A child shakes hands with Cardinal Sean Brady following a 2010 Mass. A leading international expert on child protection appealed to Irish bishops to cooperate with the church's own watchdog. CNS photo

First phase of Irish Church visitation concluded

By  Sarah Delaney, Catholic News Service
  • June 8, 2011

ROME - Vatican representatives have completed the first phase of an investigation of major Catholic institutions in Ireland, ordered by Pope Benedict XVI to examine the response of Irish Church authorities to the clerical sex abuse scandal.

A statement from the Vatican press office June 6 said that apostolic visitators to four metropolitan dioceses, as well as seminaries and religious institutes, had turned over their reports to the competent Vatican agencies. Among the visitators were Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins and Ottawa’s Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J.

In the coming months, the statement said, bishops and leaders of religious orders will receive notices on what they should be doing “for the spiritual renewal” of the Irish Church.

The visitation was announced by Pope Benedict in March 2010 in a pastoral letter to Irish Catholics after an independent report showed widespread and historic abuse of minors on the part of Church figures in the overwhelmingly Catholic country. The report accused authorities of covering up and enabling a “culture of secrecy” regarding the problem.

The visitation began Nov. 11, 2010 and continued through the spring of 2011.

The Vatican said that by early 2012, it would publish a synthesis of the results of the visitation, as well as future prospects “with a view to the nationwide mission announced” by the Pope in his letter. In that letter, the Pope specifically said the shame and betrayal justly felt by Irish Catholics was not only about sex abuse of minors by priests but also at “the way Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them.” The bishops’ response was “often inadequate,” and involved “serious mistakes,” he said.

He called for a number of measures that mostly dealt with repentance and the spiritual renewal of the Church in Ireland.

The announcement came just days after Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin expressed frustration with the Vatican for delaying the release of the findings of the report. He said June 2 that he was “impatient to learn about the path that the apostolic visitation will set out for renewal for the Irish Church so that our renewal will move forward decisively.”

Addressing international delegates and the pontifical committee for the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in 2012 at All Hallows College June 2, Martin said his criticism was not aimed at Pope Benedict XVI, whose commitment to the Irish Church he called “remarkable.” Instead, he laid blame at the door of the Pope’s “collaborators.”

Warning that the greater the delay in making public the findings of the visitation the greater the danger it would create “false expectations,” Martin added that the report would also act as an “encouragement to those who prefer immobilization to reform.”

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