Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Paedophile priests must own up to their sins, says Vatican

From The Times February 16, 2010

Paedophile priests must own up to their sins, says Vatican

(Osservatore Romano/Reuters)
Pope Benedict XVI speaks during a meeting with the Irish bishops at the Vatican
Richard Owen in Rome 28 Comments
Recommend? (4) Catholic clergy who have sinned by their acts or by turning a blind eye in Ireland’s paedophile priests scandal must admit blame for their “abominable acts”, a senior Vatican official said yesterday.

“Yes, storms spark fear, even those that rock the boat of the Church because of the sins of its members,” said Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, in a sermon delivered to Ireland’s bishops inside St Peter’s Basilica shortly before they began two days of crisis talks with the Pope.

Cardinal Bertone said that trials that came from within the Church “are naturally harder and more humiliating”, particularly when “men of the Church were involved in such particularly abominable acts”.

However, they formed a challenge that the Church “must face”. He made his comments during a Mass, held for survivors of sexual abuse, attended by Ireland’s 24 bishops.

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Vatican analysts said that the 11 hours of meetings held by Pope Benedict XVI with Irish bishops yesterday, and a further five-hour behind closed doors session today, were unprecedented. However, Irish victims of abuse by priests — which was revealed in two government-ordered reports last year — were unimpressed, calling on the Pope to visit Ireland to meet victims in person.

“We want the Pope to make a proper apology to Ireland, for what happened in Ireland,” Michael O’Brien, an abuse victim, said.

“We don’t want a bland apology, we want an apology to those of us in Ireland who were abused and to the people of Ireland, who are 100 per cent behind us on this.

“This is not an Irish problem. This is a Catholic Church worldwide problem.”

Irish abuse victim support groups have written an open letter to the Pope calling for the resignation of bishops “who engaged in this culture of cover up”.

In December last year the Murphy Tribunal concluded that the Church hierarchy had protected paedophile priests from prosecution, moving them from parish to parish where they could reoffend, in order to safeguard the Church’s reputation.

“The lives of thousands of Irish people have been devastated by sexual abuse by priests,” said the letter, which was also signed by Andrew Madden, a former altar boy, who in 1995 became the first Irish person to take legal action against the Catholic Church in Ireland.

“We ask you to write, not only to Irish Catholics, but to all people of Ireland, accepting fully the harm that has been caused by the acts of omission and commission of the Catholic Church and its priests and bishops in Ireland.”

Four Irish bishops have already tendered their resignations to the Pope while a fifth, Martin Drennan of the Galway Diocese, is the only senior official named in last November’s Murphy report not to have done so. He claims that he did nothing to endanger the wellbeing of children.

The Murphy report outlined in detail a “don’t ask, don’t tell” culture in which church officials had placed “protection of their own institution above that of vulnerable children in their care” and failed to inform police when abuse was discovered.

The Pope has said that he is “disturbed and distressed” by the Murphy report and shares the “outrage, betrayal and shame” felt by Irish people.

The bishops, led by Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, will give a press conference today after their final session with the Pope. A pastoral letter from the Pope to the faithful in Ireland on the sex abuse crisis would be issued once he had “digested what the bishops had to say and taken it into account”, Vatican sources said.

Cardinal Brady said the encounter with the Pope was “one step in a process which will lead to a journey of repentance, renewal and reconciliation”. He added that there was “no disunity” over “safeguarding children in Ireland” and he hoped the process of reconciliation “will gain momentum when we get back to Ireland”.

John Kelly, of the Survivors of Child Abuse group, said victims wanted the Pope to “restore the true Church to Ireland”, which had been “severely damaged at home and abroad by the atrocities committed”. Representatives of the victims have asked the Pope for compensation and are seeking a meeting with him during his visit to Britain in September.

The Murphy report established that a series of Dublin archbishops had compiled confidential files on more than a hundred parish priests who had sexually abused children since 1940, but the files remained in private archives and were not acted on.

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