By Pádraig McCarthy
The 2009 publication of The Murphy Report — the commission of investigation into the handling of allegations of sexual abuse of children in Dublin archdiocese — shook the people of Ireland to the core. The report harshly criticised Church personnel for not responding effectively to allegations of abuse and for not prioritising the welfare of children. The reputation of the Catholic Church had never been so low.
Commentators, journalists and even clerics praised the report for vindicating the claims of the abused and acknowledging the pain they had suffered. Immediately it seemed to achieve ‘infallible’ status. Critics demanded harsh treatment of the ‘villains’, who had ‘facilitated’ the abuse of children, who had ‘covered up’ the scandal.
The Murphy Report was devastating. Clergy of Dublin archdiocese had no voice, as the tsunami of public opinion overwhelmed them. When a number of bishops resigned it was seen as an admission of guilt.
In Unheard Story, Pádraig McCarthy challenges some of the assumptions and assessments of The Murphy Report. He puts the response of the diocese to priests who abused children into the context of the times. The diocese claimed that its personnel were on a ‘learning curve’ about child sexual abuse during the period from 1975 to the late 1990s. This was rejected by the commission of investigation but the author finds it entirely reasonable in the light of the experience of other agencies and other countries. He also contends that the generally accepted assessment that there was a widespread cover-up is not in accordance with the facts.
Unheard Story asks simply that justice and fairness should apply to all the parties involved.
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