In a statement released following the conclusion of two days of meetings with Irish bishops, the Pontiff did not issue an explicit apology but asked this Lenten period be set aside as a time for “imploring an outpouring of God’s mercy”. This infuriated victims’ groups, with Christine Buckley of the Aisling Centre describing the meeting between the Pope and the bishops as “a charade”.
The One in Four group said the meeting and subsequent statement was “very disappointing”, particularly as the Pope has offered no explanation for the failure of the Vatican and the papal nuncio to cooperate with the Murphy Commission. The statement from the Vatican, which appears to have done little to quell anger at the Church over the abuse perpetrated by clergy members and covered up by members of the Church hierarchy, recognised the “grave crisis” that has “led to a breakdown in trust in the Church’s leadership and has damaged her witness to the Gospel and its moral teaching”. He also cited “the failure of the Irish Church authorities for years to act effectively over cases of sexual abuse against young people”.
According to the statement: “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.” The Pope challenged the bishops to address the problems of the past with determination and resolve and they would speak with one voice in identifying concrete steps aimed at bringing healing to those who had been abused.
He also mentioned a “general crisis of faith affecting the Church” and 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”. The input of the bishops will be taken into account in the drafting of the pastoral letter from the Pope to the Catholics of Ireland, which will be issued during Lent.
Speaking on Lunchtime with Eamon Keane on Newstalk, Ms Buckley said: “This is a charade. A collection of 24 bishops who appear to have been lectured about the tensions and the disunity of their members rather than trying to find out why these abuses happened and how to resolve them.” She said the Pope could have pledged to visit Ireland “but instead he has washed his hands of it, he thinks it’s okay and a Lenten pastoral letter is going to help our pain. No, it is not”.