The Irish bishops just don't get it

Look at the statements and homilies made by some of the Irish bishops yesterday following their two-day meeting with Pope Benedict XVI, and one thing will be perfectly obvious: they just don't understand the problem.

There is plenty there about sin and repentance, God's loving and healing mercy, and the evil of abuse of children -- and of course, mention of guidelines which prevent it happening again. But what none of them mentions is the culture of collusion and cover-up which prevented the priest perpetrators being dealt with until at least the mid-1990s. 


Nothing about the decades of denial. No mention of clericalism. Not one reference to institutional idolatry.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin gets it. "I believe what happened in this diocese of Dublin the 70s, 80s, 90s and beyond was an appalling thing. I've said it was handled appallingly badly. The result was that children suffered and you have to say that unconditionally."

He thinks all the former Dublin auxiliaries at the time of the Murphy report should offer their resignations -- not because they were responsible for the policies which brushed allegations under the carpet, but because they did nothing to challenge those policies and that culture. They were complicit by omission, if not by commission. And anyway, their resignation is the only concrete way the Church can repent of that culture and show it has changed.

But Dr Martin's approach was defeated in Rome, and the other bishops returned home happy. Only one has had his offer to resign accepted. And from what they said yesterday, it doesn't look as if anything happened in Rome to shake them out of their denial. 

That leaves the Pope's pastoral letter to the Irish people, expected mid-March. But if that doesn't confront the core sin identified by Murphy, the chances of trust being restored in the Church look slim indeed.

It's just as well Lent lasts 40 days.

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8 years 9 months ago

National Catholic Reporter
February. 19, 2010

James Lindsay
8 years 9 months ago
People in every cultural milleiu have a blind spot. Hierarchs have a particularly large one and the awareness you would like them to have falls right into it.
Charle Reisz
8 years 9 months ago
The church heirarchy continues to maintain its priorities; power, wealth and self esteem.  Don't expect any changes with the present leadership and the succession system.
Ed Draw
8 years 9 months ago
"One saint after another has declared that the devil’s principal target on earth is the Catholic priest. Stands to demonic reason – if the devil can deceive and delude a Catholic priest, and draw him away from Christ, what happens? What happens is what we see happening in our world today". Hardon SJ. We must pray for our priests and offer penance, fasting, reparation.
Livia Fiordelisi
8 years 9 months ago
Oh please, Maria. I am so tired of this type of magical thinking. Let's encourage our priests and bishops to grow up and take responsibility for their actions.
david power
8 years 9 months ago
I feel physically sick everytime I read about the Irish bishops.I would love to be able to counter the writer here and say that they are better than what he is painting them to be.But they are not.This problem is as old as the hills and they dont get it.I am sure if a millstone was sent to each of them,they would be left scratching their heads.But the truth is waiting for them.The next Eucharistic Congress will be held in Dublin and I can assure you that it will be the day the chickens come home to roost.Barring an exceptional letter from the Pope written in episcopal blood  the Irish people will wash their hands of this sorry bunch.Bishop Martin not included.
Robert Hartley
8 years 9 months ago
I was taught that contrition always, always, in order to be sincere required an admission of personal guilt. Where is the admission of personal guilt by the Pope and his bishops? It was the Pope, all along, who knew what was happening, and concealed it and demanded of his bishops, that they follow his example?
No admission of personal guilt, ergo, no contrition, ergo, the sin remains!
8 years 9 months ago
If the focus is the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and his hurt, then my effort should be at reparation, to soften the blows to his heart.
Molly Roach
8 years 9 months ago
I don't want to encourage bishops and priests to grow up, I want to insist that they do.  And work hard at serving God's people and stop collecting entourages of admiring syncophants.  Enough!
Robert Imbelli
8 years 9 months ago
Mr. Ivereigh,
Thank you for the link. Reading this statement of Bishop Treanor -"The bishops returned time and again in their contributions to the horrific and tragic fact that this occurred within the Church. They recognised that mismanagement had occurred and that there were cover-ups. They articulated the suffering, hurt and pain of victims." - I would not say he fails "to get it."
Is your assessment too sweeping?
Austen Ivereigh
8 years 9 months ago
Robert, the point is that the Vatican statement makes no reference to collusion and cover-up, and Bishop Treanor says in his statement that the bishops alluded to these in their private conversations with Pope Benedict. There is no confession, in these statements, of the core element of the scandal - the grave sin of active collusion to prevent disclosure and action. "Mismanagement" is essentially passive; it takes refuge in processes. What went on was much more active: a conscious decision, time and time again, to ignore or to investigate only half-heartedly the allegations. That was an active decision with very grave consequences. Saying the bishops recognised that there was "mismanagement" just doesn't come close - but thank you for pointing out that Bp Treanor mentioned "cover-ups"; I should have said so. But my point is unharmed. Best, Austen.


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