In 1975, no State or Church guidelines existed in the Republic of Ireland to assist those responding to an allegation of abuse against a minor. No training was given to priests, teachers, police officers or others who worked regularly with children about how to respond appropriately should such allegations be made.
Ireland and its people have much to be proud of. Yet every land and its people have moments of shame. Dealing with the failures of our past, as a country, as a Church, or as an individual is never easy. Our struggle to heal the wounds of decades of violence, injury and painful memory in Northern Ireland are more than ample evidence of this.
May God forgive us for the times when we as individuals and as a Church failed to seek out and care for those little ones who were frightened, alone and in pain because someone was abusing them. That we did not always respond to your cries with the concern of the Good Shepherd is a matter of deep shame.
With others, I feel betrayed that those who had the authority in the Church to stop Brendan Smyth failed to act on the evidence I gave them. However, I also accept that I was part of an unhelpful culture of deference and silence in society and the Church, which thankfully is now a thing of the past.
Today, Church policy in Ireland is to report allegations of abuse to the civil authorities. It recognises the Gardai and H.S.E. as those with responsibility for investigating such allegations and that any Church investigation should not take place until the investigation by the civil authorities has been completed.