Fears that new service for abuse survivors will flop

Lack of consultation with survivors in set up of service

Fears have been expressed that a new spiritual support service for survivors of abuse might fail before it gets off the ground because of a lack of consultation with survivors.

Last December the Irish Bishops’ Conference announced plans to launch Towards Peace, a “spiritual support for those whose faith in God and in the Church has been affected by their experience of sexual abuse” co-ordinated by Sr Mary Whyte. This service was one of the priorities listed in the bishops’ pastoral response to survivors of abuse published three years ago, ‘Towards Healing and Renewal’, and was in answer to requests from survivors struggling with their faith voiced at a number of meetings with bishops.

In March 2012 a group of five survivors met a delegation from the bishops’ conference at Manresa House in Dublin to specifically discuss the setting up of the new service, but this group has never been contacted again and members were surprised by the announcement that Towards Healing will now be launched this year.

Mark Vincent Healy, one of the abuse survivors who attended the meeting, told The Irish Catholic there “was no further engagement with survivors since that meeting”. “This was a very beneficial and interesting initial meeting and those who made the effort to attend find it strange and are greatly disappointed that it did not continue,” he said.

“Towards Peace is a good initiative but if you’re not engaging with survivors pre-launch then it lacks credibility.”

Marie Collins, who met with Sr Whyte individually, said there was a perception that the bishops’ conference had “decided to discard survivors who were willing to work with them and to set up a service without survivor’s input”. “It is quite hurtful to offer help and then hear nothing,” she told The Irish Catholic.

“Every survivor has different needs – no one knows better than a survivor what they need. If they just launch this service without consultation, I don’t know the chances of its success. It is starting off on completely the wrong foot.”