Sunday, February 14, 2010

For Irish Church, the Moment of Truth

Tomorrow, a historic moment in the Vatican's response to the global clergy sex-abuse scandals arrives as Ireland's 24 diocesan bishops begin an unprecedented two-day summit with Pope Benedict and his senior Curia over the devastating fallout of November's Murphy Report on the history of abuse and its handling in the archdiocese of Dublin.

While the American cardinals were addressed by Pope John Paul II and met with the relevant heads of dicasteries nearly four months after the outbreak of the US' edition of the crisis in 2002, never before has an entire national bench been summoned to Rome on the hot-button issue... and neither has a pontiff himself led the discussions as Benedict XVI will with his Irish visitors.

Beginning at 9.30am Rome time (3.30am ET), tomorrow's first sit-down will stretch into the night, wrapping up at 7pm, minus a three-hour afternoon break. Tuesday's session will again be extensive, but run only through the day's first half.

According to the Irish Times, the Pope is "expected" to be present throughout. Joining him at the talks will be no fewer than seven dicastery chiefs, led by his Secretary of State, the prefects of the Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith, Bishops, Clergy, Religious and the leading canonist Archbishop Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts.

In a briefing this afternoon, the Irish church's lead spokesprelate warned that the sessions would be "a complete flop if seen as a formality or a glossing over of difficult points."

The bishops were being called in "to account directly to the Holy Father," Bishop Joseph Duffy of Clogher told reporters, over "the failure of all of us, including bishops, for not doing what we were expected to do."

After furious reaction and intense coverage on the Isle in the wake of the state inquiry's release, the summit was announced five weeks after B16's first response, when the pontiff's "outrage, betrayal and shame" were communicated after he met with the country's two top prelates, Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, the latter of whom has won both wide praise and internal scorn for affirming the public outcry since the report's release.

Before the meeting's start, the prelates made their first public appearance earlier today at a memorial Mass for Cardinal Cahal Daly, the retired primate of All Ireland who died on New Years Eve aged 92.

In his homily during the liturgy at Daly's titular church -- St Patrick's on the Tiber's banks -- Bishop Colm O'Reilly of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise noted the context, saying thus: "This year we who live and minister to God’s people in Ireland are especially conscious of the call of the Gospel to repentance, a time for confessing our sinfulness and entrusting ourselves to the mercy of God.

"It is a time for undoing, insofar as this is possible, the damage our sins have done for what is done and what we have failed to do," O'Reilly added. "It is a time for a new beginning a time to begin trusting in the Lord’s power to save."

"We pray that we may search with [Benedict] for ways forward which will be pleasing in the sight of God. We search... aware of our own poverty, our need of God and our inability to do anything that is good without God’s help."

As ever, more as it emerges.

PHOTO: Reuters