Wednesday, February 17, 2010

'A heinous crime': Pope Benedict XVI speaks out at summit over child abuse scandals in Irish Catholic Church

'A heinous crime': Pope Benedict XVI speaks out at summit over child abuse scandals in Irish Catholic Church

By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 7:15 PM on 16th February 2010

'Grave sin': Pope Benedict XVI has addressed abuse revelations that have rocked the Catholic Church

Pope Benedict XVI has branded the sexual abuse of children and young people a 'heinous crime'.

At the end of an unprecedented two-day Vatican summit with Irish Bishops, the Pontiff said the clergy should face the present crisis with honesty and courage.

The 24 senior clergy were summoned over the past mishandling of child abuse scandals that rocked the Catholic Church in Ireland.

In a statement, the Vatican said: 'For his part, the Holy Father observed that the sexual abuse of children and young people is not only a heinous crime, but also a grave sin which offends God and wounds the dignity of the human person created in his image.

'While realising that the current painful situation will not be resolved quickly, he challenged the Bishops to address the problems of the past with determination and resolve, and to face the present crisis with honesty and courage.

'He also expressed the hope that the present meeting would help to unify the Bishops and enable them to speak with one voice in identifying concrete steps aimed at bringing healing to those who had been abused, encouraging a renewal of faith in Christ and restoring the Church's spiritual and moral credibility.'

The diocesan bishops were hauled before Pope Benedict and his most senior aides in the wake of the sickening abuse revelations contained in the Ryan and Murphy reports.

Vatican: Irish clergy must admit blame for 'abominable acts'

The Vatican said the senior clergy spoke frankly of the sense of pain and anger, betrayal, scandal and shame expressed by those who had been abused and the feeling of outrage reflected by the religious.

The statement also said the Bishops had promised the Pope they are committed to cooperating with civil authorities in investigations over the scandal.

Rome also revealed the Bishops had an opportunity to examine and discuss a draft of the Pastoral Letter which the Pope has penned to the Catholics of Ireland.

'His Holiness will now complete his Letter, which will be issued during the coming season of Lent,' the statement said.

Rome said the Holy Father also pointed to the more general crisis of faith affecting the Church and he linked that to the lack of respect for the human person, and how the weakening of faith has been a significant contributing factor in the phenomenon of the sexual abuse of minors.

'He stressed the need for a deeper theological reflection on the whole issue, and called for an improved human, spiritual, academic and pastoral preparation both of candidates for the priesthood and religious life and of those already ordained and professed,' the statement continued.

But victims' groups expressed fears of a whitewash where those who facilitated child abuse by priests will not face justice.

Representatives said the meeting did not conclude who should pay for a policy of cover up and failed to mention any Vatican responsibility for looking the other way for decades.

'It is very disappointing. The Vatican has accepted no responsibility for its role in facilitating the sexual abuse of children,' said Meave Lewis, executive director of victim-support group One in Four.

'In fact it is quite insulting to victims to imply that they were abused because of failings of faith rather than the fact that sex-offending priests were moved from parish to parish and those in authority looked away,' she said.

Christine Buckley, a victim of abuse and founder of the Aislinn support centre, told Ireland's Newstalk radio: 'I am dismayed, hugely, profoundly upset and disappointed.'

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