain cardinals in power — or a cardinal in particular — that covered up abuse and silenced victims.
“It’s very hard to think you could go back into a church that still has these people in power,” she told RTÉ.
Ms Kane, who is from Bray but lives in Carlow, said the meeting was a healing experience and that the Pope seemed genuinely sorry for what she had been through.
“I left it with him. Whether he can do anything about it or not, we will have to wait and see but he received me very well. There was plenty of time. There was no time watching, no one looked at their watches. It ended naturally, if you like, which was really, really good.”
“Yes, he was sorry for what happened. I felt it came from the heart. For other survivors, I don’t know how they feel but, for me, he seemed very sincere and very sorry and I think he realises he has a lot of changes to make,” she said.
In his homily at a private mass with the six victims, Pope Francis expressed “sorrow” for the “sins and grave crimes” of clerical sex abuse
“I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately,” he said.
However, other abuse survivors not at the meeting said the encounter would not ease complaints that the Vatican has failed to punish bishops and other prelates who systemically covered up the abuse of minors.
A German survivor advocacy spokesman, Norbert Denef, said the meeting was “nothing more than a PR event”. CEO of Survivors United Seamus Kelly also described the event as “another stunt” and asked why other survivor groups weren’t asked to attend.