Cautious optimism as abuse survivors react to Vatican summit

Cautious optimism as abuse survivors react to Vatican summit Damien O'Farrell. Photo: Frank Mc Grath

Despite an “enormous amount of urgent work” still needed to protect vulnerable children according to some Irish abuse survivors, they feel the Vatican abuse summit was a worthwhile endeavour.

Dublin councillor Damian O’Farrell said he felt positive about the openness and honesty of many cardinals as well as the Pope during the four-day meeting which ended on Sunday.

Having met Pope Francis along with other victims of abuse in August during his visit to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families, Cllr O’Farrell said Francis spoke of the need to end clericalism, and that the power and authority endowed to clergy was the root of much of the evils in Church.

He said: “I feel that the summit was called in part to bring his cardinals and religious order leaders together to put them into the service mode that he spoke about and this was positive.”


However, certain religious orders are still “excessively adversarial” in dealing with survivors and the mentality of Church prelates in some countries are still endangering children, he warned.

“I do believe that Pope Francis and the likes of Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin have a genuine desire to rid the Church of the scourge of clerical sexual abusers and the members of the hierarchy that have covered up and protected them,” said Cllr O’Farrell.

“While progress is to be welcomed, unfortunately on a worldwide scale I don’t believe there is the necessary urgency within the Roman Curia, College of Cardinals, and the hierarchy to effect the changes required immediately and many, many children will have their lives destroyed.”


It was “alarming”, he said, to hear an African cardinal during the opening address say the incidence of sexual abuse of children in Africa is minimal.

“I believe that this type of thinking is putting children’s lives at risk and needs to be addressed by Pope Francis today and not tomorrow.”

Denis Cairns, an abuse survivor from Derry, was “optimistic” after the summit, despite feeling Pope Francis didn’t go “far enough” in apologising to abuse victims during the summit.

Speaking about institutional abuse, and the structures that facilitated it, he said: “I think it’s going to be nipped in the bud, any allegation even if it’s false or credible has to be dealt with straight away with. It’s to help our future generation of children, I don’t want children to suffer what I’ve suffered for the years to come.”

He added that although safeguarding policy in Ireland is “good”, follow-up with abuse survivors to check their wellbeing must happen at least once or twice a year.