I have read the ‘Pastoral Letter’ from the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI. The context is of course inappropriate, as by its very definition a pastoral letter is addressed only to practicing Catholics and so ignores many other people who may in some way have been affected by this issue. A pastoral letter is not the way to respond to the Ferns, Ryan & Murphy Reports detailing the rape, abuse and sexual abuse of children by priests and religious in this country and its cover up by Church authorities.
As I had anticipated the letter also fails to address any of the issues raised by myself and others in our open letter to the Pope last month, in advance of the Irish Bishops’ trip to Rome. Our requests were straightforward and easily actionable:
That Pope Benedict, on behalf of the Catholic Church, articulate full acceptance of the findings of the Murphy Report.
That Pope Benedict accept the resignations of Bishops Moriarty, Walshe, and Field without delay.
That Pope Benedict remove Bishop Martin Drennan from office.
That Pope Benedict request the resignations of any other Bishops, who know that their own handling of allegations of child sexual abuse in their own Dioceses, would not stand up to the same scrutiny that the Dioceses of Ferns and Dublin have had e.g. Cardinal Sean Brady...
That Pope Benedict issue all returning Bishops with an expressed instruction to follow all Sate guidelines and protocols as they exist, and as they are further developed, in relation to the safety, welfare and protection of children.
All of this has been ignored, again. There has been no owning of the Catholic Church’s part in causing the sexual abuse of so many children by protecting paedophile priests. Instead Pope Benedict has repeated his apology for the hurt caused to those abused by abused but the Church’s role is referred only as failing to deal with criminal and sinful acts. The Catholic Church did not fail to act – it acted very clearly to protect itself and leave other children to pay the price. Pope Benedict goes on to propose a path of healing, renewal and reparation. It takes a certain level of arrogance to cause the sexual abuse of children and then put yourself forward as part of the healing process.
Over the next few days I can give a more considered response to this letter, but on first reading it has failed to address this issue at all seriously.
As things currently stand, the Catholic Church in Ireland and globally is led by Cardinal Sean Brady and Pope Benedict respectively, both of whom failed to protect children from priests known to them be a danger to children. If the Catholic Church wants to have any credibility moving forward from this point that situation must change.
END - 20/03/2010