Clergy sex abuse victims and advocates have blasted a Vatican cardinal who suggested Catholics need to “exit” the pedophilia crisis otherwise the “huge cloud” will “suffocate” the Church.

Driving the news

Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery, or department, for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, made the controversial comments in an address at the autumn conference of the Association of Leaders of Missionaries and Religious of Ireland (AMRI) in Dublin.

Turkson said he personally came to a greater understanding of the impact of the clergy sex abuse crisis during the 2012 International Eucharistic Congress and the 2018 World Meeting of Families, both held in the Irish capital.

During the 2012 event, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin offered repeated apologies for sex abuse in the Church.

But Turkson confessed he “thought it was too much”.

“I thought he [Martin] was making this huge cloud hang over everything”, the cardinal admitted.

He added that although he sympathises with victims, “now we need to find a way of exiting this experience, [because] otherwise it will suffocate us”.


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Go deeper

Clergy sex abuse victims took to Twitter to criticise Cardinal Turkson for his comments.

“If Cardinal Turkson wants an ‘exit’ strategy, he should recommend the Church institute a transparent process of accountability for negligent/corrupt bishops”, said Marie Collins, an Irish survivor and former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Collins also suggested Turkson and the Church “deal with the huge backlog of abuse cases lingering in the CDF [the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in the Vatican], put in place universal mandatory reporting to civil authorities [and] stop fighting the extension of statutes of limitations”.

She added that the Church should “put in place strong normative child safeguarding policies in every country, stop the use of pontifical secret in abuse trials and implement REAL zero tolerance in all cases of a guilty perpetrator – just for a start…”.

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Why it matters

Another Irish survivor, Colm O’Gorman – Executive Director of Amnesty Ireland and founder of the One in Four charity for adult victims of clergy sex abuse – said Turkson ” is a prime example of why the institutional church will likely never recover from the collapse caused by its cover up of the rape and abuse of countless child and vulnerable adults”.

“They don’t get it, because they won’t. They do not care”, O’Gorman denounced.

“By contrast, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has shown enormous compassion, courage and humility in his efforts to fully and properly address the cover up”, he continued.

“It’s a tragedy that [Pope Francis] and his fellow bishops don’t have the same courage and integrity”, O’Gorman lamented.

English survivor Mark Stephen Murray also tweeted:

“How can the Cardinal apologise too much? Lives and families were destroyed by the abuse and the systemic cover up of the abuse by many in the Church”.

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For the record

Cardinal Turkson has a history of making controversial comments about the Church sex abuse crisis.

In 2013, for example, he linked abuse to homosexuality, when he said: “African traditional systems kind of protect or have protected its population against this tendency [to the abuse of minors]”.

“Because in several communities, in several cultures in Africa homosexuality or for that matter any affair between two sexes of the same kind are not countenanced in our society”, the cardinal explained.

In 2018, Turkson also said all priests could not be tarred with the same brush of sex abuse.

“We cannot throw away the linen with the dirty water.

“We have to do something to recognize that there are bad priests, but there are also good ones”.

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