Past pupils describe life-long impacts of abuse and the need for healing and redress
Jesuits acknowledge the harm done through original abuse and the missed opportunities to reach out to past pupils who may have been harmed
The engagement between past pupils who were harmed, and Jesuits, begins a healing process which includes therapeutic supports, redress scheme and addressing unanswered questions
Jesuits and past pupils discuss the cultural changes needed in the Jesuit Order to show the lessons learnt and the need to protect children across the world
On 14th August 2023 an independent report titled “A Restorative Response to the Abuse of Children Perpetrated by Joseph Marmion SJ” is published by facilitators Barbara Walshe and Catherine O’Connell. The two-year restorative process began in April 2021 shortly after the Jesuit Order publicly named Joseph Marmion SJ, as a priest who had abused children in his care. The abuse occurred while the priest was a teacher in three Jesuit run schools (Belvedere College, Clongowes Wood College, and Crescent College Limerick) during the 1960’s and 1970’s.
The report on the process endeavours to shed new light on the role of restorative practice in creating a space where healing can commence for those who have been harmed.
Between April 2021 and May 2023, sixty-two people spoke or wrote about their experiences of abuse and/or witnessing abuse by Joseph Marmion. The abuse included physical, sexual, psychological and/or emotional abuse. Many spoke about their abuse for the first time and many only told their family members about their experiences as a result of the process.
The majority of past pupils, speaking about their experience of the two-year process, described it as a positive and meaningful experience. They valued being heard, being believed, having the support of their peers, the facilitators, and the past pupils’ steering group. The willingness of the Jesuits to take responsibility to engage in meetings with them, to respond to challenges, and to put in place a redress scheme and therapeutic supports quickly were valued.
One past pupil described the impact of the process;
“It [the process] helped me to extinguish experiences in my youth that were there in my head and now they are gone. I am freed of them. They don’t wake me up in the middle of the night and they don’t flash across my head at an unsuspecting moment.’’
Over 70% of Jesuits in Ireland took part in the process which they said provided an organised channel to face into the problem of abuse in their Order and demonstrate their unconditional support for past pupils.
They expressed shock, shame, and dismay at what had happened and found hearing and reading the testimonies of victims very difficult. Jesuits from all over Ireland and some from Europe participated in four days of group meetings to discuss how this happened, what enabled it to happen, what has changed and what still needs to be changed. They questioned the institutional, governance and leadership failures within their Order through the process and expressed profound regret at the delay in reporting the abuse, recognising that help could have been given to past pupils much earlier.
Speaking in the report one Jesuit said:
“Self-protection has been death for the past pupils and for us ourselves. We thank …, the Provincial…, and we thank one particular survivor for pushing us to go there. The process was a life-giving process for us all.”
Jesuits have committed to and are addressing other important topics brought up by both past pupils and Jesuits. These include publicly naming other credibly accused members of the order, how to manage unhappy Jesuits, and how to further help those who had been abused by Jesuits. The issue of confession as a situational risk for children globally is also being addressed.
The aim of this document along with honouring the voices of those that took part in the restorative process is to help other people who have been impacted by abuse globally.
Barbara Walshe firstname.lastname@example.org
Catherine O’Connell email@example.com
What is a restorative process?
A restorative process, where harm has happened, addresses the harm done to people in the past or the present and the needs arising from that harm. It often involves the people who were harmed telling what happened, the impact of what happened and what needs to be addressed, often to the individual or member of an institution responsible for the harm, to try to repair the damage.
You can find more information about the process and the final report here.