Dublin ~ Monday March 22 2010
Papal letter has fanned flames of worldwide fury
'The Pope's letter will not lead most Irish Catholics to return to the sacraments'
By John Cooney
POPE Benedict has let down victims in his flawed Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland. He has fanned the flames of worldwide fury among church members at his failure to admit and apologise for his own culpability in covering up rapes of children by clergy.
Nor did the German Pontiff, who remains rigidly silent about media reports that he approved the transfer of a paedophile priest for therapy rather than reporting him to the police when he was Archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982, acknowledge the Vatican's leading role, as the command headquarters of more than one billion members, in a massive global cover-up.
However, in the first papal bull on the clerical abuse issue that is written plainly in readable language, Benedict lacerated the Irish bishops, his branch managers, for grave errors of judgement, "sometimes grievously", for failing to apply the secretive canon law requiring rapist priests to be defrocked.
Yet he did not red-card the bishops for failing to report abuse complaints to gardai stretching back to 1940, while ordering them to prevent future abuse and to "continue to co-operate with civil authorities".
Not only did the Pope not commend the Irish State for conducting the Ferns, Ryan and Murphy commissions which outed clerical abusers and the bishops' cover-ups, he trotted out the main excuse for the bishops' long inaction that was discredited by Judge Yvonne Murphy -- that they did not understand the scale or criminality of child abuse until recently.
His merciless but deserved public scolding of Irish bishops like bog-peasants was so savage that Cardinal Sean Brady and his colleagues -- excepting Archbishop Diarmuid Martin -- should send their resignations to Rome in the next postbag via the Papal Nuncio.
Benedict knows it was the Vatican that appointed Cardinal Brady, Cardinal Desmond Connell and Bishop John Magee, and further back Archbishops John Charles McQuaid, Dermot Ryan and Kevin McNamara. Most, if not all, of them would not have been on a ballot paper had priests and people of Armagh, Dublin and Cloyne been consulted.
Not only did Benedict not apologise for the refusals of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Papal Nuncio to respond to queries from the Murphy Commission, he has extended his remit into the sovereign jurisdiction of the Irish State by pledging to hold an Apostolic Visitation, a secretive, Vatican-led inspection of unspecified dioceses, religious orders and seminaries in Ireland.
This Ratzinger inquisition must shake the Cistercian-educated Taoiseach Brian Cowen out of his misguided neutrality of leaving unfit church leaders to sort out their own mess. It should galvanise him into mandating Murphy-style probes into Ireland's other dioceses such as is now being conducted in Cloyne.
"Full disclosure of the truth" is supported by Dr Diarmuid Martin as "the only way". As the prelate best placed to take over if Cardinal Brady resigns as Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, Dr Martin, who was told to fall into line at last month's Rome summit, has characterised the letter as part of a process.
"The Pope, rightly I think, identified internal problems in the church which created this culture which favoured clergy and cover-up in the name of scandal," he said.
Dr Martin spoke of how the Catholic Church needs to be renewed in its mission. Hopefully, he will distance himself publicly from Benedict's crass analysis that secularisation of Irish society caused clerical abuse when it was pervert men of the cloth such as Brendan Smyth who abused innocent children.
Dr Martin could take the lead in being the first Irish bishop to respond to New York attorney Jerry Slevin's call for Benedict to summon before the end of the year a Third Vatican Council on the abuse crisis, whose reform agenda would rescind Pope Paul VI's 1967 birth-control ban which clouds the church for most Catholics.
Although Dr Martin claims the letter is part of a healing process, it is far from being the beginning of the healing process.
More accurate is the verdict of the Australian Catholica organisation for Catholics who have given up as well as those still practising in spite of deep misgivings. It said that Pope Benedict "squandered a heaven-sent opportunity to start to reverse the decline in morale and participation of recent decades".
Germans are angry that their abuse scandals are not mentioned, while in America, Barbara Dorris, director of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, summed up the Ratzinger riddle neatly by saying: "The most powerful religious figure on the planet speaks of 'decisive action'. But he refuses to take any."
The Pope's gravest miscalculation in the letter is one of "simulated sternness", according to Terry McKiernan and Anne Barrett Doyle of Bishopaccountability.org, who noted: "Rather than announcing the resignations of Cardinal Brady and other complicit Irish bishops, the Pope merely commands them to 'acknowledge' the 'serious sins' against children and express sorrow."
There will be no return to the confession boxes and holy shrines by most Irish Catholics. The days of cul-de-sac Catholicism are over. Bring on Vatican Three.
London ~ March 24, 2010
Call the police: that is what the Pope should have said
It is typical of Benedict XVI that he should blame child abuse on ‘social change’, not the Church itselfBy Ken Macdonald
When I was a child, my mother took me every Wednesday evening to Benediction where, we believed, the body of Christ was revealed. On Saturdays, my family went to confession and every Sunday morning, without fail, we attended Mass. If you asked my mother who and what she was, she would say “a Catholic” before she said “Scottish” or, even less likely, “British”. She believed that the Church of Rome was God’s own glory on Earth.
When I was 11, my parents sent me to a Christian Brothers boarding school. The Brothers were not priests but, even without the significant compensations of priestly rites and privileges, they had dedicated themselves to a life of celibacy, 30 or 40 years without the comfort of touch. We boys knew which of them couldn’t handle it, and we all knew why, from time to time, one or another moved stealthily on to a different school. It wasn’t a secret to us, even if it was to their Church.
The rituals of cleansing were no more worthy. In the past, when a priest raped a young Catholic, the child could expect to be offered absolution for the sin. If this seems a little shocking, we shouldn’t be too surprised. It’s a common enough trick of authoritarian religions to blame the victims of sexual violence for participating in their own abuse, particularly if the violator occupies the pulpit rather than a pew. Surely, such a terrible sin could only occur in the face of the most devilish temptation, presented without any shame.
Often after absolution, we discover, the child would be made to swear a vow of silence. This would be done in formal style, with all the force of a dark and mighty canon law. There was, of course, no real choice here. There was no real expectation that a nine-year- old boy or girl would sit back to reflect and consider. There was no question of advisers or social workers or any sort of comfort at all. There was instead a priest or a bishop or a cardinal, and their fearsome power to burrow into souls and to dispatch what they found there to Heaven or to Hell.
Often the parents, themselves sold at birth into believing in the rightness of the Church and in its hierarchy’s grasp on a scary and distant God, committed their own more innocent betrayal by looking away as their children learnt the absence of justice.
In last weekend’s letter of apology to the Catholics of Ireland, Pope Benedict took refuge in proclaiming that the problem of child abuse, and the cruelty of its covering up, were not born of the criminal failings of an opaque and authoritarian Church. No, they arose because of “social change” and because Ireland had become too secular.
It is all very well, though not very taxing, to express regret for the sins of others. It is equally well to speak of your shame for the way that others have behaved. But expressions of remorse are perhaps best served by awareness, including an awareness of self.
Pope Benedict showed neither. He had nothing to say about the complicit behaviour of the Vatican over the years, or of his continued shielding of a former Cardinal of Boston from the American courts. He didn’t address his own directive that secrecy must be maintained in church investigations into sex crimes. And his remarkable analysis was accompanied by an unseemly swipe at Pope John XXIII’s Second Vatican Council, whose tender compassions and renewal were, apparently, “far from easy” to implement.
Yet it is no surprise that Benedict, who has spent decades trying to roll back reform from the heart of the Church, should find his perfect villain other than in the institution of the Church itself; and it is no surprise that he should find it in liberalism.
But child rape was not invented in the 1960s and it was not the result of a changing moral climate. Sad to say, paedophilia and abuse have always been around. Benedict may comfort himself by blaming priestly crimes on the decline of clericalism and the scourge of social freedom, but for most of us the opposite is true: it is only a stronger secularism and the flock’s dimming fear that have finally defeated the Church’s tireless efforts to keep civil society and its sharp means of justice away from these multiple crimes.
The Pope’s first prescription for curing the Church in Ireland is a programme of adoration before the Eucharist. This may indeed provide spiritual comfort to Ireland’s remaining churchgoers, though whether it will provide much succour to those who have long since abandoned the Church that tormented them is more open to question. A simpler prescription might have been that canon law is no equal to crime or to rape. If you suspect abuse, the Pope might better have told the people of Ireland, don’t worry about canon law just call the police.
The Catholic Church teaches the faithful that a penitent must approach the confessional with clean hands: if he comes to ask forgiveness without any real repentance, he mocks the sacrament. And this not only compounds the wickedness of the original sin, it marks the commission of another that is much harder to expunge.
Ken Macdonald, QC, practises at Matrix Chambers. He was Director of Public Prosecutions, 2003-08
Dublin ~ Monday March 22 2010
An apology, not a mea culpa‘YOU HAVE suffered grievously and I am truly sorry.” Pope Benedict’s unprecedented apology and pastoral letter to the Catholics of Ireland are welcome, though belated acknowledgments of the pain that the faithful, their children, and the church itself are suffering. “It is understandable,” he says, “that you find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel.”
That contrition, and much in the letter, represent important steps: the recognition of the gravity of offences against children, the “sinful and criminal acts”, and of the betrayal of trust they represent; the injunction to abusive priests to give an “account of their actions and to conceal nothing”; the recommitment of the church to the new norms of child protection and to cooperation with the civil authorities; the critique of bishops, their “serious mistakes”, “grave errors of judgment” and “failures of leadership”; and the “firm purpose of amendment” to which his prayer adverts.
Yet, many may find bewildering the silences in the letter, not least on issues such as celibacy, lay empowerment, especially women, and the obligations on implicated bishops. They will also not find convincing the analysis of what went wrong. Victims have rightly pointed to the unwillingness to acknowledge that failures were not just those of individuals but systemic, rooted in the nature of the church, its structures and internal culture, in Ireland and globally – it has already cost the US church over $2 billion. Nor is there any suggestion that the Vatican should also hold up its hands; to do so could entail huge legal implications worldwide. The Papal Nuncio did not even respond to a letter from the Murphy Commission.
The Pope attributes to bishops a failure “to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse”. He argues that such laxness stemmed from a culture he associates with the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council: secularisation, the neglect of confession, daily prayer, and annual retreats, and then the mistaken interpretation of its renewal programme. “In particular,” he states, “there was a well-intentioned but misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches to canonically irregular situations.” In this he echoes the Murphy report’s finding that much of canon law’s criminal dimension, though not its code of secrecy, were ignored.
The letter acknowledges other important causative elements: inadequate vetting of priests and religious and weak moral formation in seminaries, an excessive social reverence for priests, and “a misplaced concern for the reputation of the Church and the avoidance of scandal”. Yet, those in charge of the Irish church from the 1950s were scarcely the liberals against whom the Pope rails regularly. His securalisation of the Church – meaning the introduction of social legislation such as contraception, separation and divorce for women – comes from an old-fashioned, authoritarian, mysoginistic church concerned above all with its reputation. Where are women? Much more to do, as the Pope said.
Berlin ~ March 22 2010
The World from Berlin
Pope's Letter 'Will Not Dispel Dark Clouds' Over Church
Over the weekend, Pope Benedict XVI finally issued his letter of apology relating to the sexual abuse scandal in Ireland. German commentators welcome the move, but argue it is not enough. The pope, after all, still hasn't commented on the abuse scandal in his homeland.
On Sunday, the waiting for Ireland's Catholics came to an end. In a letter read aloud at weekend masses across the country, and handed out to churchgoers in printed form, Pope Benedict XVI expressed "shame and remorse" for the "sinful and criminal" sexual abuse perpetrated by members of the Catholic clergy in Ireland for decades.
Though highly anticipated, the apology was not well received. Many slammed the letter for not including a requirement that Cardinal Sean Brady, head of the Irish church, step down. Requirements that other church leaders be punished were likewise missed by victims groups. "It is one scandal on top of another," Hugh Keogh in Dublin told the New York Times. "I do not think we have seen the last of this."
In Germany, however, expectations that the pope might finally break his silence on the church abuse scandal that has shaken the country in recent weeks remain unfulfilled. Hundreds of people have come forward since the end of January with stories of sexual maltreatment perpetrated by priests and by teachers at Catholic boarding schools.
Of particular concern are allegations that the pope, back when he was the Bishop of Munich in the 1980s, knew of one particular abusive priest from Essen, who had forced a young boy to perform oral sex before being transferred to Munich. According to SPIEGEL information, the pope, then called Joseph Ratzinger, was aware of the church's decision not to turn the priest over to the police. Just weeks later, the abusive priest was once again working with children, a fact which Ratzinger may also have known about.
German commentators on Monday take a look at the pope's weekend letter and at the ongoing abuse scandal in Germany.
Conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:
The pope "has done little to indicate the way forward for churches in Ireland or Germany, so that they may atone for past wrongs as well as avoid doing harm in the future. Nonetheless, the experiences of churches in North America and England provide a clear blueprint. It includes lessons regarding the standards for the training of priests; the necessity of breaking with the widespread past practice of showing more concern for the perpetrators than for the victims; and establishment of reporting centers that are institutionally independent of the church."
"It is high time that investigation into these issues no longer depends solely on the willingness of victims to come forward or the reporting abilities of the press. Rather than a 'round table' organized by the church itself, the inevitable task of victim compensation would best be done by a commission that brought together scientific expertise, integrity and social authority. In this way the pope's suggested triad -- 'healing, renewal and compensation' -- could also become an initiative for church reform on all levels."
Left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:
"The central issues of the scandal will remain. Now, as before, and despite all his warm words for the victims, the pope shies away from any debate about sexual morality in the church. And one can only hope that his public silence about the abuse cases in Germany, is not because the pope himself was unhappily involved in such a case when he was the archbishop of Munich."
"To put it delicately, what the pope writes in his pastoral letter also applied back then -- in the gospel according to John (John 8:31-32): "the truth will set you free." Even though, in his letter, he only seeks to apply the principle to others."
The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:
"All of this is not just the result of the pressure of new incidents of clerical abuse. For years Joseph Ratzinger has said that the church should come out, clearly and definitely, against sexual abuse. In the Vatican he has not spared powerful church leaders like the founder of the reactionary Legion of Christ, when accusations of the abuse of minors against him emerged. In the face of this history, the letter to the Irish Catholic church is completely respectable. Never before has a pope made it so clear that such sexual abuse of those entrusted to the care of the church, strikes at the heart of all spiritual belief. Despite all this though, the letter is not going to rescue the church from the crisis it is currently enmeshed in. The letter will not do this because it is addressed to the Irish church only. The letter localizes a problem that actually affects the church throughout the world."
"And the pope's letter is also problematic when it tries to come to grips with the reasons for the abuse. Benedict XVI suggests that these problems arose because of a moral laxness in the clergy and church that arose after the reforms of the Second Vatican Council (eds note: the 1960s reforms that the church brought about in acknowledge of the changing modern world). The pope says these were mistakenly interpreted as a softening of moral standards. With respect, this is nonsense. Many of the cases from the more distant past, which are currently coming to light, demonstrate this."
"Pope Benedict XVI is merely viewing the abuses from his own belief system. And this is the real and far-reaching weakness of his well-intentioned words. According to this view, the abuse of children and youths is a result of a relativism of values, which has also crept into the church. This is, however, at odds with the real world."
The conservative daily Die Welt writes:
"Had the pope actually said anything about the occurrences in his homeland, the letter's impact on the church worldwide would doubtless have been greater. Even without that, the text is explosive."
"That bishops protected perpetrators, that camouflage and concealment were not exceptions: The head of the Catholic church has never been as clear about any of this before. His call for the church to be subject to the law of the land is an unmistakable instruction to all who abide by the church's rules. But his pastoral letter will not dispel all of the dark clouds hovering over the Catholic church. Nor will it put to rest the debate over celibacy, that so many in the church find so troubling."
"The church has a long road ahead of it, during which it must explain a lot as well as renew itself spiritually. And that counts for Ireland, Germany and the rest of the world. The church must travel this road with courage, so that doubts about men of the cloth and any negative impressions of a religious elite are dispelled. Traveling this path timidly will help as little as blaming the media of a plot against the church."
-- Cathrin Schaer
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Monday, 22 March 2010
Editor's Viewpoint: Full inquiry into abuse still needed The Pope’s response to the crisis facing the Catholic Church in Ireland over the decades of sexual abuse by priests and other religious figures can only be seen as inadequate.
His eight-page letter read out at many Masses yesterday was long on expressions of sorrow and remorse, but short in actual concrete proposals to help those who were so grievously abused.
Even the acknowledgement of what went wrong in the past when the paedophilia of priests and others was covered up was merely a statement of the blindingly obvious. The Church authorities, according to the Pope, had a misplaced concern for its reputation, and the avoidance of scandal. Failing to spell it out, in precise and simple terms, that the bishops covered up crimes was a serious omission.
Quite astonishingly, the Pope says that the remedy for the whole scandal was already in place, if only the bishops had applied canon law the Church’s law properly. Many feel that it was adherence to canon law, or at least the bishops’ interpretation of it, that was the root cause of the problem. The Catholic Church felt it could deal with the problem in-house, instead of taking the proper action when notified of a crime being committed and telling the police and social services in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
The question now is how the institution can regain any of the respect that it previously had from the laity. The Pope’s call for more prayer and for spiritual renewal in the Church in Ireland may be sound, theologically but it cuts little ice with either the victims and their relatives, or even the ordinary church-goer. They expected, and will continue to demand, that bishops who failed them in the past no matter what post they then held should be forced to resign.
The Pope has pledged to send Vatican officials to Ireland to some of the dioceses in an attempt |to see how the hierarchy are responding to the crisis. But what will those officials’ role be? Will it be merely to ensure that current best practice on child protection is enforced in every diocese? Or will they be able to force bishops or others to step down if they are found to have been guilty of inaction against abusing clergy in the past?
Perhaps the greatest omission in the pastoral letter is the acceptance of any responsibility by the Vatican for what happened in Ireland. Many people feel that the Vatican must have known of the the abuse scandal given its scale and longevity yet did little, if anything, to help the abused.
The demand for a full independent inquiry into clerical abuse is still valid and is the only response acceptable to a majority of lay people within the Church on this island.
Dublin ~ Sunday March 21 2010
Letter falls short of victims' expectations
Pope 'missed opportunity to address core issue in scandal'By Don Lavery
The failure of Pope Benedict in his long-awaited pastoral letter to Irish Catholics to deal with any Vatican responsibility for the clerical child sex abuse scandal or the "deliberate" policy of the church in Ireland to protect paedophile priests was criticised by victims' groups yesterday.
However, some welcomed his direction that church leaders co-operate with the civil authorities on abuse, but his failure to deal with bishops' resignations was also criticised.
The Pope also ordered a Vatican investigation into certain dioceses in Ireland as well as seminaries and religious congregations; the Vatican directed that a similar "apostolic visitation" into US seminaries be carried out after the clerical sex abuse scandal exploded in the States in 2002.
Such a move is undertaken only when Rome considers a local church unable to deal with a problem on its own.
However, yesterday a spokesman for the Catholic Communications Office said there was no information on what dioceses or institutions would be involved.
The Pope's letter was, however, described as having "passed up a glorious opportunity to address the core issue in the scandal, the deliberate policy of the Catholic Church at the highest levels to protect sex offenders, thereby endangering children", One in Four said.
Executive director Maeve Lewis said: "The Pope speaks only of failures in the Irish church and neglects the role of the Vatican. If the church cannot acknowledge this fundamental truth, it is still in denial."
She said they were also astounded at the Pope's previous assertion that the roots of clerical sexual abuse lie in the secularisation of Irish society, the falling off of religious devotion, and failures to adhere to canon law.
"This shows a complete misunderstanding of the dynamics of sexual violence and creates little hope that the church will ever respond effectively to the problem."
Author and survivor Andrew Madden said issues raised by him and others in a letter to the Pope, such as fully accepting the findings of the Murphy report and accepting bishops resignations, had been ignored.
"There has been no owning of the Catholic Church's part in causing the sexual abuse of so many children by protecting paedophile priests.
"Instead Pope Benedict has repeated his apology for the hurt caused to those abused but the church's role is referred to only as failing to deal with criminal and sinful acts.
"The Catholic Church did not fail to act -- it acted very clearly to protect itself and leave other children to pay the price," he said.
Another survivor, Marie Collins, also said she welcomed the direction that church authorities should co-operate with the civil authorities, but the main thrust of the remarks appeared to be around canon law, which was the problem in the first place.
As a Catholic she appreciated his apology to victims, but she said there had been no mention of Vatican directives that may have led to the problem.
In his lengthy letter, the Pope did not specifically rebuke bishops for failure to report sex abuse cases to the gardai, saying only that serious mistakes were made.
Pope Benedict told victims: "You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured.
"Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated."
He told bishops that some of them and their predecessors failed, at times grieviously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse.
Telling them to fully implement canon law on child abuse, he said they should continue to co-operate with the civil authorities.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin welcomed the Pope's expression of apology and his recognition of the suffering and betrayal experienced by survivors.
Cardinal Sean Brady also welcomed the letter and thanked the Pope for his "profound kindness and concern".
Fine Gael TD Alan Shatter said: "We should never again tolerate a foreign state issuing directives to members of the hierarchy and other clerics in this state to violate Irish law by concealing reports of child sexual abuse and not reporting such allegations.
"Nor should we ever again tolerate a foreign state requiring that an oath of any nature be taken by an adult or child to maintain a veil of secrecy over incidents of sexual abuse."
Cori, the Conference of Religious of Ireland, welcomed the letter and the Pope's statement.
Sister Marianne O'Connor, director general of Cori, said yesterday: "This pastoral letter is an important part of the ongoing process of confronting the mistakes of the past, encouraging healing and reconciliation and ensuring the safeguarding of children."
The group said it was unclear as to how many religious congregations would be part of the apostolic visitation process "and we await the detail on this".
Dublin ~ Monday March 22 2010
'Pope fails to mention role played by Vatican'
By PAMELA NEWENHAM
Maeve Lewis, executive director of One in Four - one of the groups representing abuse survivors - at a press conference in Dublin after the release of Pope Benedict's pastoral letter (Aidan Crawley)
CHILDREN'S SAFETY: POPE BENEDICT’S pastoral letter neglected to apportion any responsibility for clerical sex abuse to the Vatican, a group representing abuse survivors said.
The pope speaks only of the failures in the Irish church, and neglects to mention the role played by the Vatican, Maeve Lewis, executive director of One in Four, said at a press conference after the letter was issued.
“If the church cannot acknowledge this fundamental truth, it is still in denial,” she said. “We are astounded at the pope’s assertion that the roots of clerical sexual abuse lie in the secularisation of Irish society, the falling off of religious devotion and failures to adhere to canon law.”
Ms Lewis said Irish victims of clerical child sexual abuse were deeply disappointed by the letter “for passing up a glorious opportunity to address the core issue in the clerical sexual abuse scandal: the deliberate policy of the Catholic Church at the highest levels to protect sex offenders”.
“While we welcome the pope’s direction that the church leadership co-operate with the civil authorities in relation to sexual abuse . . . we feel the letter falls far short of addressing the concerns of the victims,” she said.
The victim advocacy group said victims were hoping for an acknowledgement of the scurrilous ways in which they had been treated as they attempted to bring their experiences of abuse to the attention of the church authorities.
“The lack of an apology to them in this regard is hurtful in the extreme.”
The group said it was up to the State to now accept that child protection is the responsibility of the civil authorities.
“The Government must now prioritise the safety of all Irish children.”
Dublin abuse victim Marie Collins said the pope and Irish hierarchy “still see everything through the eyes of canon law and church law. That’s what’s disappointing about it”.
Referring to the pope’s message, that he would be willing to meet victims to acknowledge their suffering personally, Ms Collins said she would only do so if there was two-way interaction and discussion.
She said she would ask him “what has canon law to do with Jesus Christ and the church Jesus founded? I would ask why the church can’t get back to the basic Christian message,” she added.
Paddy Doyle, author of The God Squad , echoed Ms Collins saying that there would be “no kowtowing or kissing rings if I meet the pope”.
He said the pastoral letter was insufficient as “he [Pope Benedict] hasn’t put his hands up and said guilty. He blamed everyone”.
Dublin ~ Saturday March 20, 2010
Mixed reaction to pope's letter
Marie Collins (left) and Maeve Lewis of One in Four attend a press conference in Dublin after the publication of Pope Benedict's pastoral letter about clerical abuse in Ireland. (Julien Behal/PA Wire)
Irish victims of clerical child sexual abuse are deeply disappointed by Pope Benedict's letter of apology, a group representing survivors of abuse said today.
"While we welcome the pope's direction that the church leadership co-operate with the civil authorities in relation to sexual abuse...we feel the letter falls far short of addressing the concerns of the victims," said Maeve Lewis, executive director of One in Four.
Ms Lewis said the pope's letter focused too narrowly on lower-ranked Irish priests and neglected the responsibility of the Vatican in the scandal.
However, other groups including the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and the Irish Survivors of Child Abuse organisation said the letter was decisive action carried out with complete honesty and transparency, which would restore the respect and goodwill of the Irish people toward the catholic church. Welcoming the letter, the groups said it represented a highly emotional and long overdue apology from the Pope.
"Pope Benedict has passed up a glorious opportunity to address the core issue in the clerical sexual abuse scandal: the deliberate policy of the Catholic Church at the highest levels to protect sex offenders, thereby endangering children. The pope speaks on only of the failures in the Irish church, and neglects the role of the vatican. If the church cannot acknowledge this fundamental truth, it is still in denial," Ms Lewis said.
She said One in Four was “astounded” at the pope’s assertion that the roots of clerical abuse lie in the secularisation of Irish society, the falling off of religious doctrine and failures to adhere to common law.
Ms Lewis noted that the pope had accepted that victims were not listened to when they tried to bring their experiences of abuse to the attention of the church authorities. She said victims were hoping for an acknowledgement of the "scurrilous" ways in which they have been treated.
"The lack of an apology to them in this regard is hurtful in the extreme," she said. "It is time in Ireland for the State to accept that child protection is the responsibility of the civil authorities. The Government must now prioritise the safety of all Irish children".
Dublin abuse victim Marie Collins said the pope and Irish hierarchy "still see everything through the eyes" of canon law and church law. "That's what's disappointing about it."
Ms Collins said she would only have a meeting with the pope if there was two-way interaction and discussion. She said she would ask him what has canon law to do with Jesus Christ and the church Jesus founded. "I would ask why the church can't get back to the basic Christian message," she added.
Paddy Doyle, author of The God Squad, echoed Ms Collins's comments, saying there would be “no kowtowing or kissing rings if I meet the pope”. Mr Doyle said the pastoral letter was insufficient as the pope "hasn’t put his hands up and said guilty. He blamed everyone”.
The Irish Survivors of Child Abuse Organisation (Irish-SOCA) said the letter contained “an unambiguous acknowledgement that the Irish Catholic church sinned most grievously against the young over many decades”.
The group said it was heartened by Benedict's open acceptance that the abusive behaviour by priests constituted a criminal act and that those who abused children should submit themselves"to the demands of justice”.
The Conference of Religious of Ireland (Cori) said it welcomed the pope’s statement to the victims of abuse and their families
Cori director general Sr Marianne O'Connor, said the pastoral letter "is an important part of the on-going process of confronting the mistakes of the past, encouraging healing and reconciliation and ensuring that the safeguarding of children is an absolute priority at all times”.
While there are many references to canon law in this letter to the Catholics of Ireland, there is also a welcome directive to bishops and religious superiors in addressing cases of child abuse continue to co-operate with the civil authorities, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre said.
Dublin ~ Monday March 22 2010
Victims want bishops to quit as Pope 'ducks issue'By Fergus Black
ABUSE victims and campaigners say they will go on demanding the resignations of bishops after the Pope ducked the issue in his pastoral letter.
Clerical abuse victim Andrew Madden said the letter had failed to address the issue of clerical sexual abuse of children.
He was given a standing ovation when he addressed delegates at Fine Gael's national conference at the weekend.
Mr Madden said the letter was not the way to respond to the Ferns, Ryan and Murphy reports detailing the rape, abuse and sexual abuse of children by priests and religious and its cover-up by church authorities.
"As I had anticipated, the letter also fails to address any of the issues raised by myself and others in our open letter to the Pope last month in advance of the Irish bishops' trip to Rome ," he said in a statement.
This included calls for the Pope to accept the resignations of Bishops Moriarty, Walsh and Field without delay and that he remove Bishop Martin Drennan from office.
"There has been no owning of the Catholic Church's part in causing the sexual abuse of so many children by protecting paedophile priests. Instead, Pope Benedict has repeated his apology for the hurt caused to those abused, but the church's role is referred to only as failing to deal with criminal and sinful acts."
The One in Four organisation said it was also disappointed with the pastoral letter.
"Pope Benedict has passed up a glorious opportunity to address the core issue in the clerical sexual abuse scandal: the deliberate policy of the Catholic Church at the highest levels to protect sex offenders, thereby endangering children," One in Four executive director Maeve Lewis said.
Her organisation was also "astounded" at the Pope's assertion that the roots of clerical sexual abuse lay in the secularisation of Irish society, the falling off of religious devotion and failures to adhere to canon law. "This shows a complete misunderstanding of the dynamics of sexual violence, and creates little hope that the church will ever respond effectively to the problem."
Another abuse victim, Marie Collins said that while the Pope's response was a good letter and the apology for the abusers was sincere, there was no apology for the subsequent cover-up of clerical sex abuse within the church.
There was also no indication in the pastoral letter that Pope Benedict would accept the resignations of several bishops. "He criticises the bishops for not following canon law but he doesn't criticise them for not reporting the abusers to the civil authorities," she said.
Christine Buckley of the Aislinn centre for survivors of institutional abuse said she was bitterly disappointed that there was no apology to the 155,000 children who were incarcerated in religious-run institutions and who endured sexual abuse and torture.
"We victims still need to meet the Pope and he needs to hear what it was like for us. Only then can we say that justice has been done," she said. "We need to hear him admonish these monsters for what they did."
London ~ Sunday, 21 March 2010, page 38
Saying sorry is not enough. The church has got to change
Benedict XVI's inadequate letter adds to the woes of those his church has wronged
Usually, when old and powerful institutions are found guilty of some systemic failure, the stock response is to promise reform. That is not the way of the Catholic church, whose head is anointed in a line of descent from St Peter, and whose rigid and secretive hierarchy takes its autocratic cues from the top. Change comes slowly and rarely.
That the church is guilty of a systemic failure over child abuse within its ranks is beyond doubt. It is also certain that the letter published yesterday from the pope to his flock in Ireland, apologising for the scandal, is pitifully inadequate.
Benedict XVI acknowledged that victims had "suffered grievously". He also accepted that the church had made "serious mistakes". He did not mention that the same grievous suffering has been inflicted in Catholic communities in many other countries, nor did he spell out what he considered the "serious mistakes" to have been. Was it the failure to punish the perpetrators of abuse? Or was it the decision to quickly rehabilitate paedophile priests and despatch them to new parishes? Was it the failure to involve police? Perhaps it was the conspiracy of silence, or the cynical exploitation of victims' faith to make them complicit in the cover-up, turning their ordeal into shame and guilt, as if being attacked by a priest was itself a sin. Or could it have been the plain fact that the church conferred the moral authority on men to know and guide their parishioners' most intimate thoughts – a power they then used to prey on children for sexual gratification?
Perhaps Pope Benedict meant none of those things, only that he wished the whole business had not happened. His letter is late and meagre, but that was to be expected. Taking more responsibility would have entailed hinting at some moral culpability. The apology was an opportunity for the church to reach out in humility to those it has wronged, with a cost of accepting a tiny dilution of the pope's claim to absolute, unerring authority in all things. That price was clearly too high.
London ~ Sunday, 21 March 2010, page 30
Arrogant, corrupt, secretive – the Catholic church failed to tackle evil
The Catholic church is finally losing its rearguard action
By Fintan O'Toole
The cover-up of child sexual abuse by the Catholic church is not about sex and it is not about Catholicism. It is not, as Pope Benedict rightly argued in yesterday's distressingly bland pastoral letter, about priestly celibacy. It is about power.
The urge to prey on children is not confined to the supposedly celibate clergy and exists in all walks of life. We know that it can become systemic in state and voluntary, as well as in religious, institutions. We know that all kinds of organisations – from banks to political movements – can generate a culture of perverted loyalty in which otherwise decent people will collude in crimes "for the greater good".
In none of these respects is the Catholic church unique. What makes it different – and what gives this crisis its depth – is the church's power. It had the authority, indeed the majesty, to compel victims and their families to collude in their own abuse and to keep hideous crimes secret for decades. It is that system of authority that is at the heart of the corruption. And that is why Benedict's pastoral letter, for all its expressions of "shame and remorse", is unable to deal with the central issue. The only adequate response to the crisis is a fundamental questioning of the closed, hierarchical power system of which the pope himself is the apex and the embodiment. It was never remotely likely that Benedict would be able to understand those questions, let alone answer them.
It is this contradiction that explains why the church has been trying, and failing, to put the abuse crisis behind it for well over a decade now. There is something symbolically apt, for example, about the way the grotesque figure of the dead paedophile, Father Brendan Smyth, has returned to threaten the position of the head of the Irish church, Cardinal Sean Brady.
Smyth emerged as a public figure in 1994, when he was convicted in Belfast after almost half a century of child abuse. He almost destroyed the reputation of Brady's predecessor, Cahal Daly. He even contributed to the fall of Albert Reynolds's government in 1994. It makes a kind of grim sense that his horrific career, and the failure of the church to take any real steps to stop him, has re-emerged to haunt another cardinal.
For the shock that Smyth's exposure delivered to Irish Catholicism has not yet been absorbed by the hierarchy. Both in Ireland and worldwide, the institution's all-male leadership refuses to face the fact that its own existence is at the heart of the problem. A closed system of authority in which democracy is a dirty word, secrecy is a virtue and unaccountable individuals combine spiritual prestige and temporal power is a breeding ground for abuse and cover-up.
The universal nature of the church's response to abuse, from Belfast to Brazil and Australia to Austria, tells us the institution itself is the problem. Much of the criticism has focused, understandably, on the actions of individuals such as Brady when he investigated Smyth in 1975 or Benedict (Joseph Ratzinger as he then was) who sent an abuser in his Munich archdiocese for "therapy" in 1980. But the system for dealing with these crimes was the same everywhere: swear the victims to secrecy; send the abuser to be "cleansed" in a clinic; shift him to another parish (or in extreme cases like Smyth's to another country); and, above all, do not tell the police.
It is not a coincidence that the cover-up worked in the same way throughout the church's vast domain. It was a fully thought-through system with a clear set of goals, defined by last year's devastating Murphy report on the Dublin archdiocese as "the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the church, and the preservation of its assets".
Why did bishops, who were not monsters and who presumably believed themselves to be exemplars of goodness, choose to send child rapists out into parishes rather than bring the institution into disrepute? The brutally truthful answer is: because they could. There is no starker illustration of the corrupting influence of excessive power.
That power was, in Catholic societies or communities, all-encompassing. It included the notion that they themselves and their priests belonged to a special caste, which was not subject to the civil law. This idea is deeply ingrained. Only last week, one of Ireland's leading canon lawyers, Monsignor Maurice Dooley, insisted on RTE radio that priests do not have to report child abuse: "Priests are not auxiliary policemen… they do not have an obligation to go down to the police." On the contrary, he insisted, Brady, when he learned of Smyth's crimes, "was dealing with a particular in camera investigation within the church. It would be a violation of his obligations if he went to the police".
That appalling arrogance was bolstered by an even more sinister knowledge. Bishops and priests knew that, because of their spiritual authority, they could manipulate the victims into feeling guilty. Kindly priests would offer those who disclosed abuse absolution of their sins, as if they were the ones who had stains on their souls. And parents who reported the violation of their children were often fearful lest they themselves be seen to be damaging the church they loved. As a previous archbishop of Dublin, Dermot Ryan, noted in internal case notes: "The parents involved have, for the most part, reacted with what can only be described as incredible charity. In several cases, they were quite apologetic about having to discuss the matter and were as much concerned for the priest's welfare as for their child and other children."
It is that capacity to place yourself above the law and to make those who have been wronged feel "quite apologetic" that is peculiar to the church. These are the factors that explain, not just why the institution put its own interests above those of children, but also why it succeeded for so long. The church is not alone in believing that evil could be tolerated for a "good cause". But it was unique in the democratic world in its ability to get away with doing so in case after case and for decade after decade.
To cut out the source of the corruption, the church would have to attack its own authoritarian culture. Had Benedict done so in his pastoral letter, it would have been the most dramatic moment in the history of Christianity since Paul fell off his horse on the road to Damascus.
Benedict, as Cardinal Ratzinger, was one of the key figures in the Catholic counter-revolution. His career has been all about rolling back the democratic ideal of the church as the "people of God" that emerged from Vatican II and re-establishing hierarchical control. Indeed, in the pastoral letter he slyly suggests that Vatican II itself was responsible for the church's collusion with abusing priests – which, given the existence of precisely the same system long before the council, is patent nonsense.
So, for all the breast-beating in the pastoral letter, there is no acknowledgment of Benedict's own culpability. (If the "credibility and effectiveness" of Irish bishops have been undermined, as he says, by the scandals, what of his own standing as a bishop, as the power behind John Paul II's throne and now as pope?)
There is no explicit endorsement of the new protocols in Ireland demanding that all suspicions be referred to the police. Indeed, the demand that "the child safety norms of the church in Ireland" be "applied fully and impartially in conformity with canon law", and the weasel-worded injunction to "co-operate with the civil authorities in their area of competence", seem to reinforce the notion that canon law matters more than criminal law.
There is no rowing back on the line enunciated by the Vatican's secretary of state, Tarcisio Bertone, last week that "the church still enjoys great confidence on the part of the faithful; it is just that someone is trying to undermine that". That "someone" is, in fact, the church's own leadership and its unshaken commitment to hierarchical power. The faithful have known that for a long time now. The pope, their supposed leader, is still floundering, far, far behind them.
Fintan O'Toole is an assistant editor of The Irish Times and author of Ship of Fools: How Stupidity and Corruption Sank the Celtic Tiger
THIRTY-FIVE YEARS TO BREAK THE WALL OF SILENCE
1975 Two young victims in Ireland sign oaths cementing their silence over allegations they were abused by Father Brendan Smyth. It later emerged that (now Cardinal) Sean Brady was present at the meeting.
1986 In Germany, Father Peter Hullerman is convicted of the sexual abuse of minors and receives an 18-month suspended sentence, but continues to work in the church. It is alleged that he had previously been suspected of abuse, but had avoided detection by being transferred to another diocese. Pope Benedict XVI, then Joseph Ratzinger, archbishop of Munich and Freising, was allegedly responsible for the transfer.
1997 Following his arrest in 1991, Smyth admits to 74 cases of sexual abuse over 35 years. He is sentenced to 12 years in prison, but dies shortly after sentencing.
2000 The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse is set up by the Irish government to establish the extent of sexual abuse of children in Roman Catholic institutions since 1936.
2001 Pope John Paul II orders bishops to report all cases of abuse directly to the Vatican and to prevent those accused from having further access to children.
2002 Cardinal Bernard Law, archbishop of Boston, resigns amid allegations he failed to act on cases of abuse within his diocese. Following his resignation he moved to work within the Vatican.
2004 The Christian Brothers, a Catholic religious order associated with boys' schools in Ireland, successfully sues the commission to keep the identity of all of its members, dead or alive, anonymous.
2009 The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse publishes its investigation. Known as the Ryan report, it details the findings gathered from 2,000 victims and the extent to which the institutions had covered up these cases.
20 March 2010 Pope Benedict XVI responds to revelations in a letter to Irish Catholics, as new cases of abuse emerge in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, Italy, Mexico and Brazil.
London ~ Sunday, 21 March 2010, page 3
Irish public unmoved by pope's apology
On the streets of Dublin it was hard to find supporters of Pope Benedict's letter of apology for the church's handling of child abuse cases
Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
Cardinal Sean Brady, left, hands out a letter from the pope to worshippers at St Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh, Northern Ireland. (Peter Morrison/AP)
Along Dublin's main thoroughfare, O'Connell Street, shoppers appeared unimpressed by the pope's letter to the republic's four million Catholics.
Adrienne Kelly, on a day out from Co Meath, said the papal letter of apology had come too late. "The damage is already done," she said. "There doesn't seem to be any way back for the church now after all the scandal and the abuse. It's very sad, but people are very angry over what has been done to children in this country by so-called men of God. You just cannot make all this scandal go away in one letter."
Maureen Murphy from Killmainham in Dublin said she did not think the pope's intervention would make much difference. "It must be terrible for older people in Ireland who love their church to hear all this. But younger people don't listen any longer to the hierarchy. They are spiritual in their own way and don't want to be told what to do. It's also a shame for all the really good holy men still in the church who have done no wrong. It would be unfair to tar them all with the same brush. But this letter won't change things now. There has been too much scandal, too much horrible stuff."
Along O'Connell Street and nearby Talbot Street no one spoke up in favour of Cardinal Seán Brady remaining in his post after the revelation that he knew about child victims being forced to sign oaths of silence for the church. Nor did they believe the letter would halt the decline of the Catholic church in Ireland.
But an exception was to be found in the form of a small group of elderly men and women outside Dublin's Catholic procathedral in nearby Marlborough Street. One woman, Maura Kennedy, said she was "heartened" by the pope's concern for victims of abuse in Ireland.
"The holy father has called for justice in his letter and I think everyone will listen to that. I think that means the abusers can't hide from the law any more. That is a good thing not only for Ireland but for Catholics everywhere," she said.
Asked whether Cardinal Brady should resign, Kennedy added: "The cardinal is a good man and deserves time and space to do what he thinks is right, but personally I believe he should stay."
At the tram stop in Middle Abbey Street a group of teenagers from Co Kildare clad in green, white and gold, in Dublin for yesterday's rugby international between Ireland and Scotland, said that while they believed in God they did not have any faith left in the church hierarchy.
Brian Dillon, 19, said: "No one listens to the church authorities among our generation. After all that has gone on with all the abuse and the paedophile priests, why would we?"
London ~ Sunday, 21 March 2010
'Shamed' Pope apologises to Ireland for church sex abuse
But victims say unprecedented letter 'falls far short' of addressing their concerns
By Philip Pullella in Rome
Pope Benedict XVI: 'You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry'
Pope Benedict XVI apologised yesterday to victims of child sex abuse by clergy in Ireland and ordered an official inquiry there to try to stem a scandal that is gripping the Catholic Church across Europe.
The Pope's moves over abuse at Irish dioceses and seminaries were the most concrete steps taken since a wave of cases hit Ireland, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, but were met with deep disappointment by the victims in Ireland.
In a letter to the people, bishops, priests and victims of child sex abuse in Ireland, the Pope did not make specific reference to churches in other countries. "You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry... I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel," he said, adding: "I can only share in the dismay and sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way the church authorities in Ireland dealt with them."
The Pope singled out Irish bishops for criticism of their handling of abuse cases, writing: "It must be admitted that grave errors of judgement were made and failures of leadership occurred."
But he failed to address widespread calls in Ireland for a radical restructuring of the church there, nor did he say that bishops implicated in the scandal should resign.
Irish victims expressed their deep disappointment. "We feel the letter falls far short of addressing the concerns of the victims," Maeve Lewis of the group One in Four told Reuters. "There is nothing in this letter to suggest that any new vision of leadership in the Catholic church exists," she said, adding that it should have addressed the fate of the head of the church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, whose resignation the group wants.
The Pope announced what is known as an "apostolic visitation" of "certain" dioceses, seminaries and religious orders in Ireland. An apostolic visitation is an inquiry in which inspectors meet senior clergy and local church officials to review the way matters were handled in the past, to suggest changes and decide possible disciplinary action.
The letter, the first papal document devoted exclusively to paedophilia, follows a damning Irish government report on widespread child abuse by priests in the Dublin archdiocese. The report, published in November, said the church in Ireland had "obsessively" concealed child abuse in the Dublin archdiocese from 1975 to 2004, and operated a policy of "don't ask, don't tell".
In recent weeks, the Vatican has tried to contain the damage scandals involving the sexual abuse of children by priests spread across Europe. The latest, in Germany, is especially sensitive for the German-born Pope, who was Munich's archbishop from 1977 to 1981. More than 100 reports have emerged of abuse at Catholic institutions, including one linked to the prestigious Regensburg choir run by the Pope's brother from 1964 to 1994.
THE AGE ~ Melbourne ~ March 23 2010
Pope's words of remorse fall flat for abuse victims
JOHN BURNS, DUBLIN
A young girl accepts a copy of the Pope's letter from Cardinal Sean Brady, Primate of All Ireland and Archbishop. Photo: AFP
POPE Benedict XVI's weekend apology to sufferers of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic clergy in Ireland has drawn a deeply sceptical and angry response from many Catholics.
In the apology - a pastoral letter read aloud at all weekend Masses across Ireland's 26 Catholic dioceses and handed out in printed form to thousands of churchgoers - Benedict ex-pressed ''shame and remorse'' to victims and their families for what he called ''sinful and criminal'' acts by members of the clergy. But in the apology, the Pope did not require that Cardinal Sean Brady, the head of the Irish church, or any other church leaders be disciplined for their mistakes, as some victims had hoped.
Nor did he clarify what critics in Ireland and elsewhere have said are contradictory Vatican rules about the procedures for investigating abuse cases and church leaders' responsibility to inform civil authorities about offences they uncover, a duty the Pope reiterated strongly in his letter.
By remaining silent on the issue of punishment for top church figures implicated in what critics in Ireland have described as decades of cover-up, the pastoral letter appears to have done little to assuage the dismay and anger of many in Ireland at years of revelations about paedophile priests and child carers.
While Benedict called for forgiveness, a common response among worshippers and nonworshippers alike was that there will be no healing until at least some church leaders resign.
The Pope inflamed anger on Sunday by failing to mention the apology at his weekly Vatican appearance. Campaigners had hoped he would use his sermon to apologise in public. Instead, he asked Catholics around the world to be ''indulgent towards sinners and pray to God to ask for forgiveness for our failings''.
In Geneva, a leading Swiss priest has called on the Vatican to set up an international register of Catholic clergy who have been reported for sex abuse. Abbot Martin Werlen, a member of the Swiss Bishops Conference, said he feared the Catholic hierarchy had failed to take the impact of the latest child sex abuse scandals in Ireland and elsewhere seriously enough.
Abbot Werlen told the Sonntagsblick newspaper that an official Swiss church body that deals with sex abuse had discussed the idea of ''a central office in Rome, which would register church people who have been reported''.
Such a list, he said, could be consulted by bishops ''anywhere in the world'' when they made appointments.
NEW YORK TIMES, AGENCIES
London ~ March 21, 2010
Pope ‘sorry’ branded too feeble
Justine McCarthy and Mark Tighe
Two of the best-known survivors of clerical child sexual abuse have called on the government to review Ireland’s relationship with the Vatican in a generally negative reaction to the publication of the Pope’s pastoral letter yesterday.
Colm O’Gorman, the founder of One in Four, said that as Ireland is at the forefront of the crisis in the Catholic church, it should set the example for a co-ordinated international response. “Ireland really needs to consider its relationship with the Vatican,” he said.
“I think this letter is going to cause further problems for the church in Ireland and probably internationally. I think the Pope is incapable of acknowledging the truth and his role in the crisis. The Irish state is going to have to take control and something will have to be done internationally about this man and his institution’s disregard for child safety.”
Andrew Madden, who was abused as an altar boy by former priest Ivan Payne, also believes Ireland’s diplomatic relations with the Vatican should be re-examined. “There’s a huge role for the government in responding to this. Its hands-off attitude that it’s not the state’s business to get involved is no longer acceptable.”
A diocese-by-diocese examination of how the Irish church has dealt with child-abuse complaints is to start after Easter. It will be conducted by the church-funded National Board for Safeguarding Children and will include complaints relating to diocesan priests and members of religious orders.
In his pastoral letter the Pope said “grave errors” had been committed by Irish church authorities and announced a formal Vatican investigation of dioceses, seminaries and religious orders affected by the scandal. He challenged abusing priests to “openly acknowledge your guilt” and “submit yourselves to the demands of justice”. While criticising “failures of leadership”, and saying bishops’ credibility and effectiveness had been “seriously undermined”, he did not suggest the resignation of Cardinal Sean Brady, as some victims had wanted.
The Pope’s linking of the abuse scandals to the “transformation and secularisation of Irish society” which adversely affected “people’s traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values” angered some campaigners.
Maeve Lewis, of One in Four, said: “We are astounded at the Pope’s assertion that the roots of clerical sexual abuse lie in secularisation, a falling-off in devotion and failures to adhere to canon law. This shows a complete misunderstanding of the dynamics of sexual violence, and creates little hope that the church will ever respond effectively to the problem.”
Madden, the first clerical-abuse victim to go public in the 1990s, said he was “deeply disappointed” by the letter, which was not a “meaningful, coherent response”. “There is no owning up by the Pope of his part in the cover-up,” he said.
Marie Collins, a Dublin victim of abuse, took some solace from the message. “What he said about the victims and the hurt and effect the abuse had on them is good,” she said. “As a victim and a Catholic I find his words helpful, but I would have liked him to say more about the hurt the leadership caused victims from the cover-ups.
“He hasn’t admitted there was a cover-up. He hasn’t accepted the resignations of bishops. If he had, it would have indicated that he grasped the seriousness of the situation. We wanted him to instruct the bishops to implement mandatory reporting but he hasn’t.”
Benedict referred to the “rapid transformation and secularisation of Irish society” in which devotional practices such as “frequent confession, daily prayer and annual retreats were neglected”. He said that the religious programme of renewal proposed after the second Vatican council in 1965 was “sometimes misinterpreted”. The Pope insisted this “overall context” was important in understanding the problem of child sexual abuse. But victims were critical of linking secularisation and clerical abuse.
“We’ve had abuse for centuries so it’s not new,” said Collins. “It is in every part of society, but it is only in the church that abusers have been protected by their superiors. For the Pope to talk about abuse being new because of secularisation is a red herring. Paedophiles will join any organisation that allows access to children.”
Ruairi Quinn, a Labour party TD, said the Pope referred to secularisation “as some sort of harmful virus”. “What I find strikingly absent is any recognition that Catholics and citizens have an obligation to adhere to the laws of the state and ensure that information is given to the civil authorities,” he said.
Terry McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org, said apostolic visitation had been tried in America, and did not work because of a lack of transparency. “It’s a completely inadequate response,” he said.
Sunday March 21, 2010, page A6
Pope Offers Apology, Not Penalty, for Sex Abuse Scandal
By RACHEL DONADIO and ALAN COWELL
VATICAN CITY Faced with a church sexual abuse scandal spreading across Europe, Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday apologized directly to victims and their families in Ireland, expressing “shame and remorse” for what he called “sinful and criminal” acts committed by members of the clergy.
Parishioners at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh, Northern Ireland, read an extract from Pope Benedict's letter on Saturday (Peter Muhly/Agence France-Presse Getty Images)
But the pope did not require that Roman Catholic leaders be disciplined for past mistakes as some victims were hoping, nor did he clarify what critics see as contradictory Vatican rules that they fear allow abuse to continue unpunished.
“You have suffered grievously, and I am truly sorry,” the pope said in a long-awaited, eight-page pastoral letter to Irish Catholics. “Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated.” He also criticized Ireland’s bishops for “grave errors of judgment and failures of leadership.”
The letter was written in language that was at once impassioned, personal and sweeping. And the pope did take the relatively rare step of ordering a special apostolic delegation to be sent to investigate abuse in unspecified dioceses in Ireland.
But even that decision raised questions among many who wondered what the investigators might unearth beyond what the Irish government found in two wide-ranging and scathing reports released last year. One report found systemic abuse in church-run schools; another said the church and the police in Ireland had systematically colluded in covering up decades of sexual abuse by priests in Dublin.
The pope has apologized before for sexual abuse scandals, most notably when meeting with victims in the United States in 2008. But the letter once again showed the difficulties facing Benedict, as a problem that he felt he had already decisively addressed appears to be intensifying, with hundreds of new allegations of sexual abuse surfacing. The crisis also stands to damage Benedict’s central goals of fortifying the church and fighting secularism in Europe.
The letter was especially anticipated, coming after weeks of damaging reports in several countries that brought the scandal close not only to the leader of Ireland’s church, but also to the pope himself.
Last week, a psychiatrist who treated a priest decades ago in a German archdiocese run by the future pope said he had repeatedly warned that the priest, who was accused of sexually abusing boys, should never work with children again. The priest was re-assigned to parish work almost immediately after his therapy began, and one of Benedict’s deputies at the time has taken responsibility for that decision. Less than five years later, the priest was accused of molesting other boys, and in 1986 was convicted of sexual abuse.
The pope did not address that case in his letter to the Irish, nor did he call for Cardinal Sean Brady, the head of the Irish church, to resign. Cardinal Brady said last week that he would step down if the pope asked, after revelations that he took part in a church investigation in 1975 in which two children were forced to sign secrecy oaths.
The letter also remained tightly focused on Ireland to the dismay of many victims’ groups around the world even as the crisis has widened to include Catholics in Austria, the Netherlands and Germany.
“I find that deceitful because we know that this is a global and systemic problem in the global church,” said Colm O’Gorman, the co-founder of a victims’ group who said he was sexually abused by a priest as a teenager in Ireland in the early ’80s. “It’s all about protecting the institution and, above all, its wealth.”
“The greatest contribution the pope could have made was to stop the abuse of victims, and he’s not even done that,” he added.
In recent years, the Catholic Church in the United States has paid over $2 billion in abuse settlements. In Ireland, some parishes have said they may have to take up a Sunday collection to help fund abuse settlements.
For many Catholics, the letter offered a critical test of whether the pope can stem a crisis that has shaken the credibility and authority of the Roman Catholic Church in other parts of the world. Even as Benedict urged Irish clergy to cooperate with civil justice authorities, the abuse scandals have put to the test a Vatican culture of protecting its own even in the face of crimes against civil and canon law.
While many Irish Catholics were hoping for concrete measures after the government reports that criticized Vatican norms for dealing with the abuse, Benedict instead offered a prescription for how to renew their faith. He urged all Irish clergy to go on a spiritual retreat and suggested that dioceses set aside special chapels where Catholics could pray for “healing and renewal.”
“There’s a strong tendency to approach this as a problem of faith, when it is a problem of church management and a lack of accountability,” said Terrence McKiernan, founder and president of BishopAccountability.org, which tracks church records on abuse cases.
In a statement, the group said the “most glaring” omission in the letter was Benedict’s “failure to acknowledge his own culpability,” adding that, “he pointedly does not include himself in his criticism of church leaders.”
In a news conference on Saturday, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, defended the pope’s statements, saying the document was intended as a pastoral letter, not an outline of “administrative or juridical measures.”
Indeed, Benedict spoke movingly and directly to the pain of victims. “Many of you found that, when you were courageous enough to speak of what happened to you, no one would listen,” the pope wrote.
He added, “I know some of you find it difficult even to enter the doors of a church after all that has occurred.”
The pope told abusers to “submit yourselves to the demands of justice, but do not despair of God’s mercy.”
The letter is to be read aloud in churches across Ireland on Sunday.
In a homily Saturday after reading the letter, Cardinal Brady made no reference to the possibility of resigning. “Let us pray that the Holy Father’s pastoral letter will be the beginning of a great season of rebirth and hope in the Irish church,” he told worshipers at a morning Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh, Northern Ireland.
Beyond revealing decades of abuse, the Irish government’s reports issued last year found that the church did not routinely inform civil authorities about priests who had committed felonies. Four Irish bishops offered their resignation in the wake of the publication of the report on Dublin in November, but the pope has accepted only one.
As reports of abuse cases have spread, many questions have been raised about the line between Vatican secrecy and civil judicial process.
Some Irish church officials have said the problem has been deepened by confusion over the interpretation of a 2001 directive by Benedict, then a cardinal, reiterating a strict requirement for secrecy in handling abuse cases. The directive also gave the authority for handling such cases to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Benedict was prefect of the congregation from 1982 until becoming pope in 2005.
Some see an inherent contradiction between the directive and the Vatican’s telling local dioceses to cooperate with civil justice. The Vatican says that its secrecy norms help protect the victims.
In his letter, Benedict spoke of “a well-intentioned but misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches,” to violations of canon law.
The pope attributed that problem in part to “a misplaced concern for the reputation of the church and the avoidance of scandal.” And he said that bishops should “continue to cooperate with the civil authorities in their area of competence.”
In the case in Germany in 1980 that made headlines recently, Benedict, then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, allowed a priest who was accused of molesting boys to move to Munich for therapy. The diocese he oversaw did not notify civil authorities of the sexual abuse allegations.
Reporting was contributed by John F. Burns and Eamon Quinn from Dublin, Alan Cowell from Paris, Nicholas Kulish from Berlin, and Laurie Goodstein from New York.
Monday March 22, 2010, page A4
Pope’s Letter Does Little to Assuage Anger
By JOHN F. BURNS and EAMON QUINN
DUBLIN Pope Benedict XVI’s weekend apology to sufferers of sexual abuse at the hands of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland met with a deeply skeptical and often angry response from many Catholics here on Sunday, with one prominent victim calling it ineffectual and demanding that the pope forcibly remove the head of the Irish church if he does not resign.
Worshipers attending Mass in West Belfast. In interviews, many Catholics in Ireland said they shared abuse victims’ anger about the clerical scandals and cover-ups by bishops (Peter Morrison/Associated Press)
In the apology, Benedict expressed “shame and remorse” to victims and their families for “sinful and criminal” acts committed by members of the clergy. His apology, a pastoral letter, was read aloud at all weekend Masses in the 26 Catholic dioceses spread across the Irish Republic and the six British-governed counties of the north, and handed out in printed form to thousands of churchgoers.
But in the apology, issued on Saturday, the pope did not require that Cardinal Sean Brady, who is the head of the Irish church, or any other church leaders be disciplined for their mistakes, as some victims had hoped. Nor did he clarify what critics in Ireland and elsewhere have said are contradictory Vatican rules about the procedures for investigating abuse cases within the church and church leaders’ responsibility to inform civil authorities about offenses they uncover, a duty the pope reiterated strongly in his letter.
By remaining silent on the issue of punishment for top church figures implicated in what critics in Ireland have described as decades of cover-up, the pastoral letter appeared to have done little to assuage the dismay and anger of many in Ireland at years of revelations about pedophiles among priests and those who care for children. While Benedict called for forgiveness, a common response among worshipers and nonworshipers alike was that there would be no healing until at least some prominent church leaders resigned.
Many attending Mass over the weekend at St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, the center of worship for the Dublin archdiocese, as well as others interviewed as they strolled in the spring sunshine in the Georgian heart of the city around St. Stephen’s Green, said they shared victims’ anger about the clerical scandals and cover-ups by bishops.
“I feel let down,” said Hugh Keogh, 62, a Dublin insurance salesman. “It is one scandal on top of another. I do not think we have seen the last of this.”
Catherine Flanagan, 38, a theatrical producer, said the pope’s apology had come too late for the victims. “A lot of people are very angry,” she said. “The pope is only taking action now because of the furor.”
Adam Cunningham, an 18-year-old heading for a hip-hop concert with a friend, Shauna Hussey, said that although both of them had been educated at Catholic schools neither attended religious services any more because of the abuse scandal. “How can you believe in religion with all this going on?” Mr. Cunningham said.
One leading campaigner against clerical sexual abuse, Andrew Madden, a victim himself as a Dublin altar boy in the 1970s, said in a telephone interview that the pope’s letter was a deeply inadequate Vatican response to three government-sponsored reports in recent years showing that church leaders in Ireland had repeatedly covered up scores of cases involving clerics under their authority.
Referring to the pope’s call for healing within the church, Mr. Madden said it required “a certain level of arrogance” for church leaders to connive in sexual abuse by the priesthood “and then put yourself forward as part of the healing process.”
But Mr. Madden, like many others in Ireland in recent days, reserved his strongest condemnation for Irish church leaders, particularly Cardinal Brady, 70, the Catholic primate of all Ireland. “Cardinal Brady and other bishops should resign or else be removed by the pope for their part in hiding abuses by clerics under their authority,” he said.
On Saturday, the cardinal, speaking at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh, Northern Ireland, greeted the pope’s pastoral letter “as the beginning of a great season and rebirth in the Irish church,” and did not repeat his earlier offer to resign if the pope requested it.
When appointed to lead the Irish church, Cardinal Brady, who had spent 13 years working in the Vatican, was hailed as well suited to guiding the church after its battering in the abuse scandals. But church documents that surfaced this month revealed that Cardinal Brady conducted what a church statement described as a “canonical inquiry” in 1975 into abuse accusations that two boys in Northern Ireland made against the Rev. Brendan Smyth, who was publicly exposed years later as a serial abuser. Father Smyth was convicted of pedophile offenses twice in the 1990s, and died in prison.
The 1975 allegations were not reported to the police at the time, a failure that the Irish church, in statements in the past week, said was the responsibility of the bishop who oversaw the investigation, not of the then Reverend Brady, whom it described as a “notetaker.”
The failure has led advocacy groups, and some in the Irish clergy, to say that Cardinal Brady bears some responsibility for the abuses Father Smyth committed for 15 years after the 1975 inquiry.
In a homily last week, the cardinal described himself as a “manager,” not a church leader, at the time, but said that he was deeply “ashamed” of his actions. Many of his critics have said that he now stands tainted, along with other Irish bishops, by the pattern of secrecy, cover-up and relocations of those suspected of abuse that was revealed in recent years.
While the strongest current among those interviewed in Dublin on Sunday ran heavily against Benedict and Cardinal Brady, some welcomed the pope’s message. The Irish Survivors of Child Abuse, a group representing children abused in child-care homes and residential schools managed by Roman Catholic orders, said in a statement that the apology was “unprecedented” and that the group welcomed the pope’s commitment to intervene in the workings of the church in Ireland by sending an apostolic delegation to investigate the abuses.
In Rome, Benedict made no mention of the letter or the Irish abuse scandal in his weekly appearance from his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s Square. But in what sounded like an indirect reference to the issue, he spoke of the church’s teachings on forgiveness. Referring to Jesus, he said, “We humbly beg his forgiveness for our own failings, and we ask for the strength to grow in his holiness.”
Rachel Donadio contributed reporting from Rome.
Monday, 22 March 2010
Pope’s apology seen as a sorry effort by critics
By Noel McAdam and Steven McCaffery
The Pope's letter on how senior Catholic clergy in Ireland mishandled cases of clerical child abuse was last night branded as “weak”.
Sunday Mass-goers heard Pope Benedict XVI's words of apology as his pastoral letter was read at Catholic churches in Ireland north and south.
The Pontiff told victims he was truly sorry for their suffering and admitted bishops had made grave errors of judgment in dealing with paedophile priests, but he stopped short of directly addressing well-documented cover-ups by senior clergy.
But as victims gave a mixed response to the Pope's letter, it was criticised by SDLP politician Declan O'Loan who described it as inadequate.
“I read the letter with a growing sense that another important opportunity had not been grasped properly.
“I welcome the apology from the Pope, though even that could have been worded more unambiguously,” he said.
“However, a full consideration of this issue required a thorough analysis of what went wrong and why it went wrong.
“That should have led to a clear indication to the Irish Church as to the steps necessary to prevent this kind of abuse, or any other kind of abuse, in the future. In that regard the letter is weak.”
It has now emerged that the Catholic church is to undertake an internal investigation into its handling of child sex abuse involving priests in Northern Ireland.
The probe will take the form of an “Apostolic visitation” of certain dioceses which have yet to be identified congregations were told at the weekend.
The lengthy process is to include seminaries and religious congregations, the Bishop of Down and Conor, Noel Treanor, confirmed in a a letter given out at Masses in the province yesterday.
In it, Bishop Treanor urged Catholics to discuss the contents of the Papal letter in groups, parishes and neighbourhoods over the period of Lent until Easter “as we prepare to undertake and respond to its proposals”.
He said the Pontiff’s letter should be read “with a view to renewing our own lives, the life of the Church and the moral fibre of our society”.
And Bishop Treanor also thanked those at diocesan and parish level “who give their time and skills to foster the safeguarding of children”.
The Pope’s letter said: “Arrangements for the visitation, which is intended to assist the local Church on her path of renewal, will be made in co-operation with the competent offices of the Roman Curia and the Irish Episcopal Conference. The details will be announced in due course.”
There was a mixed response from victims’ groups to the content of the Pope’s letter, which Masses were told yesterday would take 25 minutes to read out.
Maeve Lewis of the One in Four group said the cover-up aspect of paedophile priests by the Church hierarchy had not been sufficiently addressed, while Patrick Walsh of Irish Survivors of Abuse called the letter “unprecedented” and “encouraging”.
Ms Lewis said the Pope had not addressed the key issue, “which is the church policy, right to the very top of the Vatican, to cover up sex abuse scandals to protect paedophile priests at the expense of vulnerable children.”
Monday, 22 March 2010
Church fails to tap into depth of feeling on abuse scandals
By Laurence White
The Catholic Church and I suppose most organised denominations finds it difficult to communicate with its followers.
Listen to any sermon on any Sunday as the priest tries to make a theological message relevant to today’s society. After a few minutes and you will notice that the attention of many in the congregation has begun to wander.
Pastoral letters from Bishops are even harder going. Read out at Masses on occasions like Easter or Christmas their message is often even more impenetrable. The church hierarchy does not talk the language of the ordinary person.
And so it is with the Pope’s long-awaited letter on the sex scandals racking the Catholic Church in Ireland. In fairness to him, he made a fair fist of trying to use common language, but it is still a missive which has been drafted and re-drafted several times, full of nuances and clever phrases.
There are welcome expressions of regret, shame and remorse; acknowledgement that many victims of abuse have left the Church or feel little for it; the training of priests and religious orders is also questioned and so is the reaction of Bishops to the scandal.
There is even an acknowledgement that Bishops had a “misplaced concern for the reputation of the Church and the avoidance of scandal” when they refused to take action against paedophile priests. That is as close as the Pope comes to admitting there was a cover-up.
And that is where the Papal pastoral letter falls down. It fails to really tap into the feeling of outrage within the laity over the sex scandals. Of course the Pope should feel remorse, shame and regret and we all know why the Bishops took no action against paedophile priests.
What people within the Church and not just the victims wanted was for the Pope to say that there will be a full-ranging inquiry into the scandals; that Bishops who did nothing, for whatever reason, will be asked to step down; that all victims will be compensated and that all abusers will be referred to the civil authorities.
Recently I watched a couple of episodes of the BBC1 Northern Ireland series on Francis Campbell, the Northern Ireland man who is the UK’s Ambassador to the Vatican. As the cameras followed him, it was impossible not to be struck by the huge treasure trove that the Catholic Church owns.
At every step there are priceless paintings, golden objects and wall frescos, and that is only the treasure that is on display. God knows what else lies in the vaults, unknown to everyone except to the Vatican curators.
The Catholic Church is immensely wealthy and its congregations continue to be very generous. Compensating the victims of abuse even given the grand scale of the abuse in many more countries than Ireland should not present the Church with an insuperable problem.
The grandeur of the Church sits very uneasily with the despicable way it treated most of the victims of its abusing priests and religious. A Biblical phrase comes to mind: For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but lose their soul?
This might be a fitting text for the hierarchy to consider, but directed at themselves rather than their flocks. I’m still not convinced that the Church has done enough soul searching or shown enough humility.
THE AGE ~ Melbourne ~ March 22 2010
Time for the Church to focus on the victims
By CATHY KEZELMAN
Illustration: Robin Cowcher
The Pope's letter to 15,000 victims of Irish clergy abuse, while expressing his shame and remorse along similar lines to his apology in Australia and US in 2008, falls well short of the mark. While it rebukes Irish bishops and lower ranking officials it makes no mention of any sanctions against them over their "grave errors of judgment" in not responding to sex abuse allegations. He suggests that the church's own laws, properly applied, should lead to the expulsion of clergy who sexually abuse children. However, the scale of this scandal would suggest otherwise. The church is facing a burgeoning crisis in countries all over Europe, including in the Pope's native Germany and most recently in Brazil.
This letter also fails to address the role of senior Irish clerics, or most importantly, the Vatican's own accountability. It would appear that the Church's policy has helped to protect sex offenders in its midst while failing to prevent further crimes or appropriately care for victims. What appears to be a systematic cover-up of sexual abuse by the highest echelons of the Church is arguably the most morally reprehensible crime of all. The Church has for many lost its moral and sadly, its spiritual authority.
This apology is a long-overdue attempt to unlock the conspiracy of silence and secrecy, which protects perpetrators and perpetuates abuse both inside and outside of the church. However, the church is still not tackling its ultimate responsibility for the horrendous harm suffered by countless victims. It has not demanded the resignations of those spearheading the cover-up or committed to bringing all of the perpetrators to justice through the criminal justice system. The policy of the church has effectively put the lives of scores of children in danger. The scale of the harm generated is only now coming to light. Tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of children's lives have been impacted and so have those of the adults they have become. As this situation has now reached tipping point, undoubtedly many more victims will now find the courage to speak out.
The impact of abuse does not stop when the abuse stops. The human brain is not fully developed until a person is in their 20s. When a child is abused in those crucial developmental years it affects every aspect of their development, arresting their emotional maturation and their ability to make empowered and informed choices. When the perpetrator of that abuse is a person in position of authority and trust and in this case a spiritual leader the damage is potentially even greater. When a child discloses, or for that matter, an adult, it is crucial for them to be heard, validated and supported. It takes incredible courage to overcome the inappropriate shame and self-blame survivors feel in speaking out, especially when tackling an institution with the power and authority of the Catholic Church. The failure of the Church to embrace its victims and provide a truly pastoral response has further compounded the damage to victims.
It is time for real reform and that must begin at the very top of the Catholic Church, with a review of canon law. Canon law seemingly has failed to establish clear and transparent mechanisms for dealing with sexual abuse within the Church and this failure has allowed those crimes to continue unabated. The Pope again failed to clarify whether the church considers secular law a higher priority than canon law in dealing with sexual abuse within the Church. In past decades, as the number of victims coming forward increased, the church closed ranks seeking to protect the institution and its clergy. It failed to put proper boundaries in place to contain the inappropriate behaviour of offending priests and so protect the innocent in its care. This papal letter has failed to reassure victims and other concerned parties that effective changes will be put in place and will be enforced to fully protect children in the Church's care.
The Pope's letter does not call for the resignation of the head of the Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, who swore two child victims to oaths of secrecy in 1975, so ensuring their silence. Cardinal Brady has sincerely apologised for his mistakes of the past and asked Irish Catholics for forgiveness. However, he has stated that he will only resign if the Pope asks him to do so. Yet the Pope has not called for his resignation or for that of others at the top of the Church in Ireland.
Three Irish government-ordered investigations published from 2005 to 2009 documented how 15,000 Irish children were raped, molested and suffered systemic abuses at the hands of priests in their parishes and by nuns and brothers in boarding schools and orphanages.
The investigations, undertaken by senior members of the judiciary, ruled that Catholic leaders protected the Church's reputation from scandal at the expense of children. In fact, Irish bishops did not report a single case to police until their hand was forced in 1996 after victims began to sue the church. The Pope has suggested that the Irish Bishops involved didn't understand the scale or criminality of child abuse until recent years. However, the investigators found cases in which Catholic officials in the 1960s had reported school employees to police for abusing children, showing they understood even then it was a crime. This further abrogation of responsibility does little to appease the anger of victims or show real commitment to change.
The Pope has stated that priests and religious workers guilty of child abuse must answer for these crimes before properly constituted tribunals. It is not clear whether he means that they must surrender themselves to police and face justice through the channels of the criminal justice system. This needs to be clarified. It is reassuring to see that Germany has taken a stand by saying that all cases of child sexual abuse within the church will now be referred immediately to the police.
Pope Benedict XVI, who served as Archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982, has yet to speak about the hundreds of abuse cases emerging in Germany, which are now affecting two-thirds of diocese there. He approved the transfer of a priest accused of child sexual assault for treatment instead of informing German police. This priest was subsequently reinstated and went on to allegedly abuse more children. In 2001, while a cardinal at the Vatican, the now Pope wrote a letter instructing bishops worldwide to report all cases of abuse to his office and keep Church investigations secret under threat of excommunication. The Vatican insists the secrecy rules serve only to protect the integrity of the Church's investigations, and should not be taken to mean the Church should not tell police of their members' crimes.
With scandals burgeoning in Italy, Switzerland, Austria, The Netherlands, Poland and Brazil in addition to previous crises in Canada, the US and Australia, it is time for fundamental change. And it is high time the Church's priority shifts from institutional risk minimisation and protecting sex offenders within the church and focuses on protecting children and dealing with the needs of the victims.
Dr Cathy Kezelman is chairwoman of Adults Surviving Child Abuse.
London ~ March 21, 2010
The chuch offers apology, not penalty
By Colin Coyle
The Catholic church in Ireland spent decades trying to cover up the sexual abuse of children by its clergy, but yesterday it could not avoid the gaze of the world. The “historic” and “unprecedented” letter from the Pope to Irish Catholics was the most prominent story in news outlets throughout the world by midday.
There was some disappointment that the Pope concentrated entirely on the sexual scandals in Ireland and did not refer to the fact that sexual abuse by clerics was a worldwide problem.
In Germany, victims’ groups expressed disappointment that the letter did not mention the scandals besetting the church there. Hundreds of cases of sexual abuse at church-run schools have emerged. At least one occurred in the Pope’s own Bavaria archdiocese while he was serving there. The Pope’s brother was accused of slapping boys in his Regensburg choir.
Dirk Taenzler, director of the Federation for German Catholic Youth, urged the Pope to address his fellow Germans: “Everybody is suffering from the church’s bad image. It is an issue in every congregation and everybody is trying to cope.”
Bild, Germany’s biggest-selling tabloid, reported that the “Pope says nothing about German abuse cases”, while Der Spiegel, a weekly magazine, noted that the Pope was “silent on abuse in Germany”.
We Are Church, a Catholic activist group in Germany, said the letter failed to address the fact that abuse is a global and structural problem for the church. “It would be good if there would be a mea culpa from him for all victims around the globe,” Christian Weisner, a spokesman, said.
Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, the leader of the church in Germany, said he understood “the Pope’s admonition to the bishops in Ireland as an admonition to us at the same time”.
The Pope’s successor in Munich, Archbishop Reinhard Marx, said the letter “will affect us. The Pope always speaks for everybody. It is not for specific groups or countries”.
The Rev Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, noted that the letter was pastoral, not administrative or disciplinary. Acknowledging the cases in Germany, Lombardi said the Irish scandal was unique in its scope, but issues in the letter could be read to apply to other countries and individuals. “You can’t talk about the entire world every time,” he said.
The New York Times, under a headline “Pope offers apology, not penalty”, said the letter “seemed couched in strong and passionate language”. However, it said the letter “did not refer directly to immediate disciplinary action beyond sending a special apostolic delegation to investigate unspecified dioceses and religious congregations in Ireland”.
“Nowhere in the letter did Benedict address the responsibility of the Vatican itself,” the newspaper noted. “Nor did he use the term punishment, or spell out any consequences for clergy or bishops who had not upheld canon or civil law. Indeed, he laid blame firmly with Irish Catholic leaders.”
The New York Times website received hundreds of comments, most of them critical. Barbara Dorris, of the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests, described the letter as “inadequate”. “The most powerful religious figure on the planet speaks of ‘decisive action’. But he refuses to take any,” she said. “In just one nation, tens of thousands of children have been sexually assaulted by trusted priests. Bishops concealed the crimes, sometimes for decades. But the Pope responds by promising to send a few of his staff there to ask some questions.”
Andrew Brown, a commentator with The Guardian, described it as “a first-class apology to the children of Ireland: simple, eloquent, and unambiguous”. He said it included “a remarkably forthright public bollocking of his own bishops”.
Brown said if the Pope’s predecessor had spoken with the same “humility, directness and obvious truth to the Irish public 20 years ago, when Brendan Smyth was first jailed, he might have lanced the boil”.
What the letter said
The Pope spoke of his “dismay” and “sense of betrayal” on learning of the “sinful and criminal acts” carried out by Irish clergy.
“It is true, as many in your country have pointed out, that the problem of child abuse is peculiar neither to Ireland nor to the church,” he said. “Nevertheless, the task you now face is to address the problem of abuse that has occurred within the Irish Catholic community, and to do so with courage and determination. No one imagines that this painful situation will be resolved swiftly.”
He blamed “inadequate procedures” for choosing priests, insufficient moral and spiritual training for seminarians, a deference to the clergy in Irish society, and a misplaced concern by the church to avoid scandal. He also noted the increasing secularisation of Irish society, saying it had led some in the church to a “misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches to canonically irregular situations”.
To victims of abuse and their families, he said: “You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated.”
He told priests and other religious who had abused children they had “betrayed the trust that was placed in \ by innocent young people and their parents”. “You must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals,” he said. “You have forfeited the esteem of the people of Ireland.”
He said that some bishops, and their predecessors, failed, “at times grievously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crimes of child abuse”.
He asked Catholics to devote their Friday “penances” for a year to strengthen the church. “I ask you to offer up your fasting, your prayer, your reading of scripture and your works of mercy in order to obtain the grace of healing and renewal for the church in Ireland,” he said.
He composed a new prayer for Ireland.