THE report from a visitation of senior clergy, at the behest of the Vatican, to the four Roman Catholic archdioceses in Ireland after the child-abuse scandals perpetrated by priests and members of religious congregations over a 70-year period, has concluded that figures in positions of authority failed to exercise proper vigilance, while shortcomings in the past encouraged inadequate understanding of the problems and poor responses to the “terrible abuse of minors”.
The seven teams of visitators examined the archdioceses, religious congregations, and seminaries. There were few surprises — at least for many of the Irish RC laity, who have become accustomed to expressions of sorrow and regret, and the promise to do better in the future.
Audits on safeguarding, and pastoral priorities — including “a new focus on the role of the laity”, and a stronger formation of faith in youth and adults, with a detailed review of educational approaches — and continuing support for victims of abuse featured prominently, as did the acknowledgement of strong determination among clergy, religious, and laity to implement guidelines for the safeguarding of children.
Hints of a return to old orthodoxy in the training for the priesthood and a reinstatement of traditional ways emerged in the recommendation for greater emphasis on formation of seminarians to keep instruction in total conformity with church authority. The report also suggested more stringent criteria for admission to seminaries.
The RC Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Seán Brady, flanked by the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, and the new Papal Nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Charles Brown, led the apologies at the press conference in Maynooth, on Tuesday.
The Cardinal said: “As bishops, we wish to associate ourselves with the great sense of pain and shame expressed in the visitation findings. In expressing true sorrow and regret, we make our own heartfelt plea for forgiveness from the victims, and from God for these terrible crimes and sins.”
Groups of survivors of abuse, such as One in Four, led by Colm O’Gorman, said that the Vatican was still not taking responsibility for the part it played in interventions which protected the institutional Church at the expense of children. “Nowhere in this statement, or in any statement the Vatican has ever made, has it acknowledged its responsibility for the cover-up of these crimes,” Mr O’Gorman said.
Others expressed anger at what they saw as the Holy See’s using Ireland as an example, arguing that the RC Church had a worldwide problem with abuse.
A summary of the visitation’s findings is at www.catholicbishops.ie/.