Monday, December 07, 2009

Return of the Irish

Eleven days after the Murphy Report's release dealt a fresh blow to an Irish church already well-scarred by revelations of abuse and cover-up, it's emerged that the Isle's top two prelates will head to Rome later this week for their second scandal-related sit-down with Pope Benedict in just the last six months.

On Friday, the pontiff has called Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin (respectively, above right and left) -- the president and vice-president of the Irish bishops -- to an unusual roundtable audience that'll likewise include officials of the Curial dicasteries with relevant competence, and the nuncio to Dublin, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, whose office was faulted by the state inquiry for its failure to reply to the commission's requests for information (a result the Vatican blamed on the inquiry's failure to go through the proper diplomatic channels).

According to multiple reports, an e.mailed statement from the Holy See's lead spokesman, Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, said that Benedict wants "information and an evaluation" on the report's fallout, ostensibly in order to craft a Vatican response. For his part, however, Brady told today's Irish Times that he intended to convey "the anger and dismay among the people" at the report's findings of a decades-long cover-up of abusive clergy carried out by four successive Dublin archbishops and their top staffs.

The cardinal-primate likewise told the paper that the inquiry's correspondence to the Holy See and the Dublin nunciature "should have been acknowledged."

Meanwhile, the Irish press is also reporting that one prelate prominently named in the commission's findings has flown to Rome, where he's expected to turn in his resignation. A Dublin auxiliary from 1981-96, Bishop Donal Murray of Limerick has come under intense pressure to stand down in the report's wake after his prior plan to gauge the opinion of his diocese's consultative bodies was widely panned as an inauthentic vote of confidence.

For his part, Murray said in a homily last weekend that his "inability to get to the full truth was not the result of any lack of effort on my part, but a lack of skill and experience."

"At no time, however, did I receive an allegation of sexual abuse and fail to take it seriously," he added, "at no time did I engage in an attempt to cover up."

Having led the response to the report thus far, Martin returned to the path of penance that follows it in a homily preached yesterday in the capital:
The Church on many occasions in history has betrayed its vocation and failed its people. How does the Church respond? The response will come not just from new structures, which are necessary and that process will go on, but structures must be combined with accountability, as Cardinal Brady said yesterday. The real protagonist of reform and transformation in the Church is the Word of God. It is only when we as individuals and as the Church begin to allow their lives to be taken over by the power of the word and when our lives become not just lip service to the word, but become truly consonant with the word of God, that the saving and transforming power of God’s power will appear in a prophetic way, against all human prevision. But for that to happen, then and today, we have to repent.
The prelate's preach included a particular plea for the young to "not abandon the church."

"Your Church lies in the future," Martin said, "the long future which will be there when my generation will have long since gone.... The Church will not be reformed by abandoning the Church, but by living the word. The Church needs your integrity and honesty and idealism. You have something special to bring so that arrogance of the past can be replaced by a new idealism of the future."

Friday's session will be the second time the Irish top brass has met with the pontiff this year; Brady and Martin went to Rome in early June to brief B16 on the Ryan Report, the May findings of another years-long state inquiry, which concluded that an "endemic" pattern of abuse existed in the residential schools entrusted to Ireland's religious orders.

* * *
After said first meeting with the Pope, Brady told reporters that Benedict had repeated the "four points" on healing abuse in the church first given in his 2006 ad limina address to the Irish bishops -- the first time the reigning pontiff went on-record about the crisis.

Lest anyone missed said text before, here goes (emphases added):
"In the exercise of your pastoral ministry, you have had to respond in recent years to many heart-rending cases of sexual abuse of minors. These are all the more tragic when the abuser is a cleric. The wounds caused by such acts run deep, and it is an urgent task to rebuild confidence and trust where these have been damaged. In your continuing efforts to deal effectively with this problem, it is important to establish [1.] the truth of what happened in the past, [2.] to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, [3.] to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected and, above all, [4.] to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes. In this way, the Church in Ireland will grow stronger and be ever more capable of giving witness to the redemptive power of the Cross of Christ. I pray that by the grace of the Holy Spirit, this time of purification will enable all God’s people in Ireland to “maintain and perfect in their lives that holiness which they have received from God” (Lumen Gentium, 40)."
Align Left
Before their leaders depart for Rome, the Irish bishops will have their Winter Meeting at Maynooth on Wednesday and Thursday of this week.