WIDESPREAD condemnation of the way the Roman Catholic bishops of the Dublin archdiocese dealt with paedophile priests over three decades culminated in a call for the expulsion of the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, over the Vatican’s failure to respond to the scandals (News, 27 November).
The independent commission established by the Irish government under Ms Justice Yvonne Murphy of the High Court examined complaints against 46 individual priests, involving 320 children, the majority of whom were boys. One priest admitted sexual abuse of more than 100 children.
It found that four Archbishops and several auxiliary Bishops of Dublin, including five now serving in dioceses of their own, seriously failed in their duty of protection towards children.
The Roman Catholic Church’s own rules and structures facilitated a cover-up, the report says, which included the movement of priests who were known offenders from one parish to another, thus allowing them to reoffend. It also failed to report offenders to the Garda Siochána, the police force of the Republic of Ireland, over the entire period of their tenure in office. The Gardaí, in turn, often deferred to the hierarchy by simply advising archbishops of complaints they themselves had received. RC prelates were thus regarded as being above the law of the State.
The inquiry described the behaviour of successive Archbishops of Dublin as showing “denial, arrogance, and cover-up” over a period from the 1970s until the 1990s. The Justice Minister of Ireland, Dermot Ahern, described the report as chronicling a scandal on an astonishing scale, and pledged that, in the Republic, no organisation or institution would be allowed to regard itself as superior to the State or its people. “A collar will protect no criminal,” he said.
Ms Justice Murphy’s report found that churchmen used a form of “mental reservation” as an excuse for lying, and, although some brave priests did confront their seniors with reports of abuse, the general policy was “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”
It was also revealed that when the commission wrote to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2006, asking for details of child-abuse reports sent to it, the Vatican did not reply; nor did the Papal Nuncio respond to two requests for all documents relevant to the inquiry.
A Church of Ireland Rector, Canon Stephen Neill, of Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary, called for the expulsion of the Nuncio, in a blog, Paddyanglican: “We should expel the papal nuncio who, along with his colleagues in the Vatican, including the Pope and his predecessors, has demonstrated absolute contempt for the legal authorities of this State.”
He said that those concerned had actively frustrated and subverted the criminal investigation of clerical child-abuse through non-co-operation and non-disclosure.
The State did not escape criticism in the report. It said that there was a failure to make sure that the law was applied equally to all, which had allowed the Church to be beyond the law. An internal Garda investigation is to be held to identify, and probably prosecute, individual members of the force who assisted in the cover-up by failing to pursue complaints.
The Irish public has responded with widespread revulsion and anger towards those responsible.
On the other hand, the current Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, has been praised for his frank and forthright approach.
There have been calls for the resignation from their present positions of those bishops who were serving auxiliaries in the archdiocese during the period, and also for the commission to expand its remit across all Roman Catholic dioceses in the country.
Fr Timothy Radcliffe, OP, of Blackfriars, Oxford, in a letter to The Times (1 December), said that the only possible reaction to the report is “shame and repentance”. He said that this “widespread sexual abuse of minors seems mainly
to characterise English-speaking countries. . . It represents the weakness of a particular tradition within the Church.” However, in Latin American or Africa and many parts of Asia, “you will invariably find Catholic priests . . . who share the lives of the poorest of our planet … and champion their rights and dignity.”