Pope Outraged by Irish Bishops’ Mishandling of Abuse

The Vatican has issued a much anticipated statement on the bishops’ mishandling of clerical sexual abuse in the Irish Church between 1975 and 2004 following publication of the Murphy Report on the Archdiocese of Dublin. The communiqué reads:

“Today the Holy Father held a meeting with senior Irish bishops and high-ranking members of the Roman Curia. He listened to their concerns and discussed with them the traumatic events that were presented in the Irish Commission of Investigation’s report into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin.

“After careful study of the report, the Holy Father was deeply disturbed and distressed by its contents. He wishes once more to express his profound regret at the actions of some members of the clergy who have betrayed their solemn promises to God, as well as the trust placed in them by the victims and their families, and by society at large.

“The Holy Father shares the outrage, betrayal and shame felt by so many of the faithful in Ireland, and he is united with them in prayer at this difficult time in the life of the Church.

“His Holiness asks Catholics in Ireland and throughout the world to join him in praying for the victims, their families and all those affected by these heinous crimes.

“He assures 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 Holy See takes very seriously the central issues raised by the report, including questions concerning the governance of local Church leaders [i.e. bishops] with ultimate responsibility for the pastoral care of children.

“The Holy Father intends to address a pastoral letter to the faithful of Ireland in which he will clearly indicate the initiatives that are to be taken in response to the situation.

“Finally, His Holiness encourages all those who have dedicated their lives in generous service to children to persevere in their good works in imitation of Christ the Good Shepherd.”

The independent report was commissioned by the Irish government to investigate the way in which the Church dealt with allegations of sexual abuse of children by priests in Dublin. It concluded that “the Dublin Archdiocese’s preoccupations in dealing with cases of child sexual abuse, at least until the mid 1990s, were the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church and the preservation of its assets. All other considerations, including the welfare of children and justice for victims, were subordinated to these priorities. The archdiocese did not implement its own canon law rules and did its best to avoid any application of the law of the state.”

The Holy Father has handled this sensitively and with due consideration, taking his time to carefully read the report, which was published at the end of November, and holding this “summit meeting” at the Vatican.

Pope John Paul II held a similar high-level meeting in 2002 soon after the U.S. clerical-abuse scandal broke.

Updates from Catholic News Service:

The government investigation found that Bishop Donal Murray of Limerick, who served as auxiliary bishop of the Dublin Archdiocese from 1982 to 1996, failed to investigate allegations of abuse against a priest, and called his action “inexcusable.”

Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh, Northern Ireland, president of the Irish bishops’ conference, publicly called on Bishop Murray Dec. 5 to “do the right thing” and resign.

The embattled bishop resigned Dec. 17. “I know full well that my resignation cannot undo the pain that survivors of abuse have suffered in the past and continue to suffer each day,” he told a large congregation in St. John’s Cathedral in Limerick. The bishop, however, did not admit to any wrongdoing.

Speaking in Rome, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said Bishop Murray “presented his resignation on his own initiative.”