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 Read your comments Friday, 22 March, 2002, 18:12 GMT
Suing the pope: Your comments
For members of the local community to be satisfied that there own children were not involved in such heinous acts displays utter hypocrisy and no compassion or understanding for those families who children were abused. For those children who were abused but did not feel they could turn to their own families for support it is impossible to imagine how they must have felt or coped. They need all the prayers we can muster to support them in their action.
Michael M. Wade

Congratulations on exposing the horrors experienced by the victims (and their relatives) of Fortune, and the egregious Comiskey. I have written to the bishop to express my horror and disgust as a Roman Catholic and former citizen of Ireland that this institutional corruption still escapes the civil law.
Joseph G. O'Kane

One can only wonder with horror at the numbers of people who have been sexually abused

Frances Sheldon

One can only wonder with horror at the numbers of people who have been sexually abused throughout the centuries within an organisation so powerful that it is, seemingly, beyond the law.
Frances Sheldon

I would like to say what a brilliant programme BBC made. The people who spoke out, were far stronger and less cowardly than either Comiskey or his gutless priests, especially Fortune - they spoke articulately, and with the programme makers, will, hopefully, give that smarmy bishop a few sleepless nights.
Jean Boyle

The church has become an easy target

RT, Bedford

I thought the programme on Tuesday was sensationalist and displayed a poor level of journalism. Whilst I do not condone what Fr Fortune did, the church should not be blamed. Both he and his victims deserved care. You state that there is no evidence that alleged victims' suicides were connected to Fortune, yet you infer that they were. Your view that Fortune's suicide "deprived victims of justice" was callous.

You should point out that only a tiny number of priests have offended; probably no greater than any other profession and certainly fewer than the incidence among social workers. Child protection has been hijacked by political interests and some of the professionals in the field have some very suspect backgrounds. The church has become an easy target and I do suspect an agenda in some cases.
RT, Bedford

I enjoyed your reportage of the above last night. As far as I am aware there was just one inaccuracy in your report. There were three factors that played a part in the disappearance of Bishop Comiskey from his diocese: his alcoholism, Father Sean Fortune and related media pressure, and a very public difference of opinion which he was having with the Council of Irish Bishops regarding a comment he made about married clergy at some future time.
Bernard Corbett

We went to this town in about 1984, where we were greeted warmly by the priest, Father Fortune. We went as part of a Youth Exchange programme. There was no indication that any of our group were abused by Father Fortune and we found him to be hospitable and in our young eyes, "cool". It was interesting that he had complete control over the town - nothing was done without his agreement and even the parents appeared in awe of him. I can see now, as a trained and practising social worker in child-care, that he had perfected the art of "grooming".

My heart goes out to all of the people that we met and stayed with. The town was so hospitable and welcoming and it comes as a real shock that such a dark secret was being harboured. It indicates to me just how difficult disclosure can be for child victims of sexual abuse. I know it may not be possible - but if the good wishes of myself and some of the others who came on the trip could be passed on to the town I would be most grateful.
Jo Laur, Plymouth

I just wanted to congratulate you on your show about Fr Fortune. Really excellent and about time that particular case was highlighted for the scandal it was and I really hope that the Catholic Church finally has the decency to acknowledge their wrong doing.

I wish to express my horror, shock and sympathy for all the victims of the sexual abuse that was highlighted in your Correspondent programme of 19th March. Words cannot express how I feel for those young men and I'm ashamed to call myself a Catholic. My admiration to each and every one for telling their story in the hope that someone may eventually be held accountable.

Thank you for making the program on Fr Fortune - the whole affair stinks to high heaven - we here in this country have had our heads in the sand for too long regarding the holy Catholic Church.
Jim Melody, Dublin

What a relief to see this subject being highlighted. I wish Colm O'Gorman every success. The Catholic Church is a disgrace and, as far as I am concerned, the more victims of abuse that sue this Institution the better. How can the Pope, who is supposed to be Christ's Representative on earth, tolerate such behaviour? We all have compassion - these "priests" are sick so they should be pardoned, defrocked and medically treated. Certainly they should never be allowed to continue in areas dealing with young, vulnerable children. Bishop Brendan Comiskey in a position of high responsibility is as guilty as Fr Fortune for being flippant and turning a blind eye.
Louise Fernie, Co Galway

I wish to swiftly register, with Sarah McDonald and the others involved, my anger and astonishment at what was a truly despicable programme. You have, wilfully and deliberately, distorted what happened to suit your own agenda. I sense very strongly that the programme was full of distortions, lies and half-truths. Fr Sean Fortune was either one of two things: a lunatic or a devil. I will leave it to God to judge Sean Fortune because only God is competent to do so. As regards Bishop Comiskey, I know for certain that you have deliberately misrepresented and defamed him. I regularly go on holiday to Wexford. I have many friends there. Bishop Comiskey is a man who takes this issue very seriously and who cares about those who have suffered abuse. I know for a fact that Bishop Comiskey has had many positive and healing encounters with victims of Sean Fortune. If you were fair and impartial in presenting the whole issue of child abuse and the Church, you would have given a more balanced picture of this distressing reality.
Joseph Kelly, Belfast

There are thousands of similar men

Gabrielle Lowe

Congratulations on your well-researched programme. The clarity and honesty of the four courageous victims came across as a "beacon of light" in a horrible, dark history of abuse. There are thousands of similar men, abused by Catholic priests and brothers, living here in England. They feel isolated from a system which, in March 1998, publicly invited them to come forward and tell their story. Now, four years on, records have mysteriously gone missing and cases blocked. Your programme has thrown a lifeline to all - both in Ireland and throughout the world. Mrs Fitzpatrick's grief symbolized for me the effect on families of child sexual abuse, the parents whose trust was betrayed. Her bravery will also help those women whose husbands thought they could suppress the memory of the abuse and now grieve silently as they try to love and support them.
Gabrielle Lowe

A great programme! Congratulations. As an Irish person I feel ashamed that our authorities have not got the courage to prosecute the bishop. In France the bishop of Evereux is in jail for not reporting a crime - that of abuse of a minor.
Barry Mahon

It is so important for the people of Ireland and the world to realise by speaking out this will remove the power these individuals can have in keeping victims secretly involved in their twisted and perverted lifestyles. These things have to be brought into the open so that the children of today realise that if similar things are happening to them they can own up immediately and prevent further harm coming to them.
Michael Bell, London

Just a note to compliment the BBC on a great documentary last night .This kind of exposure is long overdue and is to be praised. I personally know a guy that has been through the same hell as the people on the show last night and it has left a lasting scar on him. What you have done can only help us to flush these rats into the open once and for all. Well done BBC and keep up the good work.
John O'Sullivan

How does the Catholic Church get away with this? I'm a Catholic who believes in God but has always never trusted the church as it is run by "man", and as we now know and have often suspected, "man" can be corrupted and is unfortunately fallible. To think that they could have been so powerful and untouchable in a small local community does worry me. Even more so that the men in charge i.e. the bishops would let themselves be open to possible blackmail by the corrupt priest due to alcoholism etc. It seems the church is not only hurting the parishioners but also letting down their priests who do need genuine help and not locking up the priests who should be locked up. I would like to know if the abused men are successful in their claim. I wish them the best of luck.
Richard, UK

Your excellent documentary last night on Father Sean Fortune brought back many painful memories for me. Not that I was one of Fortune's victims - at least not in the paedophile sense. I clashed with him in 1994 over his commercial activities and the experience had a profound effect on the way I now view the Church & State in Ireland. Once again, the BBC goes where Ireland's "national broadcaster" RTE seems afraid to tread.
Nigel Cooke

I was very moved by "Suing the Pope" last night, aired on Correspondent. I just feel so unbelievably sickened (but not surprised) by the actions of Fr Fortune and the subsequent silence of Bishop Comiskey et al. Under the circumstances, I'm not sure whether I am supposed to say well done or rather thank you, for producing such a hard hitting story which I hope will encourage other victims to speak out. I admire Patrick Jackman and Colm O'Gorman for having the courage to participate and tell their story. Again, thank you for allowing these men to tell their story.
Tanya Klujin

I think this should also be broadcast on RTE

John O'Connor

Thank you for producing a very disturbing programme on this issue. I think this should also be broadcast on RTE. I remember many of the circumstances of this, as I also went to St. Peters School around the time that Fr. Fortune was a seminary student there. I consider myself extremely fortunate that I wasn't abused, as I had a lot of contact with one of the other priests there, who was also subsequently convicted of sexual abuse. What disturbs me particularly, is the fact that the practices of the other priest were "well known" in the school - a comment he made in my last year there indicates to me that our local GP was well aware of his activities. He was rumoured to give the sex education classes to the boarders and I particularly remember the "biology" classes he gave, and the advantage he took of our puerile interest in sexuality etc.
John O'Connor, N.I.

I found the programme "Suing the Pope" very insightful last night. I myself am Colm's age and knew him when he lived in Wexford town, before his abuse by Sean Fortune started. In fact Sean Fortune went on to become our parish priest when he was moved to Clonard in Wexford. While living overseas I had heard about the case against Sean Fortune and it came as no surprise. It was a shock, though to realise last night that someone I knew was so badly abused by him. While the residents of Fethard-on-Sea may continue to remain tight-lipped about the whole episode - no doubt feeling profoundly guilty that they did nothing to protect Colm and the other boys - I wanted to register my support for Colm and Pat Jackman.
Siobhan Fahey

A marvellously researched & directed programme. Well done Sarah McDonald. One hopes that the programme will have helped many young people to disclose abuse which has happened to them and to perhaps start to understand that "it wasn't their fault".

When will we, the people of Wexford, of Ireland, be willing to finally stop handing the power to the Church to continue to act in this way? Through our silence, we too contribute to the denial and the cover-ups of these crimes, which rob young people of their innocence and destroy their lives. It is time to stand up for truth and justice, to honour and support those who have suffered at the hands of the Catholic Church. Sarah McDonald and all those who so bravely spoke out on the programme have shone the spotlight on this issue - let's hope that the light keeps shining on it until justice is done.
Ann O'Gorman, Wexford

I cannot say how angry I felt towards the Catholic Church en masse (!) after watching your programme this evening. It made me feel so powerless against an arrogant body who have misused their powers for so long now. I married into a catholic family and could never understand the powers that the Parish priest had over my husband's family and others like them. What can be done to bring down this dreadful Comiskey and all his complacent superiors? What they have done over the years by sitting back and letting these dreadful deeds go on, are, I feel, a kind of terrorism against humanity. They are no better than Bin Laden and his followers.
Jill Shields

This programme screened tonight rang similarities to the story a couple of years ago about Fr. Brendon Smyth. Have the churches such an egotistical view that they are above common law that applies to the rest of us? European law should stipulate that no one is above the law, because after all we are all human, in the cloth or not. What disappointed me the most was that the programme was on so late in the evening. This should have been screened a lot earlier to have the maximum impact.

The end of your programme has left a very sour taste in my mouth knowing that Father Fortune has gone without punishment and that the bishop continues in his post. I wish to all those victims that have sued the bishop, the nuncio and the Pope, every success in bringing down all the guilty participants. Correspondent, continue with the good work.

What an excellent, well-produced programme, but, why on earth do you have to put this programme out at 11.20pm? I never go to bed before midnight but most of my intelligent friends seem to be in bed before Newsnight let alone stay up till after midnight.
Fred Wachsberger

Patrick Jackman you are a strong and courageous man, I admire you for having had the courage to speak out about your experience, from such a young age. I am moved because I had similar experiences at a time when I was a devout Catholic teenager. I am now 34 and have still not been able to disclose to my parents the experiences I endured as a child. I would be interested to know if there is a register of priest child abusers. I am still concerned that the priest who abused me is still actively abusing children he may have access to. A very constructive and moving programme.

I became Catholic in 1999, however, I believe the Catholic Church is handling this wrong as there are some sins even St. Paul tells us are so grave they can only be rebuked publicly and openly. The sacrament of Penance (Confession) may prevent a sin being publicly disclosed by the priest but it does not mean those who have suffered abuse should not bring the matter before the courts. My thoughts and prayers go with those abused, their families and the victims who have killed themselves. I truly believe that no paedophile priest (or any other paedophile) will be able to escape the supreme law court of Jesus Christ.
Brian Gregory

Congratulations to Ms Macdonald and the whole team on a quite brilliant expose on the paedophile priest. It captured the confusion and hurt of the flock at the way they were ignored. By their deeds, ye shall know them... Wholesale theft, buggery, cruelty to children ...all have been papered over by senior churchmen whose first allegiance is to Rome, not the law of the land in which they live. Their arrogance is unbelievable. Please don't stop exposing these cases. No religion should be allowed to prey upon the loyalty and love of their congregations. They attack faith in a way that Satan would find hard to better.
Terry Houston

Keep up the good work - we mustn't be afraid to point the finger when it is the right thing to do.
Michael Ronan

I would just like to ask why the editor chose to say something that was designed to mislead concerning the fact that reports of abuse should be sent to the Vatican, who would then decide in secret what would be done. The narrator said that the Vatican did not state that local authorities should even be contacted, with the "clear" implication that this was a further attempt at covering up the crimes being investigated. However, this instruction by the Vatican was only a clarification of existing internal disciplinary rules and in no way attempted to hush up any alleged abuse. The words used in the programme may have been accurate, but they were spun so as to imply something else.
Mark Coley

As a lifelong catholic I am horrified by the behaviour of my church at all levels up to, and including, the Pope. That a monster like Fortune could be tacitly supported by the bishop in particular is beyond belief, it is even more gross that the same bishop still ministers to his diocese! The fact that the same bishop has needed treatment for alcoholism just makes the whole sordid episode that much more disgusting. Words fail me!! My faith is sorely tried, if it survives at all it will be despite the clergy and not because of it - how very sad.
J. Lorimer, Colchester

I have just seen your programme and having grown up in Ireland (luckily, not experiencing what happened to the boys in the programme) I think that it is high time that the Catholic Church in Ireland is made to account and repent for its sins. Please, please get RTE to show this programme to the Irish People as they need to understand who the Church really is. Yes they have wised up but every Irishman and Irishwoman should feel some guilt and shame for giving the Church this power in the first place. Well done to you. I was shocked and informed.
John Scanlon, London

Please send my thoughts and good wishes to Colm in his battle to sue the Pope. There must be so many Catholic children who were abused and degraded by those who had power over them and wore the vestments or habits given to them by those, in turn, in power. I know he will win because he has right on his side.
Doreen Milne

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