Call for “Abuse memorials” in churches
Bid to force Church to face up to the truth of its “clerical sex abuse”
A call for “Abuse memorials” in churches is being made in the British press.
It is being hailed as a bid to force the Church to face up to the truth of its “clerical sex abuse”.
Says Kevin Gallagher, Farnham, Hampshire, it would be seen as “a refusal ro airbrush from church history some of the most shameful and destructive events in its past.”
He praises the Abuse memorial in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Koekelberg in Belgium.
“Inside a simple glass box,” he says, “stands upright an emptyinfant’s pure white dress. The symbolism is lost on no one.”
At the initiative of victims, the Mensrechten in de Kerk work group and Cardinal Jozef De Kesel, there was an installation ceremony for the memorial “Esse est Percipi” (To exist is to be recognised).
The work is dedicated to the memory of all victims of sexual abuse by Church members.
More than 150 people attended the ceremony, including many Church representatives.
The memorial, which was paid for by victims and victim’s families, is a child’s white dress.
It is similar to other statues in Antwerp and Bruges, and symbolises destroyed childhood and fragility.
It was unveiled during the installation ceremony.
Linda Opdebeeck, the President of the Human Rights within the Church workgroup (Mensrechten in de Kerk), and someone from the association gave speeches in the name of the victims. They said although the beginning of their involvement with the Church was traumatising, they were able to appreciate the Church’s progressive acceptance of the severity of the incidents.
This acceptance had started to forge a path to reconciliation.
Tournai Archbishop Guy Harpigny thanked the victims for not giving up until they were heard, as it allowed him to stop denying what was going on and stop living as if he knew nothing about it.
“Hearing how they have suffered shows the pain of being destroyed by someone who has betrayed their commitment to God and the Church. Speaking about their suffering highlights the harshness of the cult of silence imposed on them”.
Cardinal Jozef De Kesel talked about the work that has been done to handle the issue. The Church is and feels morally responsible for the abuse.
“We have been able to recognise the evil done to them. We have been able to ask forgiveness. We have been able to compensate them, which is a necessary sign of our recognition. Otherwise it would have been nothing but empty words”.
He concluded his speech by saying he hoped “today would be the moment to recognise and remember victims of sexual abuse within the Church, and our desire to break the cult of silence and destroy it forever, to make sure this doesn’t happen again”.
Afterwards victims and Church representatives met in small groups to discuss how to take the work forward into the future.