Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse in Ireland want their accusers to be identified in writing according to the liberal group, the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP).
During a meeting with the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church the Association put forward a series of changes in guidelines for those stepping aside from ministry after being accused of sexual abuse.
The Association, a voluntary organization, now represents over 1,000 Irish priests and they believe it is the priest’s right to know the name / names of their accusers. They are also asking that the way the news of an accusation is conveyed to the priests be changed.
However abuse survivors have a different view.
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Marie Collins, an abuse survivor and a member of the Lynott Committee which drew up the child protection guidelines “Our Children Our Church” said these changes would deter victims from coming forward.
She told the Irish Independent, “It has to be remembered that an abuser has a great deal of power over a victim; the fear of their abuser's anger at being exposed is very real for a victim."
She said the accused would know the name of their accuser as the investigation continued, “It should not be at this very early stage."
Collins said the guidelines for “Our Children Our Church” were drawn up under guidance from a senior police official. They had advised that “if the name of the person making the allegation is given to the accused at the first meeting there is a grave danger this will interfere with a subsequent criminal investigation”.
She also advised that if these changes were made they would lead to the accused priest attempting to influence or threaten their accuser.
The Association also told Elliot that announcing that priests were stepping aside from the ministerial role at Mass should be changed. They said this “almost inevitably leads to the priest being considered guilty”.
The group wants the clergyman to be told of the accusation by a religious superior in a supportive atmosphere, in advance.
They also raised concern over cases where accusations are made but the alleged victims refused to pursue the matter or make a statement with the police. They said, “In this situation the priest can be removed from ministry and left in limbo for many years."
Collins recognized that his situation must be difficult for the accused priests but said “some victims just cannot face what a trial would involve.”