Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Signed Friday, "Sent Soon": The Ireland Letter

In the works since December -- weeks after the devastating Murphy Report on clergy sex-abuse in Ireland's capital see -- at this morning's General Audience the Pope revealed that his pastoral letter on the Isle's abuse crisis will be signed Friday and "sent soon after"....

Timing the disclosure for today's feast of the national patron, B16 said thus:
Today is the feast of Saint Patrick, and in a special way I greet all the Irish faithful and pilgrims here present. As you know, in recent months the Church in Ireland has been severely shaken as a result of the child abuse crisis. As a sign of my deep concern I have written a Pastoral Letter dealing with this painful situation. I will sign it on the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, the Guardian of the Holy Family and Patron of the Universal Church, and send it soon after. I ask all of you to read it for yourselves, with an open heart and in a spirit of faith. My hope is that it will help in the process of repentance, healing and renewal.
The much-anticipated letter will arrive as the latest Irish crisis -- which arguably jumpstarted the most seismic global wave of abuse revelations yet to rock the church universal -- has reignited over recent days amid the emergence of the involvement of the Isle's highly-regarded primate, Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh, in a mid-1970s canonical process involving the country's first prominent predator priest, the late Norbertine Brendan Smyth.

Then a part-time priest-secretary to his bishop, Brady aided in collecting testimony from two teenage victims of Smyth's as part of a church investigation that led to the disgraced cleric's removal from ministry. Still, public reaction has dwelt with a new fury on the now-cardinal's failure to alert the authorities, viewing Brady's role -- which included securing confidentiality oaths from the boys -- as partaking in a cover-up.

Amid the fresh outpouring in the media and calls for his resignation, the cardinal (who dropped out of a confirmation yesterday "under pressure") said earlier this week that he would step aside only if asked to do so by Pope Benedict.

In his homily at this morning's St Patrick's Mass in Armagh cathedral (above), the successor to the Irish apostle apologized to "anyone who has been hurt by any failure on my part."

"Looking back," the primate said, "I am ashamed that I have not always upheld the values that I profess and believe in."

Brady went on:
Like St. Patrick, like St. Peter, we as Bishops, successors of the Apostles in the Irish Church today must acknowledge our failings. The integrity of our witness to the Gospel challenges us to own up to and take responsibility for any mismanagement or cover-up of child abuse. For the sake of survivors, for the sake of all the Catholic faithful as well as the religious and priests of this country, we have to stop the drip, drip, drip of revelations of failure.

The Lord is calling us to a new beginning. None of us knows where that new beginning will lead. Does it allow for wounded healers, those who have made mistakes in their past to have a part in shaping the future? This is a time for deep prayer and much reflection. Be certain that I will be reflecting carefully as we enter into Holy Week, Easter and Pentecost. I will use this time to pray, to reflect on the Word of God and to discern the will of the Holy Spirit. I will reflect on what I have heard from those who have been hurt by abuse. I will also talk to people, priests, religious and to those I know and love.

Pray for those who have been hurt. Pray for the Church. Pray for me.
Since November's Murphy Report and its stepped-up Vatican response, significant, unprecedented revelations of abuse and administrative mismanagement have emerged from locales including Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, and in the crisis' latest harrowing turn, the world's largest Catholic country -- Brazil -- where three priests were suspended earlier this week, including an 82 year-old cleric secretly filmed having sex with a 19 year-old man who charged that the cleric had abused him since he was 12.

The suspension was undertaken after the video was aired as part of a nationally-televised report.

PHOTO: St Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh