DUBLIN (CNS) — Irish priests who have been falsely accused of sexually abusing children are being offered group therapy sessions in a bid to improve their mental health.

Ireland’s Association of Catholic Priests will run its first so-called “Circle of Healing” later in November in Cork, as part of an innovative new move to help innocent churchmen who have been affected by past abuse scandals.

Father Roy Donovan, a spokesman for the 1,000-strong priests’ group, said the purpose of the workshops was to not only “help heal the scars” of clergymen cleared of abuse allegations, but also to provide support to clerics who still felt traumatized or a sense of collective guilt over crimes carried out by the minority of pedophile priests in their fold.

“A lot of good, decent priests have been affected by the abuse carried out by other priests in the past,” he said. “They’ve suffered shock and a sense of shame over what’s happened, and that’s partly why we’re holding a circle of healing.”

He said the sessions were in response to demand from the group’s members.

“Hopefully, those who attend will find some benefit and, if it goes well, then it’s quite likely that we’ll hold regular circles of healing around the country,” he said.

The Association of Catholic Priests, the largest priests’ representative group in the country, has advocated for change in the church, including women priests, allowing former priests who have married back into the fold, and relaxing strict celibacy rules for ordained clerics.