THE Pope’s failure to accept accountability for the role of the Catholic Church in recklessly endangering children makes him just as guilty as the Irish bishops who covered up child abuse, victims’ groups say.
Following a meeting in the Vatican with Cardinal Seán Brady and Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, the Vatican said Pope Benedict was “disturbed and distressed” by the contents of the Murphy Report, which revealed how hundreds of complaints of abuse were covered up by senior clergy.
However, the Pope’s expressions of “profound regret” were last night described as wholly inadequate and likely to cause further distress to the thousands of people who were abused.
Maeve Lewis, head of sexual abuse support group One in Four, said it was hoped the Pope might apologise for the culture of secrecy and cover-up by Catholic Church authorities documented by the Murphy Report and that he might accept responsibility for his role in the creation of that culture.
“To say that he is disturbed and outraged by the accounts of clerical abuse is disingenuous at the very least, given that the files of the clerical sex abusers have been routinely sent to the Vatican over the years,” Ms Lewis said.
“He must have been aware of the extent of the problem when, as Cardinal Ratzinger, he presided over the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.”
She said the Pope appeared to be trying to put all the blame on the individual offending priests rather than accepting responsibility for the role of the Church authorities in recklessly endangering children.
In an unprecedented move, however, Pope Benedict said he is planning to write a pastoral letter to the Irish people, expected early in the new year, in response to the crisis.
His statement said he wanted to “assure all concerned that the Church will continue to follow this grave matter with the closest attention in order to understand better how these shameful events came to pass and how best to develop effective and secure strategies to prevent any recurrence”.
The Pope’s message came as survivors of institutional abuse met with representatives of the Bishops’ Conference.
Patrick Walsh, the British spokesman for the Irish Survivors of Child Abuse, said a change of attitude at the highest level within the Church had been noted and the meeting had been very constructive.
On the Pope’s statement, Mr Walsh urged sceptics to hold their fire as the devil may be in the detail.
“We don’t know what is in the Pope’s pastoral letter, so I would say wait and see.”
Mr Walsh said the fact that the Pope had taken such interest in the Irish situation meant he understood fully the magnitude of the situation.
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