Bishop Brendan Leahy and other attendees at the Safeguarding conference held at Mary Immaculate College recently Picture: Keith Wiseman
THE IMPORTANCE of safeguarding the young and vulnerable cannot be underestimated and the Limerick Diocese cannot relax in the belief that the worst is behind it when it comes to abuse, the Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy has warned.
Failure to respond appropriately to abuse allegations harms the lives of victims, Bishop Leahy told delegates at the ‘Building Collaboration in Safeguarding’ conference held at Mary Immaculate College.
The Limerick Diocese is currently in a “stronger place” when it comes to tackling abuse, he said, adding that there is range of services in place, with “very active” training programmes ongoing.
“The greatest danger for us is that we might relax and believe that the worst is, in some way, behind us,” Bishop Leahy said.
“To take this view would be a profound error which would compound the historical failures.”
Bishop Leahy pointed to the #MeToo social media campaign which millions of people have joined in recent weeks.
“Women and men denouncing harmful sexual experiences. Many are revealing for the first time, via social media, their own stories,” Bishop Leahy said.
While the majority of those sharing #MeToo stories are adult women, he obsoerved, a large number of the shared stories reveal sexual abuse that began when the people were still minors.
“People of my generation began our adult lives with almost no awareness of the pervasiveness and impact of abuse in our society and in all societies,” he said.
As a consequence, he said, the failure to recognise and respond appropriately to the complex issues which abuse presents, has compounded the profound and harmful impact on the lives of many young and vulnerable persons.
“At one point in trying to tackle the issues, we began speaking about child protection.”
Safeguarding is not just about children but people of all ages and abilities who are vulnerable to predators, the Bishop added. “Sometimes however, it seems as if all of us, all of society, can want to simplify this issue and move on.”
“To stay with an awareness of the pervasiveness of abuse and those dark parts of our human nature and the tendency to exploit weakness and vulnerability, may be almost too much.”
Bishop Leahy said that from his own meetings with victims, he was critically aware of the impact of abuse on them and their families.
“This can impact on all dimensions of their lives and there are no quick or simple solutions to what are sometimes their lifelong struggles. I am also very conscious of the strain on people working in voluntary organisations as they struggle with what at times seem to be enormous limitations on resources.”
The conference was organised by the Diocese of Limerick in association with An Garda Síochána, Tusla and the HSE.