Catholic journalist slated over abuse viewsWednesday, May 16th, 2012
Catholic journalist Mary Kenny has been accused of grossly simplifying child sexual abuse by the founder of Minster and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors.
Dr Margaret Kennedy of MACSAS also slated the Irish Catholic columnist for suggesting that victims of clerical sexual abuse are misusing the term ‘child sexual abuse’. The MACSAS spokeswoman made her criticism in response to an article by Kenny in last week’s Irish Catholic newspaper and an interview the journalist gave on RTÉ Radio 1’s Pat Kenny Show last Friday.
Dr Kennedy, a survivor of sexual abuse perpetrated by an Anglican chaplain when she was a student in 1980, warned that sexual abuse should not be described in terms of what it is but rather in terms of what it does to a victim. “Impact is far more important than the act,” Dr Kennedy said.
In her controversial column, the Irish Catholic journalist supported Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s call for an independent inquiry into the case of Fr Brendan Smyth. However, she went on to claim that the term ‘child abuse’ is, “a euphemism and an evasion.”
Calling for new categorisation, she asked, “What exactly constitutes the abuse? The exact nature of the ‘child abuse’ should be spelled out in three categories: (1) molestation, (2) masturbation or (3) penetration.”
Many listeners to the Pat Kenny Show were stunned by the graphic manner in which the journalist referred to molestation as, “fiddling,” and masturbation as, “a hand job.” Asked whether her call for more details of the nature of abuse suffered by victims was prurience, Kenny admitted that she might be wrong.
Survivor of abuse, Marie Collins, who was interviewed on the same programme, described herself as “totally sickened” by Mary Kenny’s comments.
Kenny’s views are seen as particularly insensitive in light of the recent crisis sparked by the revelation of the invasive and sexual nature of questioning which Brendan Boland, a 14-year-old victim of Fr Brendan Smyth in 1975, was subjected to by a three-priest canonical inquiry, which included the then Fr Seán Brady.
In her article, Kenny wrote, “I accept that John was a victim of an odious crime, but I want to know more about the circumstances. Much more."
Marie Collins responded by asking why she wanted to know more? She also said the different categories of child abuse are set out in the Church’s Children’s First guidelines and she suggested Kenny should read them.
“She wants to ask the kind of questions which those adult priests asked of Brendan Boland in 1975. Does she have no idea how hard it is for a victim to talk about what has happened to them and if they don’t talk about it she suggests they are being evasive?” commented Marie Collins.
“She is obviously ignorant of the fact that a child can be abused without being touched,” she added, referring to her own experienced in which she was both seriously abused and photographed.
She said the photography, which was non contact, did more harm to her childhood than the category three crime perpetrated by the abusive priest. She hit out at Kenny’s inference that any victims of Brendan Smyth’s were in any way guilty of, “colluding in their own abuse.”
In her article, Kenny conceded, “I am sorry if what I write might offend, but this is an important matter and offence must be borne stoically.” Dr Margaret Kennedy accused Mary Kenny of trying to minimise child sexual abuse if rape does not occur.
“She fails entirely to understand how a little girl's experience of being 'fondled', (in fact Brendan Smyth digitally penetrated many girls in this way) might have ruined entirely this little girl's whole view of positive sexuality and sex that she deserved to enjoy later in her life,” Dr Kennedy said.
Referring to an article written by Mary Kenny in 1994 in which she made the same case as in last week's Irish Catholic, Dr Kennedy said her position in 2012 is exactly the same as it was in 1994; the crime had been less than it had been made out to be.
“This is her core belief, then and now,” Dr Kennedy said.
“Kenny's attempt to be some sort of child sexual abuse specialist in this area simply leads to confusion for those who know little about child sexual abuse, promotes rejection of victims who are not raped and pours scorn on those who claim (validly) to say they have been sexually abused even if not raped,” the MACSAS founder said.
She added, “Such discussions do nothing to help victims and do everything to feed denial in the general population as to the harm inflicted and to promote the rejection and scorn of victims.”
“This is precisely why victims are outraged. Specialists who know the impact of all forms of sexual abuse can only despair that journalists such as Kenny and [Eilis] O'Hanlon write on issues they have little understanding of.”
By Sarah Mac Donald