Monday, March 29, 2010

Letter offers no sign of papal apology (Fr Brian D'Arcy)

MY INITIAL reaction to the Pope's letter is, I would have to say, disappointment.

I never expected that it would be a policy document as it is a pastoral letter to the Catholic people of Ireland and we should not expect any great policies in it.

There is an understanding there that sexual abuse took place and he is sorry for that, but it is not clearly stated that this is a papal apology.

There is a continual link between the suffering of those people and Canon law and the Church in general through the letter but I would have liked him to say at the beginning, that he accepted the Ryan Report and the Murphy Report.

But at a glance I didn't really see anything even remotely approaching a papal apology.


There is a great acknowledgment in some places that sexual abuse did take place and in one section he talks about what it must be like to be a victim. He says he understands how victims could have lost faith and how they could turn away from the Church but he asks them to find some healing in the Church as the Church represents Christ.

Some of the letter seems to blame a lot of this abuse on a lack of faith and a lack of practice and the worldly way that the people of Ireland have begun to act. He did this in a previous letter to the bishops of Ireland, and that extremely annoyed me. I can't accuse him of directly saying this but it seems to be suggesting that if there was a better faith in Ireland this would not have happened.

He goes on to say that because the faithful had become lax in practice, then the priests - which came from that faith - were also lacking in faith and in practice. But this is patently not true.

That is blaming the faithful for what happened.

Much of this abuse took place during the worst times in this country, through the 1960s and 1970s and into the 1980s, when there was a strong church attendance with 93 per cent of people going to Mass.

This abuse happened at those times because there was this trust there, which simply couldn't happen now as children don't trust priests.

However, the most serious point is that this is the start of a process. And part of this process will be an Apostolic Visitation.

If we look at America, which I think is reasonable because when the abuse scandals happened there, the Vatican sent in the equivalent of the fraud squad, the hard hitters to weed out any laxity in relation to the moral teaching of the Church.

Any suggestion that priests should marry or that there should be women priests or an acceptance of homosexuality was hit very hard. It is a very self-righteous way of looking at things and that's exactly what happened in America.

Seminaries were cleaned out in the US and many people with forward-thinking views were removed from teaching in those places. At this present time there is a Apostolic Visitation happening in America, to whip them into shape.

In other words they will be called back under the authority of Rome, which, as far as I'm concerned, led to the problems in the first place.

When, last weekend, I heard about the difficulties Cardinal Sean Brady was in, I initially thought it was a minor storm which would pass by. But then, on Sunday afternoon, as soon as I studied the details, I realised this was a major crisis, which would have significant consequences for the Church in Ireland and elsewhere.

After almost 20 years of scandals being drip fed to believing Catholics, the only office left untainted here was the Primate of All Ireland in Armagh.

What is of major significance now is that, for all his good work, many people have now lost trust in Cardinal Sean Brady who is the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

His apology on St Patrick's Day was sincere. Yet the damage was done because in most ordinary people's eyes, he said the right
words only when he was told what to say. On Sunday he said he did nothing wrong, that he did everything by the book, that he had done nothing to apologise for.


But by Wednesday he had changed his mind completely saying he was ashamed of what he had done and that he had made a mistake. He should have said this all along.

People are horrified that he didn't help the children more; that he didn't say anything for 35 years. People think he could have and should have done more to ensure that Brendan Smyth was jailed 20 years before it actually happened. Smyth's Order were at fault but so too were the other church people.

We are left with a crisis of trust and a crisis of leadership for the Catholic Church in Ireland.

This week I have tried to be as charitable as I possibly could to Sean Brady. I don't know the Cardinal very well, but he is obviously a good man who has done great good in his life. I would not call for him to resign but he has to make up his mind. He has to decide whether to stay and be a flawed leader.

But the old ways of doing things are not going to work. Every bishop in office before 1995 would have to consider their position - those who failed to alert the gardai to what was happening across Ireland. Rather than doing nothing wrong, they did nothing right.

So who can Catholics trust now? We have to look for new solutions starting with the faithful, the wide ranging and gifted people who have remained loyal.

We have to build the Church from the bottom up rather than from Rome down.

We need a man who can listen, not someone who looks to Rome for answers.

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1 comment:

Uinsin said...

Hosea 4-6 (part of) My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;
because you have rejected knowledge,
I reject you from being a priest to me.