Facing the reality of the past with hope

What a wonderful picture on the front page of today’s Courier. To see Phil Nagle with those beautiful ribbons blowing in the breeze at St Patrick’s Cathedral filled me with hope.

Taking down ribbons, even if displaying them in a 'coffin' where passing public won't see them, will not lead to being able to wash our hands of this issue and get on with it. Most victims and their families and friends no longer enter Church grounds and are certainly unlikely to use the 'garden' as a place to meditate. Taking down the ribbons adds to the pain experienced by victims and their families. It implies that we are still not listening, that we still don’t believe them. It must stop. I felt so disheartened by seeing the bare fences on Tuesday that I tied some in the church itself. I felt too sad to start again on the fence without support. Then on Wednesday the ‘ribbon warriors’ appeared, and I joined them, together with many others, in tying new ribbons to the Cathedral fence.

It is time for all Catholics to acknowledge what has happened in their church and to stand up and be counted; to show support to all those affected by child sexual abuse especially by Catholic priests and religious.

I have friends and relations who wake up every day and their children are not there and never will be because they were unable to live with the ongoing pain and trauma the abuse caused them. I have friends who suffer depression, mental illness, inability to work and whose daily lives have been destroyed by what happened to them.  I also have uncles and an aunt who were priests and a nun, and a brother who is a priest, and cousin, a nun.  I know the majority of religious are good people but the attempt to hide and cover-up crimes and the facilitating of those crimes against the most helpless of our flock was, and is, completely inexcusable. 

I have no intention of leaving the Church at this point in time although I have given it serious consideration and I certainly understand why so may have ditched anything to do with church. I am as Catholic as any priest, brother, nun, bishop, cardinal or pope and will stay and be vocal in an attempt to influence the church to make the necessary changes to make this Catholic Church what Jesus intended because, sadly, it is not that Church at present.

The Royal Commission was a start. It recognised the evil which had taken place and exposed the awful practice of moving paedophiles from one place to another after complaints had been made against them. This was as evil and criminal as the paedophilia itself. It caused the continuation of the abuse which could have been stopped by appropriate action, e.g. informing police, sacking or disbarring the offender etc.

Now action needs to be taken.  It will take years, if not decades, (if ever) to rebuild trust in the Church and her leaders and, as far as I can see, I, and others, will never again implicitly trust anyone or anything just because the church says so or the clergy tell us. This loss of trust has caused severe trauma, overwhelming distress and unbelievable pain to many parishioners and many who can no longer attend or be part of what they see as a hypocritical and uncaring organisation. 

What must be acknowledged is that the victims were members of the Church or those whose parents sent them to church schools believing them to be safe places.  It was their parents, grandparents and forebears who built and supported these buildings. They are as much owners of the church, its grounds and its fences as any member of the clergy or any currently practising Catholic.  These were children, the most vulnerable of the flock and they were abused, lied to and not believed.  The ribbons on the fence say to them that they are believed, they are supported, and this must never happen again, ever.

For those cutting down ribbons from the fence at St Patrick’s Cathedral you need to stop.  Face up to the reality of what has happened and to the fact that the idea that we can just ‘move on’ is, to say the least, unchristian, lacking in empathy, downright cruel and completely unrealistic.  Moving on cannot happen until we see change in the church, until we see victims and their families receiving the support they need, until current churchgoers insist that change occurs because, as the Courier quotes 22/2/18 ‘those who seek to silence the past are doomed to repeat it.’

Cut out cutting down the ribbons if you proclaim to be Christian or Catholic, look at the reality of what has happened.  Victims were not listened to; their protests were not heard. For God’s sake don’t continue to do this. Hear their voices, listen to their pain and act accordingly. Tie up some ribbons to show your support. Jesus must indeed be turning in His grave at your actions.


Anne-Marie Joyce, Sebastopol,