Extend abuse probe all over, say priest and abuse victim

Story by Tom Kelly

Thursday, 3rd December, 2009 12:13pm

A Navan area parish priest has called for the Commission of Investigation into clerical abuse in Dublin to be extended to all dioceses in the country, declaring that if this was not done, the subject would continue to come up for the next 20 to 30 years.

Fr Martin Mulvaney, PP, Johnstown Parish, said that it would be "grossly unfair" to victims of abuse if their suffering was to be "regurgitated year after year", adding that he felt an extension of the remit of the commission nationwide was now warranted.

Meanwhile, a Trim resident who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of two Christian Brothers in an industrial school, said he felt vindicated by the findings of the Murphy Report and also demanded "a complete trawl of every diocese in the country so that we can root out this cancer in our midst". However, Michael Clemenger, who has written a book about his experiences - 'Holy Terrors' - said that while he wanted abusers to be "exposed, named and shamed", he did not see any point in jailing people.

"I have forgiveness. You can't live on the stale bread of hate. If you think on some positive lines, there is some redemption. I know that some people haven't been able to discard the misery clothes of their childhood," he said.

In a response to the Murphy Report, the Bishop of Meath, Dr Michael Smith, issued a statement last Friday saying that the diocese had, over recent years, worked very closely with the HSE in putting in place trained child protection representatives in all parishes. Progress reviews were taking place at regular intervals during the course of the year between diocesan and HSE personnel, he said.

"The diocese has shared and continues to share with the HSE all information in relation to concerns that arise in the area of child protection. The advice of the HSE is followed in setting up reporting procedures for which the diocesan delegate and parish representatives have been trained by HSE personnel. If a complaint arises, the diocese gives its full co-operation to the Gardai."

Bishop Smith said that if anyone had a child protection concern, disclosure or allegation, the diocese asked them to come forward so that children could be safeguarded and that healing could begin.

Fr Mulvaney said that he had spoken out at 9.30am Mass in Walterstown on Sunday because he felt strongly that an inquiry by the Commission of Investigation into clerical abuse everywhere was warranted.

"It is warranted because it's something that's going to keep coming up if we don't deal with it. It's unfair to victims if it has to be raised year after year. A nationwide investigation would maybe give us the opportunity to start again somehow," he said. He added that he knew Cloyne diocese was carrying out such an investigation at the moment and he had heard a Dublin bishop making a similar reference in the past few days.

One parishioner at the same Mass on Sunday said that some people in the church applauded when Fr Mulvaney came to the end of his homily. "There was a bit of a stunned silence but I got the impression that people were interested in what he had to say. I think people appreciated his honesty and the way he put it across," said the Massgoer.

Michael Clemenger's book tells the story of his childhood in a number of religious-run children's homes in the 1960s. As a baby, he was handed over "to the unloving care of a religious-run children's home" and, aged eight, was transferred to St Joseph's Industrial School in Tralee, Co Kerry. He writes that, in that institution, he endured years of sexual abuse by two Christian Brothers named Price and Roberts. He says that even their "protection" did not save him from "merciless beatings at the hands of other sadistic brothers in the notorious institution".

He said this week that rather than concentrating just on the abuse as many previous first-person accounts had done, his memoir showed how he was able to survive, and how he ultimately went back to school, university and became a psychiatric nurse. He also met "a wonderful woman called Mary" and married her.

"When the Murphy Report came out, I was utterly shocked by it but not surprised. When I went to the Gardai in Kerry in 1967, they accused me of lying. When the report told how the police were involved in the cover-up, I wasn't surprised. The report was so forceful in exposing them. A lot of these people sacrificed us children to save their own reputations," he said.

"The 720 pages of that report meant vindication to me. The peculiar thing about all this is that I have come across people in my own life, middle-class people, who don't want to believe any of this. I came across one man whose illusions about the Catholic Church have been shattered, he was almost on the point of tears."

However, he has no illusions that the Murphy Report will bring about change. "Look, the Ryan Report has been forgotten. The Murphy Report will be forgotten in a few months. We have the budget coming up, we have the floods upon us. People won't want to know about it because it will mean they have to reflect on the values in their own lives. When I spoke to one priest about it, he couldn't look at me straight, he was looking at me sideways as if he was hearing confession. Then he said to me 'that was then, this is now'. I have vindication at last but no hope because people's memories are so short," Mr Clemenger added.

Another conversation with a nun about abuse of children was the spur which prompted him to write his book. "She said to me that she thought that these complaints of abuse were all a conspiracy by communists to bring down the Catholic Church. I asked her did she ever meet one of the abused and she said 'no'. I said to her 'you're looking at one now' and she replied 'but, Michael, you look so normal'".

He went on: "At the end of the day, I want to put forward a positive outlook because I have the idea of survival, not victimhood. I believe I didn't want to write a misery book. It turns people off.

"I was relatively successful in my life. I have a family and a wife who saved me at the end of the day."

Mr Clemanger singled out Minister for Transport and Trim TD Noel Dempsey, who, at the weekend, launched his book in Antonia's Bookstore, Trim, for special praise.

He said that the minister had been very supportive of him over a long period, something he "really appreciated".

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