Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Irish Bishops Reflect on their Rome Meetings

The Primate of All-Ireland Cardinal Se├ín Brady said this afternoon that were the remit of the Murphy Commission to be extended to other Catholic dioceses in Ireland, the Catholic Church “will co-operate fully with that inquiry.”

He pointed to the Church’s current co-operation with statutory bodies such as the HSE and the Department of Health in Northern Ireland, as they prepare audits on child protection, as an example of such co-operation.

He was speaking at a press conference at the Vatican Radio centre in Rome following discussions between Pope Benedict, seven Curial Cardinals and 24 Irish bishops yesterday and this morning on the clerical child sex abuse crisis in Ireland.

Also in attendance at the press conference was the Bishop of Meath Michael Smith, the Bishop of Clogher Joseph Duffy, the Bishop of Ferns Dennis Brennan, and the Bishop of Achonry Bishop Brendan Kelly.

Cardinal Brady said the Pope had “given a strong message of encouragement” to the Irish bishops in dealing with an issue which “he recognised was not an Irish problem, not an Anglophone problem, not a Catholic Church problem.”

Acknowledging “the failures in our leadership” as bishops he said “we were not made to feel like scapegoats “ but were encouraged “by offers of help from the Curia, he said.

Bishop Brennan said that while “victims (of abuse) were central to all our discussions and remain a top priority,” no plans were made for such victims to meet the Pope. He was sure the Pope would do so “when the time is right. They (victims) will tell us that,” he said.

Cardinal Brady said there had been no discussions of the resignations of bishops. “That is a matter between the bishops (concerned) and the Holy See. It would not be appropriate for us to give opinions on the matter.”

He said the bishops had seen drafts of the pope’s planned pastoral letter to the Irish people and made observations on it. He did not comment on its content.

As regards the papal nuncio’s decision not to appear before the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs, Bishop Smith indicated it was not appropriate, according to Vatican protocol, for him to do so.
Abridged from The Irish Times

Conclusion to the Irish Bishops' Vatican Summit

Following the conclusion to the extraordinary summit of the Irish bishops, the Press Office of the Holy See has released the following statement:

On 15 and 16 February 2010, the Holy Father met the Irish Bishops and senior members of the Roman Curia to discuss the serious situation which has emerged in the Church in Ireland. Together they examined the failure of Irish Church authorities for many years to act effectively in dealing with cases involving the sexual abuse of young people by some Irish clergy and religious. All those present recognized that this grave crisis has led to a breakdown in trust in the Church’s leadership and has damaged her witness to the Gospel and its moral teaching.

The meeting took place in a spirit of prayer and collegial fraternity, and its frank and open atmosphere provided guidance and support to the Bishops in their efforts to address the situation in their respective Dioceses.

On the morning of 15 February, following a brief introduction by the Holy Father, each of the Irish Bishops offered his own observations and suggestions. The Bishops spoke frankly of the sense of pain and anger, betrayal, scandal and shame expressed to them on numerous occasions by those who had been abused. There was a similar sense of outrage reflected by laity, priests and religious in this regard.

The Bishops likewise described the support at present being provided by thousands of trained and dedicated lay volunteers at parish level to ensure the safety of children in all Church activities, and stressed that, while there is no doubt that errors of judgement and omissions stand at the heart of the crisis, significant measures have now been taken to ensure the safety of children and young people. They also emphasized their commitment to cooperation with the statutory authorities in Ireland – North and South – and with the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland to guarantee that the Church’s standards, policies and procedures represent best practice in this area.

For his part, the Holy Father observed that the sexual abuse of children and young people is not only a heinous crime, but also a grave sin which offends God and wounds the dignity of the human person created in his image. While realizing that the current painful situation will not be resolved quickly, he challenged the Bishops to address the problems of the past with determination and resolve, and to face the present crisis with honesty and courage. He also expressed the hope that the present
meeting would help to unify the Bishops and enable them to speak with one voice in identifying concrete steps aimed at bringing healing to those who had been abused, encouraging a renewal of faith in Christ and restoring the Church’s spiritual and moral credibility.

The Holy Father also pointed to the more general crisis of faith affecting the Church and he linked that to the lack of respect for the human person and how the weakening of faith has been a significant contributing factor in the phenomenon of the sexual abuse of minors. He stressed the need for a deeper theological reflection on the whole issue, and called for an improved human, spiritual, academic and pastoral preparation both of candidates for the priesthood and religious life and of those already ordained and professed.

The Bishops had an opportunity to examine and discuss a draft of the Pastoral Letter of the Holy Father to the Catholics of Ireland. Taking into account the comments of the Irish Bishops, His Holiness will now complete his Letter, which will be issued during the coming season of Lent.

The discussions concluded late Tuesday morning, 16 February 2010. As the Bishops return to their Dioceses, the Holy Father has asked that this Lent be set aside as a time for imploring an outpouring of God’s mercy and the Holy Spirit’s gifts of holiness and strength upon the Church in Ireland.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Calling to Account

Pope Benedict XVI meeting with the Irish bishops at the Vatican earlier today. Speaking prior to the unprecedented session, Secretary of State Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone told the 24 Irish diocesan bishops that clergy who had sinned must admit blame for "abominable acts".

The Cardinal Secretary of State Sets out the Agenda

Before their meeting with Pope Benedict XVI and his top lieutenants, the Irish bishops concelebrated mass in the grotto of St Peter's Basilica. The main celebrant was the Vatican's Secretary of State Tarcision Cardinal Bertone.

In his homily, Cardinal Bertone urged the Irish bishops to consider their trials with joy because, while on the one hand they humiliate, on the other hand they test faith, producing patience and perseverance.

He added that, for the Church, these tests “may come from outside or inside. Both are painful, but those that come from within are naturally hard and humiliating”.

He described the trials facing the Catholic community in Ireland as “a serious test” which “sees some churchmen involved in particularly abhorrent acts”.

He said “this kind of test strips us of any false security and pushes us to entrust ourselves to God alone”.

Because only if we are “true and sincerely humble” can “the grace of God act and we achieve a true rebirth”.

The Cardinal warned against the temptation to discouragement and despair touching the hearts of believers, shaking their faith and threatening their ability to trust God.

For this reason, he concluded, the bishop’s must accept Gods will with a “good and faithful heart in order to receive the full force of renewal”.
Text adapted from The Irish Times.

Irish Hierarchy in Rome

In the above images members of the Irish Hierarchy can be seen preparing for and participating in a mass in S. Patrizio, Rome, in honour of the late Cahal Cadinal Caly, whose titular church this was. The bishops are in Rome for two days of meetings with Pope Benedict XVI and senior curial officials to discuss the fallout following the publication of the Ryan and Murphy Reports.