Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bishop says he met up to 80 victims of sexual abuse

THE BISHOP of Killaloe, Dr Willie Walsh has confirmed that he has met 70-80 victims of sex abuse during his time as bishop.

Dr Walsh said the victims were abused by the religious and clergy and also lay people, inside and outside the diocese.

“I do believe that I tried every time to treat every victim with respect and kindness and sympathy and I do have a sense of their dreadful pain,” he said in an interview.

In January, Dr Walsh formally handed in his resignation letter to Pope Benedict XVI on turning 75 and the process to choose his successor is continuing with the diocese’s 100 priests recently voting on who should succeed him.

Accounts released last December confirm that the diocese of Killaloe has paid in excess of €1.8 million to victims of past sexual abuse since 2003.

Dr Walsh said he understood the anger and disappointment of people who had been loyal to the church over how the bishops had handled the issue of clerical sex abuse.

“On the other hand, people don’t realise how much we have done over the past 15 years. There have been a small number of further mistakes and of course one mistake is too many, but by and large all of us have been committed to following the guidelines.

“It is very sad the mistakes that have been made, but I do honestly believe that nearly all of those mistakes were made historically, back a long time ago.

“I do believe we have structures in place that as far as humanly possible that something like that will not occur again.”

Dr Walsh said it would take a long time to restore bishops’ reputations.“Someone recently said to me, ‘it takes years to build trust, you can lose it in a day’ and I think it is going to take us a long time to build trust again.

“The only way we can build trust is by being open, honest, transparent, admit our failures and obviously as church people we do believe in prayer in penance.

“I do believe in the long run that all of this is going to do good for all of us, not just for church, but all the victims of abuse.

“In the atmosphere we are living at the moment, I think a bishop can get 98 per cent of it right, but if you get 2 per cent of it wrong . . . you know.”

He added: “If a full audit of the diocese of Killaloe is done by the State, I do believe that a fair assessment would say that I have been faithful to guidelines and I have co-operated with the authorities.”
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