Irish Catholic bishops donate £9m to victims of abuse

Counselling agency for victims of paedophile priests to receive donation as church leaders attempt to ‘repair breach of trust’

Catholic bishops in Ireland have pledged £9m to support abuse victims through a counselling service, one of several initiatives to restore trust among their flock after years of damaging revelations about paedophile priests.

Towards Healing and Renewal, a 16-page letter from the Irish Conference of Catholic Bishops, outlines steps that Cardinal Sean Brady, archbishop of Armagh and primate of All Ireland, hopes will “repair the breach of trust that has taken place”.

They include the funding of Towards Healing counselling agency, which will provide an enhanced counselling service for victims and their families living in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Britain.

There will be additional child protection training and continued co-operation with police and social services over abuse allegations. Irish bishops will also fast once a month, on Fridays, to make amends for their failure to respond to the crisis effectively.

There will be, for the first time, dedicated spiritual support for victims who lost their faith because of their ordeal and want to work through this particular consequence of the abuse suffered.

Brady said: “As a result of the grievous wrong of abuse, for many survivors their faith in God and the church has been profoundly damaged.

“A colossal breach of trust occurs when a child is abused. If the abuser is a priest or religious then an even greater betrayal has been perpetrated.

“The mismanagement of abuse allegations by church authorities compounded this damage. As we continue on our journey of renewal, the church resolves to repair the breach of trust which has taken place. We ask humbly that we be given this opportunity.”

The report also marks the first anniversary of an unprecedented pastoral letter from Benedict XVI, who apologised to victims of institutional physical and sexual abuse in Ireland. He also announced an apostolic visitation – or papal inquiry – of Catholic dioceses and religious orders of priests and nuns.

Brady was one of the clerics under pressure ahead of the Vatican delegation’s arrival after it emerged he had kept quiet about a paedophile priest for more than a decade, despite knowing about the sexual abuse carried out by the late Father Brendan Smyth.

He was present at meetings in the 1970s where two abused teenagers signed vows of silence over their complaints against Smyth, a notorious sex offender jailed in the 1990s for child abuse.

Two official reports revealed decades of rape, coercion and sexual attack in Ireland by predatory clerics whose activities, in the words of one of the reports, were “obsessively” concealed by the church hierarchy.