VOTFI does not have the resources to provide expert counselling, legal or medical support for survivors. The support we can give is limited to befriending survivors and trying to ensure that they have a voice in making the Catholic church a safe and compassionate environment for all.
Our membership includes survivors of clerical sexual abuse, and of other forms of church abuse, in Ireland. Their participation in everything we say and do is vital.
Survivors need above all to know that the church that injured them is capable also of coming to their aid through people and priests of integrity, and will never be the same again. They need to feel part of a vital movement for radical change of our Catholic church that will make it impossible for it to be said ever again:
“Bishops placed the interest of the church ahead of children …
This is what the Ferns report said of two former bishops of Ferns in 2006, and subsequent reports on Dublin (2009) and Cloyne (2011) made the same finding. The same could be said of literally hundreds of Catholic bishops across the Catholic world. So far, there has been no adequate explanation for this – because no bishop is allowed to admit that the church’s governing system is inherently dangerous and in need of radical change.
This is why survivors need to be part of a global movement to change our church. Resistance to changes that would make bishops fully accountable to their people is very strong, especially at the heart of the church, in Rome. It wasn’t until early 2009 that a senior Vatican official stated the same principle, but that principle has not yet been actuated in the diocesan system of government in Ireland
Survivors also need to feel valued and esteemed by their own local communities, so that any lingering memory of the self-blame that was so often placed upon them by their abusers can be finally removed.
Voice of the Faithful exists to meet this need also. Healing demands that all survivors should have an opportunity to tell their stories in a safe environment, and it is our long-term aim to create this environment in the church at local level.
We have also established an online forum for survivors, enabling them to share experiences with one another and learn from one another.
Our ultimate objective is a truly wise and caring church, capable of deploying all of the resources for healing that were called for by the Catholic bishops’ document ‘Towards Healing’ of 2005. We have also taken strong action to move the church to find a way of providing adequate and safe spiritual care for survivors.
Having already benefited from the wisdom of some survivors, we expect to learn a lot more from others as we grow. Our church has so far undervalued the wisdom that many lay people gain from their experiences of the pain of life, and undervalued also those lay people who have been harmed by its servants. VOTF aims to change this, forever, and to bring the wisdom of lay people fully into the life of the church.
So awful has been the devastation caused by sexual abuse and subsequent administrative abuse by servants of the church that there can be no future for it if it continues in denial about the need for radical change. We in Voice of the Faithful are determined to end that denial by continuing to monitor the church leadership, pointing out the deficiencies of an approach that too often amounts to no more than window-dressing and ‘spin’.
Those survivors who first took action to reveal this malignancy of clerical abuse to the wider society need to know that they have already ensured that things will never be the same. Our intended memorial to survivors will be that future generations will say of them: