Pope did little to address abuse on visit, survey finds

Silent procession earlier this year remembering the Tuam Babies in Dublin. (Photo: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie)

Most Irish people believe that Pope Francis did not do enough to address the Catholic Church’s record of abuse during his recent visit, according to a survey.

Just 30 per cent of those asked felt that Pope Francis did adequately address Irish clerical abuse during his 36-hour trip in August.

Practising Catholics were more favourable of his trip, the survey found, and half said that he had done enough.

The visit prompted many protests of solidarity with survivors of abuse, including a rally attended by thousands of people in Dublin during the Papal mass.

Pope Francis made his first Papal visit to Ireland in August 2018 for the World Meeting of Families. A total of 31 per cent of respondents said that the visit had been “a healing time for victims and survivors of clerical abuse” while 36 per cent disagreed and 24 per cent had no opinion.

Gladys Ganiel, a research fellow at Queen’s University Belfast, said of the findings: “Francis’s visit to Ireland has revealed a lot about how people in Ireland think about the Catholic Church.

“Even a pope as popular as Francis cannot distract from the widespread dismay about the way that the church has handled clerical sexual abuse.”


During his visit, the Pope had a private meeting with eight survivors of sexual abuse. During Mass in the Phoenix Park, he sought forgiveness from abuse victims and acknowledged the hierarchy covered up abuse in Ireland, in what was a first for abuse reconciliation.

Gay and lesbian people and their families, when asked if the visit had been a healing time for them, about 40 per cent of respondents said that it had not.

Almost seven out of ten people questioned said that their opinion of the Church had not changed since Francis became pope in 2013, but more than two out of ten said that they had a more positive attitude towards the church.

new Covenant

Half of the people surveyed think Pope Francis’s visit was good for the church in Ireland and Ireland as a nation.

“This survey shows clear evidence that Francis’ pontificate has had a positive impact on a significant minority of people’s perceptions of the Catholic Church,” Dr Ganiel said.

An earlier meeting preceded the Pope’s sweeping apology, as eight representatives of survivors of abuse the night before at the residence of Ireland’s Papal Nuncio.

There was applause as he read out his apology at the start of his Mass in Phoenix Park, the scene of a much less humble Papal visit in 1979 by Pope John Paul II.


He said he had also met some of the thousands and thousands of children taken from their unwed mothers and forcibly put up for adoption.

“We ask forgiveness for the abuse in Ireland. Abuses of power, conscience and sexual abuse perpetrated by members with roles of responsibility in the Church,” Pope Francis said.

“In a special way we ask pardon for all the abuses committed in various institutions run by male or female religious members of the Church and we ask for forgiveness for those cases of exploitation through manual work that so many young women and men were subjected to.

pope visits care home

“We ask forgiveness for the times that as a Church we did not show survivors of whatever kind of abuse compassion and the seeking of justice and truth through concrete actions. We ask for forgiveness.

Eight abuse victims, or survivors, met Pope Francis for nearly ninety minutes at the home of Ireland’s Papal Nuncio expressed surprise that he had been so clearly “shocked” at the stories they told him.

You might also be interested in this article

Anne Geoghan on the Pope’s visit

Register now to keep up to date with all the latest:

  • Irish News
  • Sport
  • Community and Entertainment

Sign up to our Newsletter to be in with a chance to win a snazzy iPad and for all the latest...

  • Email updates
  • Regular features
  • Competitions and give aways