Sex abuse: the scandal the Catholic Church cannot shake

Thu Mar 7, 2013 1:11pm EST
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By Naomi O'Leary

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Colm O'Gorman was 14 years old when Father Sean Fortune arrived unannounced at his parents' house in a small town in southern Ireland. The priest was given tea and a seat by the fire, and asked the teenager to help set up a youth group.

"I was 14, and very eager and hungry to be out in the world, involved in things, doing things, making a difference. And that's what he exploited," said O'Gorman, now 46 and the executive director of Amnesty International in Ireland.

The abuse that followed, culminating in Fortune's repeated rape of the boy, was part of one of the greatest scandals ever to hit the Catholic Church, damaging the curtailed papacy of Pope Benedict and posing a huge challenge to whoever succeeds him.

O'Gorman's story is just one in a worldwide scandal that destroyed lives, bankrupted dioceses, and in many cases cost the Church its most precious asset: faith.

No questions were asked when Fortune took O'Gorman to his isolated house for the weekend. Such was the Church's power in Ireland at that time, no one would question a priest.

That was the first time Fortune sexually assaulted O'Gorman. Driving him back to his parents the next day, the priest stopped the car around the corner from the teenager's home.

"There were no words that I had that could explain what had happened, and I was terrified," O'Gorman recalls. "He said to me: ‘I'm worried about you, you have a problem. Either I can tell your parents, or you can come back down to me again.'"

"He kept coming and taking me away, for nearly three years."   Continued...

Colm O'Gorman, executive director of Amnesty International in Ireland, poses for a photograph in Temple Bar, Dublin March 6, 2013. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton