Abuse victim ‘hurt’ by confession stance

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A Derry woman abused by a Catholic priest while attending confession as a child says she is “hurt” by the church’s response to plans by the Irish government to force priests to report child abusers who admit their crimes in the confession box.

Kate Walmsley (55) hit out after her parish priest, Father Paddy O’Kane, said he would rather go to jail than break canon law and reveal the secrets of the confessional box.

Father O’Kane, who is parish priest of the Holy Family parish, was speaking after the Irish government’s Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, said he intended to introduce legislation to force priests to break the confessional seal in the interests of child protection.

An emotional Mrs Walmsley, who says she was abused by a priest in the confessional box while being cared for at Nazareth House in Derry as an eight year-old, believes the Catholic Church has failed victims.

“He is putting the interests of the perpetrator first,” she said. “Most people believe he should tip off social workers or the police. I feel God didn’t make that rule, the church made it but it’s now 2011 and times have changed.”

Fr O’Kane, however, has defended his remarks.

“Would she expect me to renounce my priesthood? I could not continue to be a priest and I would be excommunicated. Is she calling for priests to abandon their vocation? This is not my law, this is the essence of being a priest.

“Do you agree with the right of a solicitor keeping the conversations confidential? It’s the same context.”