Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Vatican reports on Irish child abuse scandals
20 March 2012
The Vatican has expressed its "dismay and betrayal" at the "sinful and criminal acts" by Catholic clergy guilty of child abuse across Ireland.
In a report published on Tuesday, it called for a "new focus on the laity" within the Irish Catholic Church.
The scandals had "opened many wounds", it said, and lay people had "lost trust in their pastors".
The report acknowledged "innocent young people" were abused by clerics to whose care they had been entrusted.
It said that "those who should have exercised vigilance often failed to do so effectively".
The report also said that good priests felt "unjustly tainted" and not defended by superiors.
"Bishops and superiors have often felt isolated as they sought to confront the wave of indignation and, at times, they have found it difficult to agree on a common line of action," the report said.
It recommended continued support for the victims and survivors of Catholic clerical abuse in Ireland.
The report also sought to bring the Irish Church back into line with the teachings of Rome.
"The Visitators also encountered a certain tendency, not dominant but nevertheless fairly widespread among priests, religious and laity, to hold theological opinions at variance with the teachings of the Magisterium, this serious situation requires particular attention," said the report.
Finally, it also called on the Irish Catholic community to "makes its voice heard" in the media.
It said that the community should establish "a proper relationship" with journalists with the aim of "making known the truth of the Gospel and the Church's life".
Speaking after the publication of the report, Primate of Ireland Sean Brady said it was a "helpful snapshot of a key moment on the ongoing journey of renewal".
He said Irish bishops wished to associate themselves with "the sense of pain and shame" expressed in the findings.
"Innocent young people were abused by clerics and religious to whose care they had been entrusted, while those who should have exercised vigilance often failed to do so effectively," he said.
Cardinal Brady called for a united Church.
He particularly welcomed the Vatican's call for "a new focus on the laity" and the need for a "proper relationship" with the Irish media.
Commenting on the report, Michael Kelly from the newspaper, the Irish Catholic, said: "There is a focus on the victims, a renewal of apologies and an acceptance of the great damage that has been done".
Mr Kelly said the report carried "a very clear warning that says authentic renewal cannot be brought about by dissent from Church teaching."
"There was a feeling that the spirit of the sixties had infected the seminaries too much," he said, adding that there was a sense of the current Pope looking forward to a Church where there might be "fewer but truer" Catholics.
Colm O'Gorman, a high profile campaigner who sued the Catholic Church over the abuse he suffered as a child, called the report "farcical".
He said the Church had to "be dragged kicking and screaming through the courts of opinion and the courts of law".
"The suggestion that they are going to address this by dealing with the whole issue of contamination of seminarians is backward looking and disingenuous," he said.
Margaret McGuckin from Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse, (Savia), was abused as a child at Nazareth House in Belfast.
She and other members of her group met Cardinal Brady earlier this month to seek his cooperation in a forthcoming inquiry, ordered by the NI Executive, into allegations of clerical abuse in Northern Ireland.
"We, in the north, have been ignored," she said.
"They have set up a counselling service but many of our people ignore this. They find it hard to trust."
The clerical abuse survivors' group, One in Four, said the Vatican was "still not accepting responsibility for its role in creating the culture of purposeful cover-ups of the sexual abuse of children."
Executive Director Maeve Lewis said: "While we welcome the findings of the Visitation that the Irish Church now has good child protection practices in place, we feel it is a lost opportunity to address the role played by the Vatican in perpetuating the policy of protecting abusive priests at the expense of children."
"We also welcome the recommendation that the bishops and religious superiors should devote much time to listening to survivors and attending to their needs."
Ms Brennan claimed the group had noticed "a hardening of attitude on the part of the Church authorities to the question of compensation for survivors".
"This only compounds the pain and hurt of survivors. It brings into question the authenticity of the Church's repentance," she said.
The report is a summary of what seven teams of Vatican-appointed church leaders observed when they visited four Archdioceses across Ireland over the last two years.
It looked at the Church' s dealings with survivors of abuse and current child protection policies.
Some of the teams met victims and concerned Catholics in advertised locations, as well as individual survivors behind closed doors.
The report was promised two years ago by Pope Benedict XVI in his letter to Catholics in Ireland.
The Pope expressed horror in the wake of the Ryan and Murphy reports, which revealed a 70-year history of child abuse by a significant number of priests, brothers and nuns and cover-ups by their religious superiors.