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Thursday, 2 May, 2002, 16:39 GMT 17:39 UK
Viewpoint: A victim speaks of his ordeal
The scandal has shaken the Catholic Church
The scandal has shaken the Catholic Church
Robert, an American, was sexually abused as a child by a priest in the US. He talks to BBC News Online about the physical and mental scars he has borne for more than 30 years.

"Sexual abuse by a Catholic priest perpetuated on a child is not only a violent violation of the mind and the body it is also a rape of the soul.

Pope John Paul II has spoken out against abuse
Some considered the Pope's statement insubstantial
"Few people can begin to comprehend the damage of having to suffer abuse at the hands of a person whom the rest of the adult world sanctifies, and enshrines.

"For all the evil and bad things in the world you learn that this man is the only one who can make things right, forgive you your tiny sins.

Fear of authority figures

"Why in the world would a child believe that he or she is remotely in any type of danger? Most often the child cannot even comprehend sex.

"The result: The abuse continues for a period of time with irreparable damage to the development of the mental and physical health of the child.

"For me personally, there have been 30 or more years of drug and alcohol abuse, excessive sexual promiscuity and failed relationships. There was also the fear of authority figures and the inability to complete tasks form the simplest like laundry to completing an education.

Preventable

"I abused my body in ways that I still find difficult to mention today. The weeks of hospital stays, hours of therapy, at times I was insane.

"I would wish on no-one the life that I have gone through because of one perverted man.

"What is preposterous is that all of this may have been preventable.

"Others in the Catholic Church knew what this priest was up to. They knew that this priest was having sex with children.

"But they cared more for keeping the actions of this priest secret and cared more for his mental health than the health and welfare of the abused child.

Pope's statement

"When reassigning paedophile priests, those in authority hand-picked the next group of defenceless children that would be preyed upon.

"The world will never know the untold horror and pain their anger, avarice, envy, gluttony, lust, pride, and sloth caused.

"Their actions cannot go unpunished if not for the living but for the dead, for the children who did not survive and chose suicide as their only way out.

"On 23 April, Pope John Paul II in all his wisdom and prudence said sexual abuse of children is wrong and rightly considered a crime by society.

"His statement - considered strong words by some - was considered by many as insubstantial, feeble, and personally insulting.

"Pope John Paul's void of leadership and total lack of compassion is by far the clearest sign that there must be an overhaul of leadership in the Catholic Church, starting at the top.

"Now, as we wait for American bishops to consider a policy of zero tolerance sometime in June, lawyers for the Archdiocese of Boston have actually asserted that negligence by a six-year-old boy and his parents was cause for the alleged abuse."

See also:

29 Apr 02 | Americas
New Yorkers' test of faith
29 Apr 02 | Americas
Brazil cardinal questions celibacy
25 Apr 02 | Americas
US press: Vatican must go further
25 Apr 02 | Europe
Paedophile priests face expulsion
24 Apr 02 | Americas
Analysis: US cardinals get message
16 Apr 02 | Americas
US cardinal welcomes Pope talks
28 Apr 02 | Americas
Scores of US priests forced out
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