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Abuse 'no more prevalent among clergy'

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A Roman Catholic bishop has said that the problem of child abuse is not restricted to the church.

Donal McKeown, Bishop of Down and Connor - Ireland's second-largest diocese - told the Today programme that people have become more conscious of the reality of abuse. But he added that "it's not more prevalent among Catholic clergy than any other part of the population.

"I think what we are experiencing here, is our society coming to terms with that and we are very much in the vanguard of coming to terms with the reality of child sexual abuse and allowing the state's law to be dominant," he said.

The bishop was speaking as Pope Benedict is expected to apologise for decades of child abuse by priests in a long-awaited letter to Irish Catholics to be published this morning.

Groups representing victims say that the Pope also needs to acknowledge the role of senior clergy in covering up the scandal.

Marie Collins was abused in a children's hospital in the 1960's in Dublin, told the programme that she wanted to hear "an acknowledgement that there was a church policy of secrecy and cover up which allowed children to be abused after the church had knowledge of abusing priests".

Ms Collins also said that she wanted the Pope to accept the resignations of the Irish bishops which have not yet been accepted.

And she added: "I think what we will see is condemnation of child abuse and apologies for the actions of the abusers but I'll be very surprised if the Pope actually acknowledges the policy which was in place for so many years."

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