Keep the Faith, Change the Church.

Ireland's Child Protection Board Chair to Speak about Clergy Sexual Abuse Scandal at VOTF 10th Year Conference

NEWTON, Mass., Sept. 1, 2012 – The chairman of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland will present his views on the similarities and differences between child protection efforts in Ireland and the United States and on reform within the Roman Catholic Church to help prevent clergy sexual abuse during the Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful® 10th Year Conference, which takes place in Boston, Sept. 14-15, at the Marriott Copley Place Hotel.

John Morgan, NBSCCC chairman, will speak at the conference on Saturday, Sept. 15, at 8:45 a.m.

Morgan will open his remarks with a call for solidarity between Ireland and the U.S. on the clergy sexual abuse issue. “Among our common interests are the challenges of protecting children and young people from abuse in our communities and the need to heal our Church through developing a culture of accountability,” he will tell the gathering of reform-minded Catholics, many of whom have been with VOTF throughout its first decade.

While comparing and contrasting child protection procedures between the two countries, Morgan will explain the effects of the four public inquiries into clergy sexual abuse instituted by civil authorities in Ireland. “The scandalous revelations of the four civil authority commissioned audits …,” he will say, “so destroyed the credibility of the institutional dimension of the Church that nothing less than a full examination of all files under the control of the bishop or congregational leader dealing in any way with child abuse was warranted. The precedent had been set in the governmental enquiries. Nothing less would suffice for survivors of abuse, for priests and lay faithful.”

He will caution conference attendees to be on guard constantly “against the issue of complacency—or what you describe in the U.S. as ‘charter drift.’ We need to make sure this doesn’t happen through vigilance.”

Morgan will call for spiritual renewal to reform the Church. “The Church can survive persecutions from external forces, but the greatest threat is from within—the sins and failings of its members,” he will say. “And the catastrophe of the clerical abuse crisis, of course, has come from within. Profoundly evil at root, it clearly manifests the abuse of privilege and power in all its varied forms, including spiritual abuse. For me, the most apt description of what we have been dealing with is False Witness.”

He will declare that, in spite of the considerable amount that has been accomplished by charters and review boards, this is not enough to avert the crisis. “To counteract this False Witness in which the institutional Church has been engaged and to ensure it never recurs,” he will claim, “our whole way of living the Christian life must be configured to live lives of true witness. We do this by responding to the call to revitalize and purify our faith, letting ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit, thereby giving impetus to his pastoral action.”

Similarly, VOTF’s mission remains “to provide a prayerful voice, attentive to the Spirit, through which the faithful can actively participate in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church.”

Morgan was appointed a director of NBSCCC in Ireland on its establishment in 2007 and chairman in 2009. He served as chairperson of the Bishops’ Committee on Child Protection from 2002 to 2006. Prior to that he had been a member of the committees established by the bishops dealing with child protection since the first formal Bishops’ Committee on Child Abuse, to which he was appointed in 1999. As a corporate lawyer, he served as group counsel and group corporate secretary for the worldwide Waterford Wedgwood Group from 1985 to 1999. His main pro bono work has been as board chair, since 2002, of Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, a major Catholic voluntary acute hospital in Dublin under the patronage. In 2009, he was appointed vice-chairman of The Dublin Academic Medical Centre. He was awarded a bachelor of divinity in theology degree from the Pontifical Faculty of Theology of the Milltown Institute, Dublin, in 2005.

Morgan will join other speakers at VOTF’s 10th Year Conference who are well versed not only in the Church’s clergy sexual abuse scandal and its effects, but also in the clericalism exhibited by the Church’s hierarchy, in the theological and doctrinal underpinnings of Church teaching, in the effects the reform movement has had on Catholics and the Church and in what the future may hold for these issues. Speakers include:

  • Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, who served for two years as chair of the National Review Board of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops;
  • Rev. Donald Cozzens, author, international commentator and lecturer on religious and cultural issues, especially on the Church’s sexual and financial crises, and writer in residence, John Carroll University;
  • Prof. Thomas Groome, theologian, author and Department of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry chairman, Boston College;
  • Rev. James Connell, Canon lawyer, pastor in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and advocate for clergy sexual abuse survivors;
  • Jamie Manson, lay minister and award-winning columnist for National Catholic Reporter; and
  • David Clohessy, executive director, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

For conference information, click here.

Voice of the Faithful®, www.votf.org: Voice of the Faithful®, which started in 2002 in outrage and dismay that the Church’s power structure had kept clergy sexual abuse of children secret, is a worldwide movement of concerned mainstream Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in governance and guidance of the Church.

Contact: Nick Ingala, 781-559-3360 Office, 617-291-3495 Cell, nickingala@votf.org