A prominent survivor of clerical child sexual abuse, Marie Collins, has reacted strongly to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin's statement that Pope Francis may not get time to meet victims during his visit here later this month.

The former Vatican adviser urged the pontiff not simply to meet vicitms' representatives but also address his failures to reform Church policy in the area.

Pope Francis is to visit Ireland on 25 and 26 August to attend the Catholic World Meeting of Families in Dublin and to visit Knock Shrine in Co Mayo.

Earlier clerical abuse campaigner Colm O'Gorman said the fact that a meeting between Pope Francis and survivors of clerical abuse was not being considered shows the issue is so far down the pecking order that it is of little regard to the Vatican.

Mr O'Gorman, who is also Executive Director of Amnesty Ireland, was speaking after Archbishop Martin said it would be "great" for the pope to meet some of the victims and abuse survivors but "the time is very tight". 

The archbishop said yesterday at the launch of an exhibition marking the first visit of a pope to Ireland in 1979 that Pope Francis will speak about various forms of abuse, not just clerical abuse, but abuse in institutions, mother and baby homes and Magdalene laundries.

Archbishop Martin said he has been pushing for the pope to meet a small representative group of people but "it is never easy" to do that.

Speaking today on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr O'Gorman criticised the Catholic hierarchy who he said had managed to organise their marketing, their merchandising, their licensing of the pope's image but appear "not a jot of attention has been paid" to the idea of addressing the tens of thousands of people in Ireland "who have been so traumatised and harmed by the rape and abuse of children and vulnerable adults that was facilitated by, and then covered up by the Church, including the Vatican."

"They haven't given a jot to how they're going to address that. I think that's isgraceful."

Mr O'Gorman said Pope Francis needed to take responsibility for the cover up of the rape and abuse of children globally led by and facilitated by the Vatican.


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The pope in Ireland


On Twitter, Mr O'Gorman called for people who have been affected by clerical abuse to attend a rally on Sunday, 26 August, at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin.

The pontiff will be welcomed by President Michael D Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin when he arrives in Ireland on 25 August.

He will also visit Dublin Castle and the Pro-Cathedral, before a private visit to the Capuchin Day Centre for Homeless Families.

He is expected at Croke Park at 7.30pm where the WMOF is being held.

On 26 August, Pope Francis will travel by plane to Knock for the short visit to the shrine before returning to Dublin where he will celebrate mass in the Phoenix Park at 3pm where some 500,000 people are expected.

Meanwhile, Ms Collins said she was not entirely surprised that Archbishop Martin said he was "pushing" the Vatican to have Pope Francis meet abuse survivors as it indicates there is a resistance by the hierarchy in Rome to such a meeting.

Ms Collins was also a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors until her resignation last year.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Miriam, she said the pope should meet survivors "not just as a PR exercise" because the revelations of what has since the last papal visit "have been horrific".

Ms Collins said the pope should be meeting representatives of the industrial schools, Magdalene Laundries and the Mother and Baby homes "simply as a recognition of those horrors".

She said her personal view is that the Vatican, and specifically its Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life that is organising the WMOF, are resisting this because they have the idea that "if we don’t talk about this issue there won’t be any attention given to it.

"They are delusional, because ignoring an issue is not going to make it go away."

She said that if the pope addresses the issue of abuse without meeting survivors the reaction will "very much depend on what he says".

If Pope Francis does not address clerical abuse at all during his visit "that would be shocking" and completely untenable, she added.

She also said the pope should not just repeat what has been said before but what he needs to do is to say what he is going to do about this crisis in the Church.

Ms Collins said she thinks the WMOF is the most appropriate place for this to happen.

She is scheduled to take part in a panel discussion during the WMOF on ‘Safeguarding’ but she said she will not give in to pressure not to discuss safeguarding in the Church and to focus on safeguarding in the home instead.

As the crisis in the Catholic Church deepens, Ms Collins said, the Vatican is like King Canute, thinking that by ignoring it, it will go away.

"It’s not going to go away".

She said that by not addressing the crisis properly and by not having the pope meet survivors or speak meaningfully about the issue, particularly in Ireland where the world knows the Church has been devastated by abuse, it would just be another sign that the hierarchy is so detached from the real world that they are irrelevant.

She said the pope needs to commit to firm actions and say what he is going to do to "stop this cancer in the Church."

Ms Collins resigned from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in 2017 because an accountability tribunal, which was proposed by the commission and approved by the pope, was blocked by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in Rome.

She said she does still take part in training new bishops on safeguarding and abuse in the Vatican but she says so little time is dedicated to the issue and many in the Church feel abuse is taking so much time away from "important matters".

She said that while she is still a Catholic, she has nothing to do with the institutional Church and she has no respect for the leaders and those at the top of the organisation because they are self-preservationists.

"Trying to save face and avoiding scandal is still their priority." Clericalism is all about "we know best, and we’re not going to listen to you", she said.