Busy day in Rome

Apparently a thoroughly devastating report on clerical sexual and physical abuse of Irish children and attempts to cover it up by the Irish hierarchy has been gruesome enough to draw an unprecedented response from Pope Benedict XVI. Benedict met with "senior Irish bishops and high-ranking members of the Roman Curia" this morning before issuing a statement expressing his personal regret and shame because of the experience of the irish people at the hands of their own pastors:

"After careful study of the report, the Holy Father was deeply disturbed and distressed by its contents. He wishes once more to express his profound regret at the actions of some members of the clergy who have betrayed their solemn promises to God, as well as the trust placed in them by the victims and their families, and by society at large.

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"The Holy Father shares the outrage, betrayal and shame felt by so many of the faithful in Ireland, and he is united with them in prayer at this difficult time in the life of the Church.

"His Holiness asks Catholics in Ireland and throughout the world to join him in praying for the victims, their families and all those affected by these heinous crimes."

Benedict promises a pastoral letter to the Irish people "in which he will clearly indicate the initiatives that are to be taken in response to the situation."

After his 90-minute meeting with the Pope, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin soberly noted that a "significant reorganisation of the Church in Ireland" was likely. The Irish Times is reporting that the bishop of Limerick Dr. Dónal Murray is expected withi days to offer his resignation to Pope Benedict.

Benedict was busy today. He also met for the first time with Nguyen Minh Triet, president of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, what the Vatican described as a significant step toward. The meeting was described as cordial but the relationship between the Vietnamese government and Vietnam's Catholics has been far from that. The Catholic population in Vietnam is the second largest, behind the Philippines, in Southeast Asia. 

Religion remains under state control in Vietnam and the issue of church properties seized after the end of French rule in 1954 has been an unresolved sore point between the church and government in Vietnam, sporadically flaring up into serious confrontation. A Catholic priest, Nguyen Van Ly, jailed for eight years in 2007 for "spreading propaganda against the communist state," is in poor health. His release would be an indication of how serious the Vietnamese communists are about these recent steps toward rapprochement with the church.

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8 years ago
Brendan: I have pondered, for some time, your question as to why Catholics do not demand accountability for the sexual abuse scandal. If we believe that the Vicars of Christ, plural, looked the other way, where then is our hope? Too heinous to imagine, we busy ourselves with outrage over other matters. We cannot take it in.

8 years ago
Brendan: I have pondered, for some time, your question as to why Catholics do not demand accountability for the sexual abuse scandal. If we believe that the Vicars of Christ, plural, looked the other way, where then is our hope? Too heinous to imagine, we busy ourselves with outrage over other matters. We cannot take it in.

Brendan McGrath
8 years ago
I've read elsewhere some of the comments of the bishops in Ireland, particularly those of Cardinal Brady, and I have to say that I've been very impressed - I wish our hierarchy here in America would talk a bit more like Cardinal Brady.  Yes, I know that more than ''talk'' is necessary, but I get the feeling that there WILL be more than talk.  Some parts of Benedict's response are also very encouraging.  Overall, the Irish bishops seem to ''get it'' more than our American bishops did/do, and from various comments I've read from Cardinal Brady, it sounds like they tried to help Benedict to ''get it'' more than he may have before.
 
I'd like to re-post below a comment I made a few weeks ago that relates to this; not many people responded to it, and I'd like to try again to see if anyone has any thoughts (I'd be eager to hear what any of the people who blog for America might have to say about it too).  Here it is:
 
Has anyone noticed the interesting way in which many ''conservative'' (labels are tricky) members of our Catholic community will criticize bishops for various other things, but not really demand accountability and reform, etc. when it comes to the sex abuse scandals?  This isn't necessarily a criticism; it's just something I'm trying to understand more, and perhaps looking at it more could reveal helpful ways forward, etc.  Look, for example, at the reaction among ''conservative'' Catholics to the whole Catholic Campaign for Human Development thing; look at how critical EWTN's Raymond Arroyo has been on ''The World Over'' of it.  And then, look at how they actually forced Bishop Morin to RESPOND to those criticisms at the USCCB's meeting.  And then, look at how another bishop (Bishop Bruskewitz) has criticized Bishop Morin's response.  Another example of the voice of conservative laity forcing bishops to respond to criticism is when that bishop in San Francisco had to issue a statement when he gave Communion to someone in drag or whatever.  My point is, why do we see outrage, demands for change, even calls for people to withhold donations, when it comes to things like the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, but you generally don't see that when it comes to sex abuse scandals? 
 
Yes, of course there is outrage and calls for reform from ''conservative'' Catholics with regard to getting abusers out of the priesthood (and of course there's controversy over how that should be done, whether homosexual persons should be banned from the seminary, etc.), but when it comes to holding the bishops accountable, there seems to be some sort of disconnect.  On ''The World Over'' with Raymond Arroyo, there were calls for more transparency and accountability from the CCHD - but why the disconnect when it comes to demanding transparency and accountability from bishops on the sex abuse issue? 
 
Furthermore, why does there seem to be a similar disconnect or blindspot for many ''conservative'' Catholics with regard to the potential responsibility of John Paul II, and/or Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Ratzinger?  Some will say that John Paul II didn't know, but... is it really as simple as that?  I do realize that it's so much more complicated; I think that John Paul II is/was a good, holy man, despite his faults and matters on which I would disagree with him; I don't think it's a matter of ''cover up'' with regard to him; I think he and many just weren't thinking in those categories.  But regardless, why is there this disconnect in how many ''conservative'' Catholics view him?  In the rush to canonize him, I mean, isn't anyone thinking about how it would relate to the sex abuse scandals?  What about his giving Cardinal Law that post at the basilica?  I mean, why is that just ignored?
 
I've often thought that the problem with a group like Voice of the Faithful is that it doesn't wrap itself in orthodoxy and fidelity to the Church enough, which makes it easier to ignore or disregard.  The hierarchy doesn't need to pay attention to them.  But if the Knights of Columbus started calling for reform, that would be a different story.  Perhaps any reform effort needs to come from groups that look less like VOTF, and more like EWTN or the Knights of Columbus.
Eric Stoltz
8 years ago
''Benedict promises a pastoral letter to the Irish people 'in which he will clearly indicate the initiatives that are to be taken in response to the situation.'''
 
Oh boy, I can't wait. Let me guess what the Vatican's solutions will entail:
 
(a) Something about how evil The Gays are and how they need to be smitten;
 
(b) Something about how increased control by clerics will solve the problem of clericalism;
 
(c) Something about how the media are to blame for not keeping these crimes secret.
Gabriel McAuliffe
8 years ago
It is sad to see that charity is not always practiced by members of the diaconate.
How about praying with the Holy Father for a good resolution?  Or are we to respond with catcalls and negativism?
Gabriel McAuliffe
8 years ago
I am sorry for having responded in such a way to Rev. Mr. Stoltz.  I pray for a good result, that the Holy Spirit may comfort and guide us, particularly those who were victimized.
Molly Roach
8 years ago
I am praying with the Catholic people of Ireland especially with and for those who were raped and otherwise sexually assaulted by priests. I don't think a letter is enough at all.  I think action is paramount.  A letter is just more words and with the RC hierarchy, obfuscation is their best talent.  It seems that they simply cannot believe that their actions or inactions have anything to do with the fact that priests have been raping Catholic children for quite some time.  So I pray that they will finally see that and take appropriate action and that includes removing the bishops and other clerics who have protected these rapists. 
MAUREEN TURLISH SISTER
8 years ago
Pope Benedict XVI once again has lamented his “deep shame” over the clergy sex-abuse scandal, decrying the “enormous pain” that individuals and communities have suffered from “gravely immoral behavior” by priests. He vowed to “do what is possible so this cannot happen again in the future.”

Do what is possible?

Not one bishop has been removed from office because of his own complicity, collusion or cover-up of the church’s continuing sexual-abuse problems. Nor has anyone been forced to resign for violating Canon Law or criminal or civil laws.

Even when the Archdiocese of Boston imploded in 2002, church authorities were quick to say former Archbishop Bernard Law’s resignation had nothing to do with his leadership style.

I love my church, and together with Pope Benedict XVI I am ashamed, deeply ashamed of what has been done to children in God’s name. I fully expect my church leadership to initiate actions that more faithfully follow their words.

Benedict must address the flaws and corruption in the institution that is not confined to Ireland, the United States, Canada or Australia.

This is possible and the pope can do but he and the bishops have to admit to their complicity.

Anything less is “sounding brass and tinkling cymbals” (1 Corinthians 13:1-2) because words without action remain hollow.
Leon Podles
8 years ago
I have noticed that reaction to the sexual abuse scandal cuts across “party” lines in the Church.

The National Catholic Register and the Wanderer have been done major work in exposing the scandals. But Commonweal and America have been much more reticent, as has First Things.

I would probably be considered in the “conservative: side, because I have a Thomist formation, am a Latinist, and admire the liturgy of the Eastern Churches. I feel attuned to the writings of von Balthasar and Ratzinger, and Cardinal Schoenborn (who has read my book) has asked me to serve on the board of the International Theological Institute.

I have put massive amounts of time and money into my book Sacrilege and into the BishopAccountability project. I have been extremely critical of the bishops; my pastor blackballed me from the Knights of Malta because I criticized the bishops. I have gotten strong negative responses both from “liberals” and from “conservatives” like the late Father Richard Neuhaus.

I have evidence for the failures of Paul V, John Paul II, and Cardinal Ratzinger in dealing with abuse and am not afraid to criticize the papacy in its failures.

As I said, the response of members of the Church is not always what when would expect. Some are horrified by the abuse and the toleration of the abuse and want the Church purified and changes made so that this never happens again. We may disagree on the changes – some blame celibacy, others clericalism, others a Romanita that values appearances above all else.

But others, and I would include Commonweal and America in this group, wish the whole disgusting affair would go away and Catholics could regain our political and cultural respectability and importance.
david clohessy
8 years ago
Come on, there's no "unprecedented response" here. The pope met with American Cardinals in 2002 over the crisis. Popes have apologized about the crisis in the United States, Canada, and Australia.   
Are our expectations really so low that anyone can get excited about yet another vague, brief apology and vague brief pledge of reform from a man with vast powers to really DO something? What a disservice to kids worldwide, to be mollified, in the face of massive evidence of devastating child sex crimes and widespread church coverups, with mere words. 
 
David Clohessy, National Director, SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, 7234 Arsenal Street, St. Louis MO 63143, 314 566 9790 cell ([email protected])
 
Charle Reisz
8 years ago
All of this regret and shame and all of the popes prayers will mean something if and when the pope actually does something to rid the church of the people who fostered these crimes by covering them up.  Don't expect that to happen soon since he is one of the guilty ones.  Unfortunately the structure of the RCC insures a continuing of the cuture that has prevailed for decades and possably even centuries.  Until there is concrete action by the pope and other church rulers, all the expressions of sorrow and shame and all of the prayers are meaningless bs. 
Greg Bullough
8 years ago
I am quite tired of hearing these guys talk about how they are ''shocked'' and ''appalled'' by the very things which they knew very well were going on for decades.
The public may not have known, but the bishops knew. It's in the report that they knew. And together with the bishops, quite a few clergy at the senior levels, and no small percentage at the junior levels.
They feign shock now in order to align themselves with the faithful whose faith their inactions have shaken.
They've known for a donkey's age what was going to be in the report; after all, it was all about their actions.
Therefore all of the hand-wringing, dismay, and pious blathering must be just so much carefully-orchestrated PR, designed to portray the bishops as additional victims when they are, in fact, responsible parties.
They can't avoid this after-the-fact.
They could have avoided it or at least softened it if they would have, years ago, confessed the Church's institutional sins and made voluntary amends and reparations.
Remorse at finally having gotten caught isn't remorse at all.
To the Deacon above: Don't let pious platitudes of recrimination disarm your righteous anger at this betrayal by the clergy of which you are a junior member. We very much need more people with 'Rev' in their names to be genuinely angry, and to be moved to action by their anger. And that means action beyond praying and calling upon the Holy Spirit's help.
 
S Bond
8 years ago
The bar is pretty low in terms of expectations, as far as I'm concerned.  I found myself surprised and gratified that the Pope actually read the report.
Sad.
Eric Stoltz
8 years ago
Well, perhaps my reaction sounds uncharitable, but what I was aiming for is more like cynicism. Unfortunately, that's about the best I can muster. We've already seen how the Vatican reacted to the full-blown crisis in the United States, and it was along the lines of the three points I mentioned: blaming others and reaffirming clericalism. And the one bishop who was in charge at the epicenter? Oh, he is now in charge of selecting bishops for other dioceses. Lovely.
 
We've seen the crises explode in the U.S., Canada and Australia. The Vatican issued a few statements. Now we are supposed to believe that something will finally happen because Ireland has exploded?
8 years ago
It's been mentioned in above posts a list of countries where abuse has been uncoverd. All these countries there is English common law,and they are the only countries where the abuse has been uncovered. Many including Carolyn Disco and Jason Berry have documented that Enlish common law allows documents to be legaly un-sealed and the abuse exposed. Some Latin and Italian hierarchs have had the nerve and stupidity to say abuse is an "English disease'; These corrupt hierarchs have successfully covered up the abuse in their own countries because the secret documents in their judicially corrupt countries could never be exposed.
QED... The COVER-UP in the non-English common law countries is going on at this very minute and the Vatican knows completely, completely all about it. And will do nothing.. To ask 'who knew and when did he know it' is a joke in these countries. as they say in Jersey.. foretaboutit.

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