Margaret Kennedy

Margaret Kennedy PhD is a clerical abuse survivor and a highly qualified and sought-after expert on the abuse of disabled children. Irish, but based for many years in the UK, she is the founder of MACSAS, a support organisation for victims of clerical abuse.  The following pieces were composed by her at moments of deepest feeling.

Reflection on Forgiveness at 1 a.m.
For Kevin and for All Those Gagged by Bishops
Words Alone
Call for Action
Growing Up


Reflection on Forgiveness at 1 a.m.

The following prayer was written after I was on a Christian Radio programme where two speakers essentially said God demanded of us total forgiveness, including from rape victims. Their theology insisted it was by God’s Grace we can forgive, thus implying we failed if we did not have God’s Grace. The fact God chose who to give this ‘Grace’ to angered me because I don’t believe God operates like this. They implied we had to ASK for that Grace and of course if we didn’t ask we fail and God withholds. There was little discussion about Justice, reparation or anything to do with the sex offender. (AS usual). They also discussed that asking for compensation was a failure to forgive. What a dreadful thing to say when victims are seeking justice and a way of reclaiming their life.

At 1am before going to bed I wrote this prayer. It cannot be right for Christians to pontificate about what Christian survivors should do. They have not ‘been there’. I felt it was judging, and putting good Christian survivors on a guilt trip and shame trip, not least with a fear of God. No one should make another fear God. I totally believe if we love and do no harm God will save us and be with us. He/She does not ask the impossible. Forgiveness has been used by Christians to judge and instil guilt and shame. It has been used as a tool of control and power, it has been used to exonerate the accused, it has been used to allow others to not feel the pain, “you forgive and we can all rest in peace”, it has been used as an easy option by Christians who think it’s easy to do. It has been used as a weapon against severely hurt often damaged people. I absolutely believe that this trenchant simplistic “we have to forgive” is NOT God’s directive. He/She understands our inner turmoil and understands what efforts we make to live as best we can under often intolerable hurt. How dare ‘Christians’ tell hurt people what they SHOULD do. The speck/plank in your eye comes to mind.

“Father, forgive them, they know not what they do”

Let us bring Peace not guilt or Shame

Dear Lord
As I sleep tonight let my thoughts
and feelings penetrate
the hearts and minds of those
who in their rigid theology
pierce the souls of your wounded
with guilt and shame.

Dear God
As I sleep tonight give comfort
to all those Christian survivors who
listened to the Christian Programme tonight
and felt fear of you for not forgiving.
Bring them your love and show them
the essential things in life
not least to LOVE themselves
to heal themselves
and do the best they can.

Dear Lord
As I sleep tonight
may all those victims who in their heart
struggle with forgiveness
yet know and feel the barbs of rejection
and criticism of fellow Christians
and fear replaces the
gentle loving arms of yours
let them sleep and sleep
their fears and pain away tonight
waking refreshed to know
your presence and your love.

Dear God
as I sleep tonight
I vow to always bring peace and love
not criticism to my fellow survivors.
Forgive me for the times I’ve failed
Forgive me if I get it wrong
Forgive me for any lack of Love.

Dear God
I know you made me and my fellow survivors
in your likeness
I know that we are special to you
I know that we are here for some purpose
let us all continue in our work as
you continue your work in me.
Instil in us a confidence and pride in
our bravery and spunk,
knowing you are delighted with us
and knowing
you seek our rest
until we rest for ever
with you.


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Three weeks before Christmas 2007 the long-awaited inquiry into widespread abuse by Brothers of Charity in Galway was released by the HSE. The victims were all intellectually impaired. There was little outrage. The Irish Times confined their report to page 6, preferring other issues of no real interest. I imagine what a learning disabled victim might say.

WHSE (10 years to complete report)
Ireland (where is the outrage?)

made me
I am nothing

Compared to TD’s pay
Sattelite broadcasting (Front page Irish Times one day after report broke)

Who cares
About ME

Why am I not front page news? (Ferns reached front page)
but reach only page 6
Please explain that to me?
I don’t understand

Is it not important
that I was
sexually abused
locked away behind big walls

Am I less than you
less than roads (Newstalk cancelled piece to report on Toll rds)
less than
TD’s pay?

Does my brain
offend you
does my body
offend you
does my plight
offend you


The Irish Times – page 6
Newstalk 106 – Toll Roads

hide me
yet again

Page 6

I know my station
I am Nothing

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For Kevin & For all those Gagged by Bishops

Dear Bishop

Why do you ask me to be silent?
Why do you gag my mouth, my mind, my soul,
my hurt, my pain, and my feelings?
…and…The truth
Why won’t you let me speak?

What are you afraid of?

That your sex offender brother
May spill the beans if you don’t
Gag me?

Whose reputation do you protect?
The church? God?
My abuser, your priest?
Or yours?
(Certainly not mine).

Why bind me up when bound so dreadfully as a child?

Capture me
As he did then

Can you sleep in bed tonight?

When God said,
“Love my people”
All you did was hurt me
Silenced my voice
The mark of all humanity
Unique to us
Enabling troubled souls to seek others
And speak of torments past

You deny all that…

When God said “Be Honest, true and faithful and speak of my name”
You chose a path of corruption
And made God’s children suffer, silently,
Rather than offer sanctuary or
You chose to disobey God
And you will be judged

And I will finally,
Be At peace.

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Words Alone

(This is addressed to all Church leaders who say fine words but take no action.)

Words alone do not break the ice around my
My soul
The pain encased
The harm therein
From years ago
From your own

Words alone skim past my ears shut fast
From endless mouthing of false tales
And lies
And subterfuge
At that time and now
From you
From your own

Words alone make no sense to a mind
Confused and
Lacerated by the devastation
Of your own
As he laid in and
All you did was move him on
…Your own

Words alone cease to have power
When power and words are
Manipulated to sustain
Your own
And yours

For ever

Words alone can smother and comfort truth
For many in the pews
And your own
And yours

But me
Cannot be comforted by words
For words hid the truth

For your own and yours

Not mine
Yours…and your own

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A Call for Action


For us
For them

Spirit filled


Gospel Teaching
Brings justice

Is hard
And blessed

Forget the sermons,
The letters
The spin

For us for us

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Growing Up

When I was a child I thought I’d never grow up
I thought Grown-ups were bad and nasty
They argued, they screamed they sulked
They were jealous, they were angry
They were vicious and violent
My grown-ups were not nice

I wanted to stay a child
And not grow up
I wanted a family and found one

The Church

This family smiled and cooed
As you walked through the door
Everyone wore his or her best
We sang with joy
We proclaimed God’s love
We prayed
We helped each other
We followed


Papa ‘God’ organised Church
He decided
He arranged
He planned
He did
He said
He wore the garments
Of power
Of colour
Of grandeur
Of Kingship
Of ‘God-ship’


Told us what to do
How to do it
When to do it
When not to do it

Would not hear challenge
A point of view not his own


Only Papa

Was right.

We were children and we did not grow up.
We were infantilised
Shaped into small humans not big humans
And small humans have small brains
And small hearts
And small thoughts
Small Ideas
Small Power

Papa wanted it that way
Papa needed it that way
Papa liked it that way
Papa could only function as Papa
And the children could only function as children

Mama God
My God in heaven
Showed me how to grow big
Big Heart
Big Soul
Big mind
Big mouth

And big mouth was big
And loud
And challenging
And smart
And no longer a child
I knew

I knew why Papa
And Big Papa in Rome
Wanted children

Children who would not grow up
And Papa and big Papa
Could feel good
Safe…..Because Papa & Big Papa were afraid….very afraid
Papa and Big Papa are the children
Who never grew up
Small mind
Small heart
Small thoughts
Small ideas
Small love

Big Power
BIGgggggggg Power

Papa and big Papa
Are dangerous
Small minds
Small love
Small ideas
Small heart

And biggggggggg power

Leads only in one direction
Down to hades
And beyond
Where there is no light, no love
No sense
No pity
No humility

This is what we see today
Papa and Big Papa
Not on the throne of God
But on the thrown of Hades

One thing I know
I shall not be holding Papa’s hand again
It’s dangerous
And frightening
And unsafe
And cold

Mama God is better.
Mama god is safe

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friction burns and burns deeply,
like an arrow through the heart
it makes one bleed and
frightened all at once

Conflict scares the scared
and scares the child of long ago
It seeks to shatter safety
that cocoon of warmth and snugness
grown out of need from time before
in a world filled with conflict

Friction and conflict are reminders
of childhood fears and memories
but now they serve as
not intentionnally brewed to fill a storm of anguish
but rather to carry one forward on one’s journey


new connections with
tolerating human beings
…all messy and difficult

Our thoughts
our ideas
our beliefs are honed on the anvil
of others disdbelief and criticism

deep faith grows deeper still
pushed as we are
to reflect on the challanges
and make our own mind up regardless
of others

So dissent serves it’s purpose in
taking us where we have not gone before
accepting opinions never heard before
and as we rock on the sea of galilee in a boat far from sufficient
Jesus says
why are you afraid
and calmed the sea

and we are not drowned but saved
and we do not lose faith but grow
and we make amends so we can be community again

to continue to challange
to offer some dissent
like the grit in the oyster shell that
in its agitation the
oyster surrounds with pearl

we are growing like pearls
with the grit inside
one day (that grit)
will reap rewards and a pirl of geat price
will evolve

Be scared not of the grit
or dissent
or others views

Your journey is not theirs
and theirs is not yours

But each will render a pearl
one day
and Jesus
will be happy

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