Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"A Charade"?

In the monthlong run-up to this week's Irish summit, expectations were running unusually high, with possibilities ranging from universal norms for clergy sex-abuse to a "vast reorganization" of the Isle church on the lips of even the more credible of ecclesial voices.

Yet with the historic "accounting" now in the books -- and this morning's closing statement offering but passing reference to "those who had been abused" -- leading survivors have registered a resounding thumbs-down on the meeting's result:
The One in Four group said expectations had been high that the Vatican and the Irish bishops would fully acknowledge the role of the institutional Catholic Church in protecting sex offenders at the expense of vulnerable children and that a clear plan for the future would be offered.

"We are also disappointed that the Pope has offered no explanation for the failure of the Vatican and the Papal Nuncio to cooperate with the Murphy Commission," its director Maeve Lewis said.

"Instead, the Vatican has accepted no responsibility for its role in facilitating the sexual abuse of children, referring only to the Irish Church, and only vague declarations of intent for the future are included."

She said while the bishops' commitment to co-operation with the State authorities was welcome "the response is otherwise extremely inadequate.

"There seems to have been very little progress in the course of the meeting".

Ms Lewis also criticised Pope Benedict's reference to the weakening of faith being a contributing factor in the phenomenon of child sexual abuse. "It is deeply insulting to survivors to suggest that they were abused due to failures of faith, rather than because sex-offending priests were moved from parish to parish, and those in authority looked away while further children were sexually abused."

Mr Andew Madden, who in 1995 became the first in Ireland to go public with an abuse lawsuit against the church, said it appeared that that submissions made by some survivors of sexual abuse by priests have been "completely ignored".

"It would appear that self preservation and damage limitation for the Catholic Church is still a higher priority for Pope Benedict and the Bishops than the concerns and wishes of people who had been sexually abused as children by priests in the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin over many decades, and that hardly represents change."

"I can only conclude that the Catholic Church remains a disgraced, discredited organisation that seems to be entirely incapable of responding in any intelligent, meaningful way to the findings of the Ferns, Ryan and Murphy Reports", Mr Madden said in a statement issued this evening.

Christine Buckley of the Aislinn support centre said she was "dismayed, hugely, profoundly upset and disappointed" at the outcome of the bishops' visit.

Speaking on Lunchtime with Eamon Keane on Newstalk, she said the bishops' visit was "a charade".

"[It was] a collection of 24 bishops who appear to have been lectured about the tensions and the disunity of their members rather than trying to find out why these abuses happened and how to resolve them".

Ms Buckley also criticised the focus of the meetings on diocesan abuse, rather than on abuse in Catholic-run institutions.

"I'm normally an optimist and for some unknown reason I really thought that the Pope was going to say 'let's start with Ireland. I will go to Ireland. I will meet with the victims of institutional and clerical abuse. I will unveil a memorial. I will start a first world conference for victims of institutional and sexual abuse'. Instead he has washed his hands of it, he thinks it's okay and that a Lenten pastoral letter is going to help our pain. No, it is not."
For its part, a representative of the lead American lobby for victims, the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP), led the pile-on, releasing a statement even before this morning's closing session that deemed the Vatican "part of the problem," its priorities as "backwards" and lambasted the Holy See as "a centuries-old, deeply-rooted culture of self-serving secrecy perpetuated by a rigid, ancient, all-male monarchy."

While the Irish primate Cardinal Sean Brady led a group of prelates in a mid-afternoon press conference (top) at the offices of Vatican Radio, no reports from the session have yet emerged.