These disgraceful instances have been compounded by the official policy of the Catholic Church, which systematically covered up the actions of abusers in order to preserve the control and authority of the Church. By simply moving paedophile priests to other areas, the Catholic Church hierarchy facilitated the abuse of even more children.
However, this cover up didn’t stop at relocating the abuser. It also involved pressurising victims, some still children, into enforced silence about what had happened to them. Cardinal Brady procured signed vows of silence from two teenagers aged 14 and 15 to facilitate the cover up of sexual abuse by Fr. Brendan Smyth. Instead of reporting Smyth, this cover up allowed him to continue abusing until 1993 – 28 years after Cardinal Brady first uncovered Smyth sexually abusing children!
These confidentiality clauses were also extended where the victims had been willing to take the issue to court. In one case, in Brady’s own diocese of Armagh, Fr Joseph Quinn raped a woman in 1997. The case was settled out of court with no admission of guilt with the victim bound to silence. Under canon law, Quinn was stripped of the ministry – an obvious indication they were fully aware that he was guilty.
The hypocrisy of politicians like Martin McGuinness who called on Brady to “consider his position” while Sinn Fein has also effectively covered up cases of sexual abuse is itself nauseating.
What is needed is a full and open public enquiry with an end to all secrecy or confidentiality clauses on victims and their families. The notes and records of canon trials carried out by the Church should be handed over to this enquiry. Victims of abuse should be compensated for the trauma they were forced to endure. Compensation should be paid from the assets of the Church, not the state. Resignations of clergy involved in covering up abuse are not enough. Religious institutions should be kept separate from all public services and the state. While guaranteeing people’s right to religious freedom, services such as education should be run democratically by staff, parents and students, free from religious institutions.
UNITE – Lift the gag!
While the Catholic Church is being forced to lift the gagging clauses on victims of sexual abuse, the sacked Belfast airport shop stewards who fought a marvellous battle against their employer ICTS and their union leadership for justice, continue to be legally forbidden to speak out about their case after being forced to sign a gagging clause insisted on by Tony Woodley and Jimmy Kelly. Shop steward and Socialist Party member Madan Gupta, has now called on “Unite joint General Secretaries, Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson, to remove the gagging clause on Gordon McNeill, Chris Bowyer and myself and reinstate our right to free speech.”