Colm O'Gorman: Why The Pope Needs To Acknowledge Cover-Up Of Abuse
Colm O'Gorman is best known as the Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland and the founder/director of One in Four, as well as for his campaigning on the marriage equality and Eighth Amendment referendums.
He has also shared his story of sexual abuse by Father Sean Fortune when he was a teenager, which resulted in him becoming homeless at 17 and ultimately suing the Pope.
Colm says: "I was 13 and living in Wexford, and the church was in every part of my life. I went to a Christian Brothers school, I was in a liturgical group. Everything we did revolved in some way around church."
He was approached by Father Sean Fortune, who he describes as "a dynamic young priest", who wanted his help with setting up a youth group in his parish. He was sexually assaulted by Fortune, which went on for nearly three years.
He felt unable to tell anyone due to the "blame and self-loathing" that he felt, as the priest told him that he was at fault.
At the time, the attitude was that "sexual abuse didn't happen, priests didn't do this kind of thing, and I very quickly blamed myself for what was happening."
Colm ran away to Dublin aged 17 to escape the abuse. When he started to find his feet again he went to London, where he stayed for eight years. It wasn't until his late twenties that he says he "started to stop running, and when you stop running things start to catch up."
"With my family's support I came back to Wexford in 1995 and reported what had happened."
Colm found out that Father Fortune had abused many other children over the years, and that the church had known about this before he had even been ordained. Complaints had been sent to the Vatican, but nothing was done.
Fortune managed to get the case adjourned on the basis that he wasn't fit to stand trial. A week later he ended his life.
Colm kept on with civil actions against the Pope, and in late 2001 he made a film with the BBC called Suing the Pope. Ahead of Pope Francis's visit this month, he feels the church needs to admit to facilitating and covering up the abuse of children.
"The Vatican has been at the heart of this cover-up for decades and no Pope has ever acknowledged the truth. They've expressed their sorrow and regret at the harm caused but they've never acknowledged their responsibility."
Colm says regret is very different from "taking responsibility for heading an institution that facilitates that and has covered it up, and that's what the Pope needs to acknowledge."
"The truth matters, and until we acknowledge that, we can never understand what we need to learn from the past and how we're going to move forward and not repeat those mistakes."
Colm is hosting Stand for Truth, a public event to express solidarity with those who have been abused by the Catholic Church, at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin's Parnell Square on Sunday 26th August at 3pm. See the Facebook event page here.
To catch the full chat press the play button on the image on the top of the screen