Irish abuse victims express anger with Pope

By  Cian Malloy, Catholic News Service
  • February 25, 2010
{mosimage}DUBLIN, Ireland - Victims of clerical child sexual abuse in the archdiocese of Dublin said they are close to despair because the church will not take full responsibility for covering up the abuse.

Clergy abuse survivors met with Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin Feb. 19 to discuss the outcome of the meeting of Irish bishops with Pope Benedict XVI and senior officials from the Roman Curia. The Feb. 15-16 Vatican meeting reviewed a November report by an independent commission that investigated how the archdiocese handled complaints of clerical child sexual abuse between 1975 and 2004. The commission “found that the church deliberately covered up allegations of child abuse, but the only senior person who seems to accept that is Archbishop Martin,” Maeve Lewis, director of the One in Four abuse survivors’ group, told Catholic News Service.

She said that in the statement issued by the Vatican Feb. 16, the Pope only accepted “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.”

“That is not good enough,” she said, adding that the abuse survivors want “complete acceptance by the Pope of the findings of the Murphy report.”

“Archbishop Martin also told us that there was a chance that the Pope wouldn’t accept the resignations of the three auxiliary bishops named in the report who have offered him their resignation. If that would happen, the victims would find it unbelievable, they really would despair,” she added.

Four bishops criticized in the Murphy report have offered their resignations, but so far the Pope has officially accepted only one of them.

Asked about the idea of the Pope meeting survivors, Lewis said: “Without a meaningful dialogue it’s hopeless. The Pope would have to listen to survivors and accept what they say before there could be some kind of reconciliation, but that seems to be an unlikely proposition given the way meetings between the Pope and survivors of clerical abuse were handled in Australia and the U.S.”

Another survivor, Marie Collins, told RTE News that she was “totally depressed by what transpired at the meeting” with the Dublin archbishop.

She said Martin “seemed like a defeated man. He told us he had passed on our concerns to the pontiff, but that none of them were addressed.”

Collins was among the survivors who reacted with a mix of anger and disappointment to the Vatican statement about the papal meeting with Irish bishops. She told CNS she thought the statement was “pathetic” and “so far away from accepting that there was a policy of cover-up.”

“I wasn’t expecting much from the meeting, but the fact that the resignation of bishops was not even on the agenda had been insulting,” she said.

Christine Buckley, who was abused in a home run by the Sisters of Mercy, said in a statement that the meeting was “an absolute and utter charade from beginning to end.”

“It was a pretend slap on the hand from Pope Benedict,” she said.

Buckley said she had hoped the Pope would announce that he was coming to Ireland to meet with victims of institutional and sexual abuse when he visits Britain in September.

The Vatican statement said Pope Benedict called sexual abuse of children and young people “a heinous crime” and “a grave sin which offends God and wounds the dignity of the human person created in His image.” The statement said the Pope “challenged the bishops to address the problems of the past with determination and resolve and to face the present crisis with honesty and courage.”

Shortly after the meetings, in response to criticism of the fact that the Vatican statement did not contain an apology, Martin said “there comes a time when repeating the word apology may even be empty.” He also said the bishops and Vatican officials agreed beforehand that they would not discuss bishops’ resignations.

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