Languages
Page last updated at 17:57 GMT, Friday, 26 March 2010

Vatican defends Pope: Victims' voices

Cross in St Peter's Square

The Vatican has come under increased pressure in the face of charges that the Pope failed to act against a US priest accused of abusing up to 200 deaf boys two decades ago.

The leadership of the Catholic Church has responded by attacking the media, saying the claims were an "ignoble" attack on the Pope and that there was no "cover-up".

Here, three alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests, who contacted the BBC, tell their stories and give their opinions on the latest allegations surrounding the Church.

FRANCIS HUGHES, 62, LINCOLNSHIRE, UK

Every day I think about my experiences, particularly as it is now in the news so much.

I suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest in the 1960s when I was serving as an altar boy.

All that time I kept it secret, too ashamed to come forward until three years ago when I went to the police with my complaint.

I had waited until my father died, as he never knew about it.

But the police were unable to take any action, because it was my word against the priest in question.

I have, through the Friends Reunited website, managed to contact one other male friend from my school who was willing to testify and did speak to the police.

However, because his abuse took place in Lourdes, in France, by the same priest when we were on a school trip, the police "could do nothing". My abuse happened in Cheshire and in Lourdes.

Pope Benedict XVI
The Vatican says the claims represent an attack on the Pope

One other boy, I believe, was also abused but refused to become involved for fear that his family would reject him. Others have clammed up about it. I wish more would come forward.

This priest is still free and has denied everything.

The issue of abuse is never going to go away until it is addressed properly by the Church.

At the centre of this issue for me is celibacy. I would like to see priests being allowed to marry. Denying males sexual activity is ridiculous and just contributes to the problem.

The Church is like a sinking ship, almost going under while it puts its head in the sand.

There is a drip, drip, drip of more and more cases coming out and the buck stops with the Pope.

He has been guilty of cover-ups as a Cardinal, but has never volunteered that information.

The Vatican now has to get its house in order and admit that its whole outlook has been wrong over many years.

It needs to come clean and open up. That would gain it a lot of respect.

I also believe the Pope should resign in order to shake things up even further and the Church should appoint someone who can carry out the necessary changes needed.

There will be more and more cases coming out and it is not going to go away until there is an admission of guilt from the top.

DAVID O'SULLIVAN, 41, NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE, USA

I was a normal teenager growing up in Dublin, Ireland. I played football every Sunday and went training on Saturdays.

I had an older friend with whom I used to go to the pub. He hung around with an older guy.

One night I had a little too much to drink and the older guy gave me a lift, taking me to his house first.

Before I knew it he took off my clothes. When everything was over, I ran, literally, all the way home.

My friend and I decided to talk to our priest about it.

Arthur Budzinski, 61, a former student at St. John's School for the Deaf in St Francis, Wisconsin
Deaf US victim Arthur Budzinski says the Vatican was aware of the scandal

Our local priest seemed cool, willing to hang around with the younger lads and interested in the same stuff.

We went to his house. My friend talked first and he seemed very interested.

My friend had to go and I talked to the priest a little more. Then he raped me.

This happened when I was 14. I spoke about this for the first time three years ago.

I got the strength to tell my family a year later. I am now 41.

There is little comfort in this except that he took his own life.

I think the Pope is tainted and cannot recover. His letter to Irish Catholics last Sunday was self-serving and patronising.

It showed a fundamental lack of understanding or any desire to take action.

By not acting, the figures of authority in the Catholic Church should be considered guilty by association.

The Church's plan seems to be very clear - they say sorry, but do nothing of substance.

There needs to be action that says: 'We are sorry, we let you down.'

Anyone aware of what was happening who did not report criminal activity to the police should be dismissed immediately.

If you were involved, you have to be prosecuted.

I have a two-year-old daughter who loves to go to church. She goes with her mum because I refuse to go.

I would like one day to feel something towards the Church again. My bitterness would go away if there was concrete action.

If the Pope resigned and admitted his personal failings as a mark of respect to all victims of abuse, I would consider going to church on Sunday morning again.

But my guess is that will not happen.

PAUL BANKES, 54, NEWCASTLE UNDER LYME, UK

I was abused for a few months when I was about seven-years-old by Father John Tolkien, a Catholic priest in the Midlands who had been shuffled from parish to parish.

I told my parents at the time, but they didn't believe me. I don't hold it against them, it was the 1960s, and they didn't know what to do.

Years later police investigated him, but decided it was not in the public interest to prosecute him because he was so old and ill. He died in 2001.

The Church should now do the right thing in the eyes of the public: hold a full investigation, if anyone needs prosecuting do it, and then move on

I have no axe to grind against the Catholic Church. I'm a fallen Catholic, but that's nothing to do with what happened to me as a child.

If the Pope was still just a Cardinal I'm sure he would have fallen on his sword by now, but the fact he's at the top means there's more covering-up going on for him.

If he did cover up paedophilia and came out and spoke about it, perhaps people would see it in a better light. As it is, there are people with knives out for him either way. He's in a no-win situation.

I just hope that these days if people in similar positions of responsibility suspect paedophilia, they would be brave enough to do something about it.

I think the Church should now do the right thing in the eyes of the public: hold a full investigation, if anyone needs prosecuting do it, and then move on.

I think this will happen, but not immediately. It will be easier if it's done over a period of time. If the Church has a massive purge now, it might not show them in a good light.

Also, the trouble with purges is that innocent people also get accused.


NOTE 8 April 2010: Father John Tolkien denied that he had committed any sexual abuse.



Print Sponsor


RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2013 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific