THE MODERATOR of the Presbyterian Church, the Rev Dr Norman Hamilton, has criticised the Catholic Church’s response to the Claudy report.
He also spoke of “the real difficulties” caused to his church by Catholic Church sex abuse scandals and responded to critics of his attendance at the service at Westminster Abbey last month in which Pope Benedict XVI took part.
The Claudy report, published on August 24th, found that in 1972 the RUC engaged in a “collusive act” when addressing high-level intelligence that Fr James Chesney was one of the prime suspects for the IRA bombing which killed nine people and injured more than 30 in the Derry town.
It found that the RUC, the British government and the Catholic Church were aware at senior levels of Fr Chesney’s alleged involvement, yet he was never arrested or questioned.
In the current issue of the Presbyterian Herald Dr Hamilton said “I, like many others, am deeply disturbed by the Roman Catholic Church’s response to the recent report of the Police Ombudsman on the Claudy bombings. It is ironic that the British Government has seen fit to apologise for its role, yet the church seems unwilling to acknowledge that there is a significant problem with its handling of the situation.”
Where sex abuse scandals were concerned he said “devout Roman Catholic people are increasingly turning to us for pastoral help, saying they no longer have sufficient confidence or trust in their own clergy.
The pope himself has been drawn into this issue . . . not least because of his refusal to accept the resignations of two bishops in the Dublin diocese.”
On his attendance at the service during the papal visit last month Dr Hamilton said he did so to “show proper respect for Roman Catholic people and their leader”.
However, he had declined “to be ‘presented to his Holiness’, to quote the wording of the official letter [of invitation],” he said.
He pointed out the “pivotal consideration” that the Presbyterian Church in Ireland “does regard the Roman Catholic Church as a Christian Church – albeit one in error”.