ALL anybody has wanted to hear from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the past week has been sincerity and humility.
Victims and practising and non-practising Catholics needed to hear and believe the bishops of Ireland really felt the pain they had engendered by failing to follow up abuse complaints, take offenders out of ministry and most importantly – put the protection of children first.
We may have heard it from Archbishop Diarmuid Martin when he referred to the Murphy report as a “revolting story of sexual assault and rape of so many young children” but when we learnt of the Papal Nuncio’s repeated failure to respond to Commission inquiries and witnessed the ‘I won’t be hunted out’ defensiveness of Bishop Donal Murray in the past week, we immediately felt that it was Church and power first, children second.
The big fear of many is that even after the Ferns, Cloyne, Ryan and Murphy reports, the Church still isn’t really reeling from what it has done and isn’t tearing apart the fibres that allowed the culture of cover-up become enmeshed in the mindset of bishops across the country.
It is one thing for us to appeal for morals and social conscience from bankers but when it comes to bishops, surely it is a sine qua non?
And please explain to me, why is it accepted wisdom that it is beneath the Pope to actually come out and make a public address to his bewildered and angry flock in Ireland?
Bishop Willie Walsh, a man who has many times proven his deep Christianity, further shocked many on RTÉ Radio by strongly defending his fellow bishop, Bishop Murray and accusing people of “grossly misreading” the report’s findings. And not even our Taoiseach, never mind the bishops, has had the moral certainty to say that any former auxiliary bishop who put a child at risk by inaction should be put out to pasture.
After the Ferns report was published in 2005 the then administrator of Ferns, Bishop Eamon Walsh, said when asked if the culture had changed within the Church, that “it is and has been different for some time”.
A few years after that we saw Cardinal Connell seek a High Court action so the Church could cling to the diocesan files on abuse that the Commission was seeking. Furthermore, after the Cloyne report came out last December, Bishop Magee spoke of “an urgent task to rebuild confidence and trust where these have been damaged” but then failed to comply with a HSE audit into the handling of child abuse complaints.
Our big fear is that while the Church now has a clear system in place for handling abuse complaints, it still isn’t truly repenting for its grievous sins as it isn’t really acknowledging the shameful behaviour of the auxiliary bishops who created a second scandal by covering up abuse.
In the words of former moral theologian, Dr Vincent Twomey, they failed their faith and flock by “failing to listen to their conscience”.
In the aftermath of the publication of the Ferns report, Bishop Eamon Walsh said it “is only when we repair what is repairable that we can move forward”.
Within the Church, there is much left to repair and yet nobody can even admit their sins.
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