Monday, May 31, 2010

For Ireland, Visitation Day

In a move that could be considered too coincidental to be a coincidence, the Holy See used this feast of the Visitation to roll out the plans for the much-expected Apostolic Visitation of the church in Ireland in the wake of the Isle's latest, most staggering wave of revelations of sex abuse by clergy and cover-up by church officials.

Spurred by last year's releases of the twin government inquiries on the Irish church's response to abuse -- May's Ryan Report on residential schools, and November's Murphy Report on the archdiocese of Dublin -- the visit will begin in the Fall, led by five prelates, all of Irish descent.

The investigation was called by Pope Benedict in his pastoral letter to the Irish church, released in March.

Here, the Vatican release detailing the plans:

Following the Holy Father’s Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, the Apostolic Visitation of certain Irish dioceses, seminaries and religious congregations will begin in autumn of this year.

Through this Visitation, the Holy See intends to offer assistance to the Bishops, clergy, religious and lay faithful as they seek to respond adequately to the situation caused by the tragic cases of abuse perpetrated by priests and religious upon minors. It is also intended to contribute to the desired spiritual and moral renewal that is already being vigorously pursued by the Church in Ireland.

The Apostolic Visitors will set out to explore more deeply questions concerning the handling of cases of abuse and the assistance owed to the victims; they will monitor the effectiveness of and seek possible improvements to the current procedures for preventing abuse, taking as their points of reference the Pontifical Motu Proprio "Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela" and the norms contained in Safeguarding Children: Standards and Guidance Document for the Catholic Church in Ireland, commissioned and produced by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church.

The Visitation will begin in the four Metropolitan Archdioceses of Ireland (Armagh, Dublin, Cashel and Emly, and Tuam) and will then be extended to some other dioceses.

The Visitors named by the Holy Father for the dioceses are: His Eminence Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Emeritus Archbishop of Westminster, for the Archdiocese of Armagh; His Eminence Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, for the Archdiocese of Dublin; the Most Reverend Thomas Christopher Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, for the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly; the Most Reverend Terrence Thomas Prendergast, Archbishop of Ottawa, for the Archdiocese of Tuam.

In its desire to accompany the process of renewal of houses of formation for the future priests of the Church in Ireland, the Congregation for Catholic Education will coordinate the visitation of the Irish seminaries, including the Pontifical Irish College in Rome. While special attention will be given to the matters that occasioned the Apostolic Visitation, in the case of the seminaries it will cover all aspects of priestly formation. The Most Reverend Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, has been named Apostolic Visitor.

For its part, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life will organize the visitation of religious houses in two phases. Firstly it will conduct an enquiry by means of a questionnaire to be sent to all the Superiors of religious institutes present in Ireland, with a view to providing an accurate picture of the current situation and formulating plans for the observance and improvement of the norms contained in the "guidelines". In the second phase, the Apostolic Visitors will be: the Reverend Joseph Tobin, CSsR and the Reverend Gero McLaughlin SJ for institutes of men; Sister Sharon Holland IHM and Sister Mairin McDonagh RJM for institutes of women. They will carry out a careful study, evaluating the results obtained from the questionnaire and the possible steps to be taken in the future in order to usher in a season of spiritual rebirth for religious life on the Island.

His Holiness invites all the members of the Irish Catholic community to support this fraternal initiative with their prayers. He invokes God’s blessings upon the Visitors, and upon all the Bishops, clergy, religious and lay faithful of Ireland, that the Visitation may be for them an occasion of renewed fervour in the Christian life, and that it may deepen their faith and strengthen their hope in Christ our Saviour.
As preliminary notes go, O'Malley's already up with a statement on his selection for the team; Dolan just returned from a pilgrimage to Ireland's lone seminary -- St Patrick's in Maynooth -- where he delivered a lecture last week on priesthood in a time of scandal; the executive of the Irish bishops has welcomed the Vatican plans; presuming the Visitors' will investigate the "extended" dioceses within the provinces assigned to them, O'Malley and Collins would respectively be charged with looking into two of the hardest-hit suffragan churches -- Ferns and Cloyne... and, lastly, Murphy-O'Connor's appointment to the team represents the second Roman nod to the Westminster prelate since his retirement last year: named to the Congregation for Bishops shortly after Archbishop Vincent Nichols succeeded him in the UK capital, the cardinal's selection as Visitor to the Isle's primatial see -- where Cardinal Sean Brady recently decided to keep on (and seemingly request a coadjutor) after a firestorm over his involvement in a 1975 case -- is of interest given decade-old allegations that Murphy-O'Connor had mishandled at least one case during his tenure as bishop of Arundel and Brighton.