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Mixed Reaction To Church Protest by Abuse Victims

Irish Independent, Monday November 25 2002 by Ben Quinn and Brian McDonald

THERE was a mixed response from massgoers yesterday to silent protests by victims of clerical sex abuse outside cathedrals around the country.

Protesters outside Dublin's Pro-Cathedral said they were greeted with politeness although organisers of the picket in Galway admitted that they had encountered a mostly negative reaction.

Parishioners were handed leaflets stating 'No Representation - No Donation,' which urged them to think before making offertory donations or contributing to church collections.

The leaflets suggested that the money went towards housing paedophiles in luxury apartments and paying their legal fees.

Members of Irish Survivors of Child Abuse (SOCA) organised the protests at cathedrals in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Armagh and Galway.

The leaflets were rejected by some on their way to church in Galway although the attitude of many people did not surprise SOCA member PJ Fleming, who said he was abused as a young child in three institutions.

Many parishioners coming out of the service at Dublin's Pro-Cathedral meanwhile took leaflets and some stopped to engage in conversation.

"We believe parishioners are on our side because none of them condemned us. They support us," SOCA spokesperson John Kelly said.

Mr Kelly claimed that there were mass graves at the site of former industrial schools such as Artane in Dublin and called for them to be investigated.

One of the protestors, Patrick Keogh from Clondalkin, was present with his eight-year-old son, Paul. "When I was his age I was abused and I would hate to see anything like that happening again. The abuse is still happening and we have put an end to it," said Mr Keogh.

Speaking after the mass in the Pro-Cathedral, Father Pat O'Donoghue said that money from the collection went towards supporting working priests and added there was a responsibility to also look after others who were sick or retired.

"Anyone who is a priest is looked after, regardless of his circumstances," he said, adding that he did not believe the protest was a way of moving things forward.

Meanwhile, gardai are investigating the vandalising of Cardinal Desmond Connell's palace over the weekend, when the numbers '666' were daubed on the gates.

A spokesperson for his office said the Cardinal was away and didn't see the graffiti, which refers to the number of the devil from the Book of Apocalypse.

The same numbers were daubed on the front of the Augustinian Priory near Thomas Street, Dublin.

- Ben Quinn and Brian McDonald