In the light of a report highly critical of the way Catholic leaders in Dublin handled sex abuse claims, members of the Irish bishops’ conference suspended all regular business at their winter general meeting yesterday in Maynooth to discuss the report.
They issued the following statement last night:
We, as bishops, apologize to all those who were abused by priests as children, their families and to all people who feel rightly outraged and let down by the failure of moral leadership and accountability that emerges from the report.
As an initial response to the report, we agreed today to request the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church to explore with the relevant government departments and statutory authorities, North and South, a mechanism by which to ensure that the church’s current policies and practices in relation to the safeguarding of children represent best practice and that allegations of abuse are properly handled.
We are deeply shocked by the scale and depravity of abuse as described in the report. We are shamed by the extent to which child sexual abuse was covered up in the Archdiocese of Dublin and recognize that this indicates a culture that was widespread in the church. The avoidance of scandal, the preservation of the reputations of individuals and of the church, took precedence over the safety and welfare of children. This should never have happened and must never be allowed to happen again. We humbly ask for forgiveness.
The report raises very important issues for the church in Ireland, including the functioning of the bishops’ conference, and, how the lay faithful can be more effectively involved in the life of the church. We will give further detailed consideration to these issues.
In response to the many concerns raised about the use of “mental reservation,” we wish to categorically state that it has no place in covering up evil. Charity, truthfulness, integrity and transparency must be the hallmark of all our communications.
Cardinal Seán Brady and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin have been called to the Vatican by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, to enable him “to be briefed and evaluate the painful situation of the church in Ireland following the recent publication of the Murphy Commission Report.” They will meet with Pope Benedict on Friday.
We humbly ask that you continue to pray for all those who suffer due to child abuse.