Marie Collins’ journey has been a long and difficult one. She was one of the first Irish people to go public about her abuse by a priest as a sick child in hospital. It was her subsequent treatment by some Church leaders that turned her into a reluctant but powerful advocate.
A 2009 report into the handling of abuse allegations by the Archdiocese of Dublin laid bare a culture where the avoidance of scandal and the protection of the Church’s reputation was put before the rights of children. For Collins, it was also a moment of quiet personal satisfaction: She was vindicated before those who had accused her of lying.
She has worked to ensure that the Church continues vital outreach to survivors and to help survivors find healing. In 2011, she participated in a moving liturgy that saw Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin wash the feet of some of those who had suffered abuse by priests.
Collins’ advocacy to ensure that the Church is a safe place for children and vulnerable adults has not been without sacrifice. She has been criticized by some survivors who felt she was wrong to accept a position on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, established in March by Pope Francis. But for Collins, her inspiration has always been clear: to ensure the safety and protection of children.
All throughout she has fought a silent battle to hold on to her Catholic faith. “I have remained a Catholic but not without much difficulty and struggle,” she said earlier this year. “There have been periods when practicing my faith has been impossible. I have tried to separate the institution of the Church from the Faith. My belief in God has never wavered.”
Michael Kelly writes from Ireland.