18 February 2010

A New St. Patrick

After Clergy Abuse Scandals, Ireland Needs a New St. Patrick
Posted: 02/17/10
by: David Gibson

At this point in the Catholic Church's long-running saga of the sexual abuse of children by priests there are few surprises and fewer heroes. The two-day "summit" in the Vatican that wrapped up on Tuesday brought the bishops of Ireland together to meet with Pope Benedict XVI to discuss the issue, much as leaders of the American hierarchy were summoned to Rome for an overnight palaver with Pope John Paul II in 2002. Now, as then, a statement was released following the closed-door sessions expressing deep regret and "shame" for the failures of oversight by the hierarchy, the sins of "some Irish clergy" who abused children, and the efforts being made to help victims and prevent further abuse. The statement said Benedict told the bishops that the sexual abuse of children and young people is "not only a heinous crime, but also a grave sin," but he stopped short of calling on any bishops to resign nor did he speak of punishments for those who committed the abuse.

Rather, the pontiff said a root cause of the clerical abuse was "the more general crisis of faith affecting the Church" and said "the weakening of faith has been a significant contributing factor in the phenomenon of the sexual abuse of minors." He called for "a deeper theological reflection on the whole issue" and said current and future priests should receive better training. He also said he would address the topic in greater depth in a letter to Irish Catholics that he will release during Lent, which starts today (Feb. 17) with Ash Wednesday. Neither the statement Tuesday nor the promise of a future papal pronouncement gave many abuse victims and disenchanted Irish Catholics much hope that things would proceed very differently than they did after the American version of this summit back in 2002.

What is noteworthy about the Irish scandal, however, and much different from the American situation, is that the Irish church has so much further to fall than U.S. Catholicism, and that there is at least one bishop who has been willing to critique both his fellow bishops and the church culture that helped enable the abuse: Diarmuid Martin, the archbishop of Dublin.

(complete story)

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