Vatican to Irish bishops: admit blame in sex abuse coverups, but victims skeptical of summit
ROME (AP) — A top Vatican prelate told Irish bishops at an extraordinary Vatican summit with Pope Benedict XVI Monday they must admit their own blame in coverups of generations of sex abuse of minors, or risk losing the faith of Ireland’s Catholics.
But the former Dublin altar boy who helped expose the scandal doubted that any real hierarchy housekeeping would result from the two days of talks behind closed doors in the Apostolic Palace.
Benedict’s top aide, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, delivered a stinging homily at a mass before the talks decrying the “particularly abhorrent deeds” of some in the Irish church hierarchy, although he didn’t name any names.
Bertone, the Vatican’s No. 2 who participated in the summit with 24 bishops from Irish dioceses, likened the crisis to a “most dangerous storm, that which touches the heart of believers, shaking their faith and threatening their ability to trust in God.”
To restore faith, “sinners must acknowledge their own blame in the fullness of truth,” urged Bertone, the Holy See’s secretary of state. He worried that the evil could push faithful toward “discouragement and desperation.”
A state report last year found that church leaders in Dublin had spent decades protecting childabusing priests from the law while many fellow clerics pretended not to see. A separate inquiry documented decades of sexual, physical and psychological abuse or children and teens in Catholicrun schools, workhouses and orphanages.
Bishops kissed the pope in a fraternal gesture of respect before cameras were ushered out. The Vatican won’t comment before the summit ends today nor has it released Benedict’s remarks at the sessions, which began in the morning and ran into the evening.
The bishops made themselves unavailable for comment. Irish bishops conference spokesman Martin Long said the bishops had chosen to stay at a guest house within Vatican City’s walls so they could better “ focus” on the crisis talks.
The delegation’s top member, Cardinal Sean Brady, archbishop of Armagh and primate of all Ireland, described the talks as a first step on a journey toward “penitence, renewal and reconciliation.”
Bertone called for “ humility” from the bishops. But Clogher Bishop Joseph Duffy had already said resignations were not on summit agenda, defying victims’ demands that clerics who involved in protecting pedophile priests step down.
That made Andrew Madden, who in 1995 became the first in Ireland to go public with an abuse lawsuit against the church, pessimistic.
“It’s clear that most of Ireland’s bishops should go, because they conspired in covering up heinous crimes,” Madden told The Associated Press in Ireland. “Most of them will cling to their positions regardless of the anguish this causes the victims.”
A U.S. lobby of clergy sex abuse victims echoed Madden’s lack of expectations.
“Does anyone honestly think that the very same men who ignored and concealed child sex crimes for decades can or will do a sudden and complete 180degree turnaround and suddenly be part of the solution?” said Barbara Dorris, of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
In this picture made available by the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI, second from right, meets with Irish bishops at the Vatican, Monday. An extraordinary summit between Irish bishops and Pope Benedict XVI opened with a prayer and fraternal kisses in what Ireland’s top bishop called a first step toward repentance for the country’s clergy sex abuse scandal.