27 Nov 2010

A selection of responses to the Pope's "disgraceful deceit" and "pitifully inadequate" apology to Irish clergy abuse survivors

The Guardian - UK March 20, 2010

Pope's letter to Irish Catholics disappoints child abuse survivors

'Pope Benedict has passed up a glorious opportunity,' says campaigning group of pastoral letter to Irish Catholics

by David Batty | The Guardian


Survivors of child abuse by Catholic clergy in Ireland have expressed disappointment with the pope's apology for the scandal.

Victims criticised Benedict XVI's letter of apology because it did not directly address the long history of concealment by Irish bishops of sexual, physical and emotional abuse by priests, nuns and Catholic orders.

The campaigning group One in Four condemned the pope for failing to acknowledge that the church hierarchy had attempted to suppress the scandal.

"Victims were hoping for an acknowledgement of the scurrilous ways in which they have been treated as they attempted to bring their experiences of abuse to the attention of the church authorities," the group's director, Maeve Lewis, said.

"Pope Benedict has passed up a glorious opportunity to address the core issue in the clerical sexual abuse scandal: the deliberate policy of the Catholic church at the highest levels to protect sex offenders, thereby endangering children."

Lewis also accused the Pope of dodging Vatican responsibility for failing to tackle child abuse.

"If the church cannot acknowledge this fundamental truth, it is still in denial," she added.

Andrew Madden, who in 1995 became the first person in Ireland to go public with an abuse lawsuit against the church, said he did not need to hear the pope say that clerical sex abuse was a crime and a sin.

"The apology today is not for the cover-up, it's for the abuse and for the most part they didn't commit the abuse – but they caused some because of the cover-up," he said. "That's the bit they should say sorry for."

Support group Irish Survivors of Child Abuse was more welcoming of the pope's letter.

"It would appear that the message overall is one of sincerity to bring about change in the church," he said.

"We have an apology for the first time, and that's important."

But Kelly called for further explanation of the letter's mention of a Vatican investigation into the Irish church, and the suggestion some abusers should be brought before tribunals.

"Will anybody be made accountable? It would appear so from my reading of what the pope is saying, so that's positive but we need clarification," he said.

In a pastoral letter to Irish Catholics, the pope castigated Irish bishops for "grave errors of judgment" in their handling of the paedophilia scandal.

But he made no mention of any Vatican responsibility and gave no specific punishments for bishops who have been blamed by victims and Irish government inquiries for having concealed the abuse.

This article was found at:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/mar/20/popes-letter-disappoints-abuse-survivors

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The New York Times - March 20, 2010

Pope Offers Apology, Not Penalty, for Sex Abuse Scandal

By RACHEL DONADIO and ALAN COWELL

VATICAN CITY — Faced with a church sexual abuse scandal spreading across Europe, Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday apologized directly to victims and their families in Ireland, expressing “shame and remorse” for what he called “sinful and criminal” acts committed by members of the clergy.

But the pope did not require that Roman Catholic leaders be disciplined for past mistakes as some victims were hoping, nor did he clarify what critics see as contradictory Vatican rules that they fear allow abuse to continue unpunished.

“You have suffered grievously, and I am truly sorry,” the pope said in a long-awaited, eight-page pastoral letter to Irish Catholics. “Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated.” He also criticized Ireland’s bishops for “grave errors of judgment and failures of leadership.”

The letter was written in language that was at once impassioned, personal and sweeping. And the pope did take the relatively rare step of ordering a special apostolic delegation to be sent to investigate abuse in unspecified dioceses in Ireland.

But even that decision raised questions among many who wondered what the investigators might unearth beyond what the Irish government found in two wide-ranging and scathing reports released last year. One report found systemic abuse in church-run schools; another said the church and the police in Ireland had systematically colluded in covering up decades of sexual abuse by priests in Dublin.

The pope has apologized before for sexual abuse scandals, most notably when meeting with victims in the United States in 2008. But the letter once again showed the difficulties facing Benedict, as a problem that he felt he had already decisively addressed appears to be intensifying, with hundreds of new allegations of sexual abuse surfacing. The crisis also stands to damage Benedict’s central goals of fortifying the church and fighting secularism in Europe.

The letter was especially anticipated, coming after weeks of damaging reports in several countries that brought the scandal close not only to the leader of Ireland’s church, but also to the pope himself.

Last week, a psychiatrist who treated a priest decades ago in a German archdiocese run by the future pope said he had repeatedly warned that the priest, who was accused of sexually abusing boys, should never work with children again. The priest was re-assigned to parish work almost immediately after his therapy began, and one of Benedict’s deputies at the time has taken responsibility for that decision. Less than five years later, the priest was accused of molesting other boys, and in 1986 was convicted of sexual abuse.

The pope did not address that case in his letter to the Irish, nor did he call for Cardinal Sean Brady, the head of the Irish church, to resign. Cardinal Brady said last week that he would step down if the pope asked, after revelations that he took part in a church investigation in 1975 in which two children were forced to sign secrecy oaths.

The letter also remained tightly focused on Ireland — to the dismay of many victims’ groups around the world — even as the crisis has widened to include Catholics in Austria, the Netherlands and Germany.

“I find that deceitful because we know that this is a global and systemic problem in the global church,” said Colm O’Gorman, the co-founder of a victims’ group who said he was sexually abused by a priest as a teenager in Ireland in the early ’80s. “It’s all about protecting the institution and, above all, its wealth.”

“The greatest contribution the pope could have made was to stop the abuse of victims, and he’s not even done that,” he added.

In recent years, the Catholic Church in the United States has paid over $2 billion in abuse settlements. In Ireland, some parishes have said they may have to take up a Sunday collection to help fund abuse settlements.

For many Catholics, the letter offered a critical test of whether the pope can stem a crisis that has shaken the credibility and authority of the Roman Catholic Church in other parts of the world. Even as Benedict urged Irish clergy to cooperate with civil justice authorities, the abuse scandals have put to the test a Vatican culture of protecting its own even in the face of crimes against civil and canon law.

While many Irish Catholics were hoping for concrete measures after the government reports that criticized Vatican norms for dealing with the abuse, Benedict instead offered a prescription for how to renew their faith. He urged all Irish clergy to go on a spiritual retreat and suggested that dioceses set aside special chapels where Catholics could pray for “healing and renewal.”

“There’s a strong tendency to approach this as a problem of faith, when it is a problem of church management and a lack of accountability,” said Terrence McKiernan, founder and president of BishopAccountability.org, which tracks church records on abuse cases.

In a statement, the group said the “most glaring” omission in the letter was Benedict’s “failure to acknowledge his own culpability,” adding that, “he pointedly does not include himself in his criticism of church leaders.”

In a news conference on Saturday, the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, defended the pope’s statements, saying the document was intended as a pastoral letter, not an outline of “administrative or juridical measures.”

Indeed, Benedict spoke movingly and directly to the pain of victims. “Many of you found that, when you were courageous enough to speak of what happened to you, no one would listen,” the pope wrote.

He added, “I know some of you find it difficult even to enter the doors of a church after all that has occurred.”

The pope told abusers to “submit yourselves to the demands of justice, but do not despair of God’s mercy.”

The letter is to be read aloud in churches across Ireland on Sunday.

In a homily Saturday after reading the letter, Cardinal Brady made no reference to the possibility of resigning. “Let us pray that the Holy Father’s pastoral letter will be the beginning of a great season of rebirth and hope in the Irish church,” he told worshipers at a morning Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh, Northern Ireland.

Beyond revealing decades of abuse, the Irish government’s reports issued last year found that the church did not routinely inform civil authorities about priests who had committed felonies. Four Irish bishops offered their resignation in the wake of the publication of the report on Dublin in November, but the pope has accepted only one.

As reports of abuse cases have spread, many questions have been raised about the line between Vatican secrecy and civil judicial process.

Some Irish church officials have said the problem has been deepened by confusion over the interpretation of a 2001 directive by Benedict, then a cardinal, reiterating a strict requirement for secrecy in handling abuse cases. The directive also gave the authority for handling such cases to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Benedict was prefect of the congregation from 1982 until becoming pope in 2005.

Some see an inherent contradiction between the directive and the Vatican’s telling local dioceses to cooperate with civil justice. The Vatican says that its secrecy norms help protect the victims.

In his letter, Benedict spoke of “a well-intentioned but misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches,” to violations of canon law.

The pope attributed that problem in part to “a misplaced concern for the reputation of the church and the avoidance of scandal.” And he said that bishops should “continue to cooperate with the civil authorities in their area of competence.”

In the case in Germany in 1980 that made headlines recently, Benedict, then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, allowed a priest who was accused of molesting boys to move to Munich for therapy. The diocese he oversaw did not notify civil authorities of the sexual abuse allegations.

Reporting was contributed by John F. Burns and Eamon Quinn from Dublin, Alan Cowell from Paris, Nicholas Kulish from Berlin, and Laurie Goodstein from New York.


This article was found at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/21/world/europe/21pope.html


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The Guardian - UK March 21, 2010

The Observer

Saying sorry is not enough. The church has got to change

Benedict XVI's inadequate letter adds to the woes of those his church has wronged


Usually, when old and powerful institutions are found guilty of some systemic failure, the stock response is to promise reform. That is not the way of the Catholic church, whose head is anointed in a line of descent from St Peter, and whose rigid and secretive hierarchy takes its autocratic cues from the top. Change comes slowly and rarely.

That the church is guilty of a systemic failure over child abuse within its ranks is beyond doubt. It is also certain that the letter published yesterday from the pope to his flock in Ireland, apologising for the scandal, is pitifully inadequate.

Benedict XVI acknowledged that victims had "suffered grievously". He also accepted that the church had made "serious mistakes". He did not mention that the same grievous suffering has been inflicted in Catholic communities in many other countries, nor did he spell out what he considered the "serious mistakes" to have been. Was it the failure to punish the perpetrators of abuse? Or was it the decision to quickly rehabilitate paedophile priests and despatch them to new parishes? Was it the failure to involve police? Perhaps it was the conspiracy of silence, or the cynical exploitation of victims' faith to make them complicit in the cover-up, turning their ordeal into shame and guilt, as if being attacked by a priest was itself a sin. Or could it have been the plain fact that the church conferred the moral authority on men to know and guide their parishioners' most intimate thoughts – a power they then used to prey on children for sexual gratification?

Perhaps Pope Benedict meant none of those things, only that he wished the whole business had not happened. His letter is late and meagre, but that was to be expected. Taking more responsibility would have entailed hinting at some moral culpability. The apology was an opportunity for the church to reach out in humility to those it has wronged, with a cost of accepting a tiny dilution of the pope's claim to absolute, unerring authority in all things. That price was clearly too high.
This article was found at:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/mar/21/pope-apology-abuse

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The Irish Times - March 22, 2010

Church 'steering a different course'

by DEREK SCALLY in Berlin

GERMANY: THE PRESIDENT of the German Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, has said Pope Benedict’s letter to Irish Catholics can be applied to the church in the pontiff’s homeland.

As it faces its own abuse scandal, the German Catholic Church had been characterised by a “culture of cover-up”, the German prelate said, but was now “steering a different course”.

“What the Pope says has relevance for the entire church and is clearly a message to us in Germany,” said Archbishop Zollitsch. “We know that mistakes were made here in Germany, we German bishops have recognised these mistakes . . . and cannot allow these mistakes to be repeated. Therefore I understand the pope’s admonition of the bishops in Ireland as an admonition of us. The scandal of sexual abuse is no mere Irish problem. It is a problem of the church in many places and it is a scandal of the church in Germany.”

What began as a drip of abuse allegations in a Berlin Jesuit academy and other religious schools in January, has now become a wave of sexual and physical abuse in reform schools and other institutions. Some 250 clerical abuse claims have been registered to date, many dating back decades, forcing German bishops to announce an overhaul of guidelines for reporting child abuse.

The publication of the pope’s letter was followed closely in his homeland, with many parishes reciting the appended prayer.

Referring to the prayer, Archbishop Zollitsch called on German believers to “make it their own for our country”.

There was widespread disappointment in the German media and among lay organisations that the pope did not refer explicitly to the German abuse scandal.

“It’s regrettable that he doesn’t make church structures responsible for the ‘destructive problem of child sexual abuse but rapid social change’,” said Christian Weisner of “We are Church.”

“The Catholic reform movement sees a realignment of the sexual teaching as unavoidable. This must include the celibacy issue, which is now questioned by bishops and cardinals.”

Another reform group “Church from Below” described the pope as “himself the architect of the system that covered up these crimes for decades”.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Zollitsch was forced to apologise yesterday ahead of a TV report this evening claiming he intervened to prevent a priest being charged with child abuse. German public TV claims that in 1991 Archbishop Zollitsch, then personnel manager in the diocese of Freiburg, recommended retirement of the priest accused of at least 17 cases of child abuse between 1968 and 1991.

According to the report, the diocese told authorities of the abuse claims in 1995, when one of the priest’s alleged victims pressed charges and the priest killed himself.

This article was found at:

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2010/0322/1224266809472.html

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The Independent - UK March 22, 2010

Papal letter was a disgraceful deceit

Pope Pius V said that priests who abused children were to be stripped of the priesthood and handed over to the civil authorities

by Colm O'Gorman | Opinion

Pope Benedict XVI published his letter to the Irish church on the issue of child abuse on Saturday. What was necessary seemed clear. He had to acknowledge the cover up of the rape and abuse of children by priests, to take responsibility for it, and to show how he would ensure it never happened again.

But the letter failed to do any of that. There was no acceptance of responsibility for the now-established cover up, no plan to ensure that children will be properly protected around the global church, and no assurance that those who rape and abuse will be reported to the civil authorities.

The letter is clearly an effort to restore the credibility of a church rocked by the publication of three state investigations into clerical crimes and church over ups in Ireland. The Pope has seen all three of these reports.

And yet, disgracefully, he used his letter and this issue to attack one of his favourite targets, secularisation. We are asked to believe that the secularisation of Irish society led to abuse and cover up. In fact, it is the secularisation of society that finally led to the exposure of the crimes of the church.

The most horrific abuse was perpetrated, not in a secularised Ireland, but at a time when Irish society was dominated, socially and politically, by the Catholic Church. That the Pope appears to have wilfully ignored this established fact is a blatant and disgraceful deceit.

Some have reported that the Pope issued a heartfelt apology to victims of abuse. In fact, the word 'sorry' appeared just once in a letter running to almost 4,700 words.

The Pope said he was "truly sorry" that victims had suffered. But an expression of sorrow is not the same as an acceptance of responsibility. The letter does go some way to express remorse. But why is it impossible for this Vicar of Christ on earth to name truth in simple, unambiguous terms? Is that really too much to ask?

The Pope's letter has been described as "unprecedented" and an important step forward by the Vatican in dealing with clerical child sexual abuse. It is neither. Just consider an earlier Papal decree addressing the issue of catholic clergy abusing children.

In his papal order Horrendum, Pope Pius V said that priests who abused children were to be stripped of the priesthood, deprived of all income and privileges and handed over to the civil authorities.

Pretty strong stuff, especially when one considers that it was issued in 1568. And far stronger than anything the current Pope was able to muster in his letter. Strip away some worthy and welcome sentiments, consider the issues ignored and all that remains is a constant concern for the preservation of the institutional church – and little real concern for the safety of children.

Colm O'Gorman is the author of the memoir 'Beyond Belief'. www.colmogorman.com

This article was found at:

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/colm-ogorman-papal-letter-was-a-disgraceful-deceit-1925049.html

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The Independent - UK March 22, 2010

Only a different leadership can save the Irish church

Out of weakness its bishops condoned both terrorists and sexual terrorists

by Bruce Anderson | Opinion

There is no reason to doubt the sincerity of Pope Benedict's feelings. His letter was powerful, reading as if it had been written from the heart. So it should have been. Nothing less would suffice. The word "abuse" does not begin to describe the miseries which some of those Irish children endured.

Go back 50 years to rural Ireland. The past is another country? More like another world. The pace of life is as gentle as the regular showers of light rain, as unhurried as the immaculate pouring of a glass of Guinness – and everything seems as harmonious as that pint when it finally arrives. True, there is not much sign of energy. It is some years since the last person with any get-up-and-go got up and went. But there is always good craic to be had, sometimes on serious subjects. The tourist would be reminded that twelve hundred years ago, when Western Christianity was struggling to survive, some of the most successful struggles took place in the West of Ireland, where the monasteries were among the few points of light in the Dark Ages.

The Irish reserve an especial eloquence for their long history of suffering. The talk might then move forward a thousand years, to the second dark age for Irish Catholicism: nearly three centuries of persecution by the English and the Protestants, during which the Church had a crucial role in preserving Irish national identity, "crucial" being the appropriate word. Priests and bishops did bear the cross of martyrdom. It might be that the parish priest himself would be there to make that point, greeted warmly but respectfully, like the CO of a regiment arriving in the mess: the natural leader of the community. By now, the visitor might have concluded that Irish Catholicism was an heroic faith and that the whole of rural Ireland was Yeats' Innisfree, an emerald of prelapsarian innocence.

But there was another aspect, which no tourist would encounter. Imagine that you are a little Irish boy in an orphanage. You are probably there because your mother followed Holy Church's teachings on contraception but not on fornication. "In sin hath my mother conceived me". The Irish orphan would have felt the full weight of that sin as the humiliation of his bastardy was ground into him. There is a brutal irony. The orphanage would have been run by priests, monks and nuns – all of them in the service of a loving Redeemer. "Suffer the little children to come unto me". Those little Irish children would have learned all about suffering.

Orphanhood is not an easy destiny. It must be hard for even the best-run institution – the very word helps explain the problem – to replace the affection and cuddles and love which a mother would provide: the foundations of a happy personality. That brings us to the acme of cruelty. A lot of those children did receive a grotesque parody of affection and a perversion of love, in the form of sexual abuse. Imagine the feelings of such a child. He has often been told that he is a despicable wretch, only fit to be half-starved and flogged. Now there is violation, at the hands of those whom he has been taught to revere. An orphan child would entirely lack the intellectual and emotional resources to make sense of what was happening to him. It was evil, but priests are never evil. So his wickedness must be to blame. They are right. He is worthless.

Thus did children whimper themselves to sleep. Thus did a religion of love express itself in Catholic Ireland. Thus were lain the foundations of abused personalities. "Deliver us from evil". The gates of those orphanages should have borne a variant inscription: "Deliver us to evil". It is of course true that not all the victims were orphans. But any abused Irish child could be regarded as an honorary orphan, especially if he came from a poor family. To whom was he to complain? Who would believe him? To make up such terrible lies: it must be the devil talking. So it is easy to understand why a lot of children would have kept quiet, their feelings of uncleanness and their anger both festering down the decades.

Let us now switch the focus of our imaginative sympathy from the victims to the hierarchy. Why and how could this have happened? Until at least the Sixties, Ireland was virtually a theocracy. But this was not the gentle theocracy that our tourist encountered in the bar at Ballyguinness. The Irish Catholic Church was more like the Turkish army. It regarded itself as the custodian of the nation's values. Its senior figures tended to be authoritarian, intolerant, unimaginative and formidable. The classic example was John Charles McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin for more than 30 years, who ran his archdiocese like an appanage. Prime Ministers went in awe of him. In those days, Ireland was a poor country. Life was often harsh. This did not seem to trouble the hierarchy unduly. Archbishop McQuaid never took much interest in Kiltartan's poor. His concern was with power, not love.

And certainly not with sex. By the Sixties, sexual repression was regarded with disfavour in advanced circles. Catholic Ireland was not an advanced circle. In it, repression was to sex what Guinness was to oysters: the ideal accompaniment. That said, there are now rumours that John Charles himself was guilty of abuse. If so, he was not only an old monster, but a hypocritical old monster. But it is hard to believe. He and similar figures in the Catholic hierarchy would have regarded any form of priestly sexual intercourse with horror, partly because it would be likely to create a scandal that would disturb the tranquil tenor of Irish theocracy (they were right).

So: a priest is denounced for sexual abuse. In the first instance, his seniors would have reacted as our honorary orphan feared that all the grown-ups would. They would not believe it. Then, if their incredulity were violated, their first reaction would be to shut everyone up. Give the priest a blasting. Make him swear by everything holy that this will never happen again, and move him out of the district. Call in the police? Unthinkable. Instead, make sure that everything is covered up and stays covered up.

In 1975, the current Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, acted in that spirit when he interviewed two victims of a paedophile priest, who is said to have abused 90 more children before his eventual arrest. As a result, the Cardinal's position is untenable. It is absurd that he has not already resigned. But this does not mean that he was evil: merely naive. As he found these crimes revolting, he could not believe that they were so widespread. Whatever training the Irish Catholic clergy received in the Sixties and Seventies, it did not encourage psychological sophistication.

Equally, episcopal weakness was not confined to sexual matters. The Irish hierarchy made no serious attempt to bring moral pressure on the IRA. Nothing was done to prevent priests from giving spiritual comfort to murderers. Cowardice is infectious. If the Irish bishops had been prepared to take a stand on terrorism, they might also have been tougher on child abuse. Lives would have been saved; other lives would not have been ruined. Out of weakness and naivete, the Irish Bishops condoned both terrorists and sexual terrorists. As a result, they have shattered their Church's prestige and authority. If at all, that could only be repaired under a different leadership. But it may be that the Irish Catholic Church is facing a third and terminal dark age.

This article was found at:

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/bruce-anderson/bruce-anderson-only-a-different-leadership-can-save-the-irish-church-1925059.html

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TIME - March 22, 2010

Ireland: Why the Pope's Apology May Not Be Enough

By Bryan Coll / Belfast

To Ireland's victims of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic clergy, Pope Benedict XVI offered an apology: "You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry." For Ireland's bishops, the pontiff had a reprimand: "Serious mistakes were made. All this has seriously undermined your credibility." Thus the highlights of an eight-page letter from Rome received at Mass around Ireland on March 21.

In an unprecedented move (the Vatican had previously commented on the Irish clerical sex scandal only in private letters), Benedict apologized to victims and accused Ireland's bishops — past and present — of "grave errors of judgment" and "failures of leadership" in their handling of sex-abuse cases in the church.

The Pope also wrote that a team of Vatican inspectors would be sent to dioceses, seminaries and religious congregations in Ireland. But victims' groups were unimpressed, charging that the papal letter had failed to address the cover-up of child abuse by the Irish Catholic authorities exposed in recent weeks. "He didn't apologize for anything the church has done, only for the actions of pedophile priests," says Andrew Madden, who was abused as an altar boy and is a member of the victims group One in Four. "[The Church's actions] weren't just down to errors of judgment. This was a proactive covering up of the sexual abuse of children to avoid scandal for the church. Pope Benedict completely failed to own up to this."

The shocking extent of child abuse by clergy in Ireland's parishes and Catholic institutions was exposed last year in two government inquiries, known as the Ryan Report and the Murphy Report. The first described "endemic sexual abuse" at schools and orphanages run by religious orders from the 1930s to the 1990s, while the latter accused the Catholic Church, the state and the Irish police of colluding in the covering up of sexual abuse committed by priests in the archdiocese of Dublin.

In recent weeks, however, the scandal has reached the very top of the Irish Church hierarchy. Cardinal Sean Brady — Ireland's most senior Catholic — has faced calls to resign over his handling of the case of one of Ireland's most infamous pedophile priests. That's because in 1975, Brady had met with young people who had been abused by Father Brendan Smyth. The victims were asked to sign an oath of secrecy, promising not to reveal details of an investigation into Smyth's actions. Brady did not contact the police after the meetings, and Smyth went on to abuse dozens more Irish children before being convicted of 90 offenses against children some 20 years later. Some of those abused by Smyth claim other victims committed suicide because of the abuse. In the past week, two more Irish bishops have also apologized for their handling of abuse allegations in their own dioceses.

In 1999, journalist Mary Raftery's documentary film States of Fear was broadcast on Irish television. The film brought to public attention for the first time the systemic nature of abuse at Catholic institutions in the past. Since then, Raftery has campaigned for an investigation into child abuse to be held in every Catholic diocese in Ireland.

"I think Irish society should take this letter extremely seriously," says Raftery. "For years, we handed over all responsibility for our morality to these people who now stand condemned with such devastation by their own Pope."

Raftery believes the Church's handling of child-abuse allegations has prompted many people to challenge its role in modern Irish society. It's estimated that around a third of Irish Catholics attend Mass regularly, but the Catholic Church runs over 90% of the country's elementary schools and holds positions on the management boards of public hospitals — roles that Raftery believes are no longer tenable.

"We now know there was decades of disgraceful behavior that was absolutely contrary to every single thing [the Church] preached. With this knowledge, it's going to be impossible for people to establish the same relationship of trust with the Catholic Church. I think it has vanished."

With the reputation of the Catholic Church at an all-time low in Ireland, convincing young men to join the priesthood may seem like a lost cause. But Father Patrick Rushe, coordinator of vocations for the Catholic Church in Ireland, believes the damage can be repaired.

"I was happy that [Pope Benedict] said sorry and I think it was long overdue," says Rushe. "But these are our own problems to solve and the Irish church has to take responsibility for what happened in the past."

So, does Rushe believe the Church can recover? "People committed to their faith are just about hanging on," he says. "But I don't think it would take a huge amount of further revelations to undermine the goodwill that's left."

Further revelations may, in fact, not be very far away. Last week, Northern Ireland's Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said that a state inquiry into institutional and clerical child abuse should be considered. For campaigner Mary Raftery, the possible consequences of such a probe are clear. "It would inevitably expose a range of cover-ups and would make the church's role [in Irish society] unsustainable," she says. "The number of people whose hands aren't dirtied by this is quite small."

This article was found at:

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1974115,00.html

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The New York Times - March 22, 2010

Benedict’s Fragile Church

By PETER SCHNEIDER | Opinion


POPE BENEDICT XVI’s strongly worded apology for the child-abuse scandal in Ireland, issued last week, left Germans like myself scratching our heads.

Where is the apology for the abuses in Germany? After all, even as the number of Irish abuse cases mounts, the depth and history of abuse in Germany is just now becoming clear — more than 250 cases are known, with more appearing each day. At least 14 priests are under investigation by the authorities.

Though Germany is a secular country and Catholics make up only a third of the population, the scandal has engendered a national debate — about religious education, about single-sex institutions and, above all, about the role of celibacy in the Catholic Church.

And while the scandal is not unique to Germany, the current wave of abuse revelations sweeping Europe feels particularly German, because the pope is German: Benedict was once Joseph Ratzinger, the archbishop of Munich and Freising and long a leading voice of conservative German Catholics.

While it’s too soon to know for sure how the scandals will affect church membership, rumor has it that the number of resignations by churchgoers in Munich, where the Catholic Church is traditionally strong, has doubled or even tripled in the last month.

Catholics in Bavaria are especially outraged about the case of the priest Peter Hullermann. In 1979, Father Hullermann was accused of abuse in the western German city of Essen; he wasn’t convicted, and he was soon brought to Munich, for therapy.

He was allowed to continue working with children, but was soon convicted of abuse and sentenced to 18 months probation. Yet the diocese still allowed him to work with children — up until last week, when news of his history forced the church to suspend him.

One almost has the impression that the church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is responsible for cases of sexual abuse, told the dioceses to follow a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Did Archbishop Ratzinger know? His defenders say no. But Germans would like to hear it from the pope himself.

To be fair, there is possible wisdom in Benedict’s silence — with sex scandals involving priests erupting from Austria to the Netherlands, the situation is too fluid for a definitive papal statement.

And yet Pope Benedict should also recognize how precarious the Catholic Church is in Germany. Like Americans, Germans have already had to cope with a general loss of trust in public institutions. First there were the bankers, with their insane bets and bonuses. Then the politicians, who couldn’t stop the bankers. Now there is a loss of trust in the church.

But unlike in America, religion in Germany is already weak. In the former Communist east, only 2 percent of the population go to church on Sunday; in the western states, the number is 8 percent. Some dwindling congregations have had to sell their church buildings.

So far the church is benefiting from the breadth of sexual abuse scandals. Victims are also coming forward from Protestant institutions, from secular boarding schools and elite academies, from children’s homes. Many critics argue that any closed institution where male educators have charge of male children runs the risk of sexual abuse.

Conservative Catholic bishops go further, saying that the sexual abuse committed by their priests is a general social problem, traceable not to the church but to the sexualization of society, to the zeitgeist, to the sins of the 1968 generation. The truth, they suggest, was that the evil had struck in all sectors of society. Others have warned of the dangers of a witch hunt, and some have even highlighted a new form of political correctness.

But the figures available so far show that the problem is especially severe in the Catholic Church. Alois Gl├╝ck, president of the Central Committee of German Catholics, has urged consideration of the “church-specific conditions that favor sexual abuse,” which many have taken as a call for the church to reconsider the matter of its priests’ celibacy.

This is yet another difference between the Irish and American scandals and our own. Ireland and America are deeply religious places; if priestly celibacy is not as well understood there as it once was, it is nevertheless respected.

Germany is not only a secular country, but a sexually liberated one as well. Many Germans find the Vatican’s demand of priestly celibacy completely alien, and we recognize it as a historical, rather than holy, tradition, going back to a decree by Pope Benedict VIII in 1022. Indeed, in a poll conducted last week, 87 percent of Germans said that celibacy is no longer appropriate.

It’s not hard, then, for us to draw the conclusion — fair or not — that the church’s problems are rooted in celibacy. Much more so than in the United States, the German debate is about the fundamental structure of the Catholic church: Must a person be chaste to exercise the office of a priest? Does this condition not attract sexually disturbed and pedophiliac men, who count on cover and understanding in the bosom of the church?

How Benedict handles the issue in the coming weeks will determine not only how well the German church endures, but whether it can survive in its current form at all. None of the victims has yet sought reparations, but sooner or later, the church will have to offer compensation. The American church has paid $2 billion to abuse victims since 1992; can the German church afford the same?


Peter Schneider is the author of “Eduard’s Homecoming.” This essay was translated by John Cullen from the German.

This article was found at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/23/opinion/23Schneider.html

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They Sydney Morning Herald - Australia March 22, 2010

Time for the Church to focus on the victims

by CATHY KEZELMAN | Dr Cathy Kezelman is chairwoman of Adults Surviving Child Abuse.

The Pope's letter to 15,000 victims of Irish clergy abuse, while expressing his shame and remorse along similar lines to his apology in Australia and US in 2008, falls well short of the mark. While it rebukes Irish bishops and lower ranking officials it makes no mention of any sanctions against them over their "grave errors of judgment" in not responding to sex abuse allegations. He suggests that the church's own laws, properly applied, should lead to the expulsion of clergy who sexually abuse children. However, the scale of this scandal would suggest otherwise. The church is facing a burgeoning crisis in countries all over Europe, including in the Pope's native Germany and most recently in Brazil.

This letter also fails to address the role of senior Irish clerics, or most importantly, the Vatican's own accountability. It would appear that the Church's policy has helped to protect sex offenders in its midst while failing to prevent further crimes or appropriately care for victims. What appears to be a systematic cover-up of sexual abuse by the highest echelons of the Church is arguably the most morally reprehensible crime of all. The Church has for many lost its moral and sadly, its spiritual authority.

This apology is a long-overdue attempt to unlock the conspiracy of silence and secrecy, which protects perpetrators and perpetuates abuse both inside and outside of the church. However, the church is still not tackling its ultimate responsibility for the horrendous harm suffered by countless victims. It has not demanded the resignations of those spearheading the cover-up or committed to bringing all of the perpetrators to justice through the criminal justice system. The policy of the church has effectively put the lives of scores of children in danger. The scale of the harm generated is only now coming to light. Tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of children's lives have been impacted and so have those of the adults they have become. As this situation has now reached tipping point, undoubtedly many more victims will now find the courage to speak out.

The impact of abuse does not stop when the abuse stops. The human brain is not fully developed until a person is in their 20s. When a child is abused in those crucial developmental years it affects every aspect of their development, arresting their emotional maturation and their ability to make empowered and informed choices. When the perpetrator of that abuse is a person in position of authority and trust and in this case a spiritual leader the damage is potentially even greater. When a child discloses, or for that matter, an adult, it is crucial for them to be heard, validated and supported. It takes incredible courage to overcome the inappropriate shame and self-blame survivors feel in speaking out, especially when tackling an institution with the power and authority of the Catholic Church. The failure of the Church to embrace its victims and provide a truly pastoral response has further compounded the damage to victims.

It is time for real reform and that must begin at the very top of the Catholic Church, with a review of canon law. Canon law seemingly has failed to establish clear and transparent mechanisms for dealing with sexual abuse within the Church and this failure has allowed those crimes to continue unabated. The Pope again failed to clarify whether the church considers secular law a higher priority than canon law in dealing with sexual abuse within the Church. In past decades, as the number of victims coming forward increased, the church closed ranks seeking to protect the institution and its clergy. It failed to put proper boundaries in place to contain the inappropriate behaviour of offending priests and so protect the innocent in its care. This papal letter has failed to reassure victims and other concerned parties that effective changes will be put in place and will be enforced to fully protect children in the Church's care.

The Pope's letter does not call for the resignation of the head of the Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, who swore two child victims to oaths of secrecy in 1975, so ensuring their silence. Cardinal Brady has sincerely apologised for his mistakes of the past and asked Irish Catholics for forgiveness. However, he has stated that he will only resign if the Pope asks him to do so. Yet the Pope has not called for his resignation or for that of others at the top of the Church in Ireland.

Three Irish government-ordered investigations published from 2005 to 2009 documented how 15,000 Irish children were raped, molested and suffered systemic abuses at the hands of priests in their parishes and by nuns and brothers in boarding schools and orphanages.

The investigations, undertaken by senior members of the judiciary, ruled that Catholic leaders protected the Church's reputation from scandal at the expense of children. In fact, Irish bishops did not report a single case to police until their hand was forced in 1996 after victims began to sue the church. The Pope has suggested that the Irish Bishops involved didn't understand the scale or criminality of child abuse until recent years. However, the investigators found cases in which Catholic officials in the 1960s had reported school employees to police for abusing children, showing they understood even then it was a crime. This further abrogation of responsibility does little to appease the anger of victims or show real commitment to change.

The Pope has stated that priests and religious workers guilty of child abuse must answer for these crimes before properly constituted tribunals. It is not clear whether he means that they must surrender themselves to police and face justice through the channels of the criminal justice system. This needs to be clarified. It is reassuring to see that Germany has taken a stand by saying that all cases of child sexual abuse within the church will now be referred immediately to the police.

Pope Benedict XVI, who served as Archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982, has yet to speak about the hundreds of abuse cases emerging in Germany, which are now affecting two-thirds of diocese there. He approved the transfer of a priest accused of child sexual assault for treatment instead of informing German police. This priest was subsequently reinstated and went on to allegedly abuse more children. In 2001, while a cardinal at the Vatican, the now Pope wrote a letter instructing bishops worldwide to report all cases of abuse to his office and keep Church investigations secret under threat of excommunication. The Vatican insists the secrecy rules serve only to protect the integrity of the Church's investigations, and should not be taken to mean the Church should not tell police of their members' crimes.

With scandals burgeoning in Italy, Switzerland, Austria, The Netherlands, Poland and Brazil in addition to previous crises in Canada, the US and Australia, it is time for fundamental change. And it is high time the Church's priority shifts from institutional risk minimisation and protecting sex offenders within the church and focuses on protecting children and dealing with the needs of the victims.

This article was found at:

http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/time-for-the-church-to-focus-on-the-victims-20100322-qqx2.html

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Irish Central - March 24, 2010

Too little, too late, Pope Benedict

by John Spain

The Pope's letter to Catholics in Ireland, a short version of which was read out at all Masses in the country last Saturday night and Sunday morning, is too little, too late. It has been dismissed with something approaching contempt not just by the victims of clerical abuse, but by people in general here.

All the newspapers and TV did vox pops -- street interviews -- in the wake of the letter, and reporters had a real problem finding anyone to say it was an adequate response to the abuse and cover-up scandal here.

People are right to be dismissive. I didn't go to church at the weekend myself. I don't go that often anyway, but I might have gone because I was curious.

But I decided against it because I did not want anyone to be interpreting the Pope's message for me. I prefer to make up my own mind on these things, which makes me a sort of Free Thinking Protestant, I suppose.

So I read the full text of the Pope's letter on line (it's easy to find on the web). It's not that long, and anyone interested in this issue should do likewise. [See previous article in this blog]

Not for any enlightenment, mind you, but to see what a load of self-serving waffle the Pope's message to Ireland actually is.

The Pope's letter is an exercise in obfuscation, rambling on at length about all kinds of extraneous matters without ever getting to the point. The point should have been to make changes in the Catholic Church that would help to prevent abuse like this ever happening again, at least on the scale it happened in Ireland.

Changes like ending priestly celibacy, ordaining women, confining close contact with children to married clergy, relaxing church rules on contraception, on sex before marriage, on people who are gay and on many other things.

Also helpful would be a school system in Ireland that is multi-denominational and co-educational rather than single religion and single sex. And of particular help would be an immediate decision by the church to refuse to ordain any young man who went straight from a single sex school into a seminary and had little or no contact with women or the world outside.

I could go on. As I have said before in this column, you don't have to be a psychologist to understand that a system that sent young boys from all male schools into all male seminaries was a recipe for arrested sexual development.

Repressed or arrested sexuality will always find a way out, and it is the release of that which put so many children in Ireland at risk from so many priests and religious who were incapable of a mature sexual relationship.

So what has the Pope to say about these things? Nothing, of course, because that would mean questioning the fundamentally negative attitude of Catholicism to sex.

And it goes way back. Remember that this is a religion which finds sex so questionable that the Immaculate Conception had to be dreamed up to explain how Mary had become pregnant with Jesus!

So in his letter the Pope had nothing to say about married priests, about celibacy, about ordaining women or any of the other things that might actually result in a clergy people can trust. He had no suggestions of changes in church teaching which might encourage a mature, responsible enjoyment of sex between consenting adults.

Instead he continues with a regime of repression and guilt. He prefers a church which is so uptight about sex that it produces twisted, fumbling abusers.

That is the broad context in which this Pope's message should be read. But even within a narrow context that accepts the current Catholic status quo, the Pope's letter to Ireland is so poor it's embarrassing.

For example, he presents the crisis over sex abuse as a problem not just for the Irish clergy but for everyone, as though everyone somehow shares in the blame. In the letter he even suggests it's a problem that's bigger than Ireland and the Catholic Church, further spreading the blame.

"It is true, as many in your country have pointed out, that the problem of child abuse is peculiar neither to Ireland nor to the church. Nevertheless, the task you now face is to address the problem of abuse that has occurred within the Irish Catholic community, and to do so with courage and determination,” the Pope wrote.

So it's a problem for "the Irish Catholic community," not just the clergy who ran the rotten system here.

The letter has a lot of flattery about the historic role of the Irish missionaries over the centuries, and a hope that the great days of the Irish Catholic Church can be restored. And there is a constant refrain that prayer and devotion can fix everything.

The Pope praises the way we stood up to years of persecution and the strength of traditional Catholicism in Ireland. And that brings another shoal of red herrings.

"In recent decades, however, the church in your country has had to confront new and serious challenges to the faith arising from the rapid transformation and secularization," he says, adding that "fast-paced social change” has been “often adversely affecting people’s traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values.

“All too often, the sacramental and devotional practices that sustain faith and enable it to grow, such as frequent Confession, daily prayer and annual retreats, were neglected . . . the program of renewal proposed by the Second Vatican Council was sometimes misinterpreted and indeed, in the light of the profound social changes that were taking place, it was far from easy to know how best to implement it. In particular, there was a well-intentioned but misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches to canonically irregular situations."

Er, hello? What he seems to be suggesting there is that it's our fault for becoming too materialistic and not being good enough Catholics. And Vatican 2 didn't help either, it seems.

And on and on it goes with the waffle, when he could be talking about real change. To the abuse victims, the Pope says he is "truly sorry" and that what happened to them is "sinful and criminal." But all he really suggests is healing through more prayer.

To the Irish bishops he says, "It cannot be denied that some of you and your predecessors failed, at times grievously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse . . . grave errors of judgment were made and failures of leadership occurred."

That's a serious rap on the knuckles, but there's no real follow-up. And the reference to canon law is worrying. The Pope doesn't come right out and say they should have gone to the police instead of covering up the abusing priests.

What the Pope does tell the bishops is that “in addressing cases of child abuse, continue to cooperate with the civil authorities in their area of competence.”

Notice that word "continue," which sort of suggests that this has been happening for ages. And also notice the reference to "competence," which seems to suggest that the bishops can decide which cases of child abuse the “civil authorities” are competent to deal with.

On and on this waffling and hair-splitting goes, and still there is nothing you could call a real breakthrough to respond to the situation. The Pope fails to ask any of the bishops, especially our compromised Cardinal Sean Brady, to resign.

To the Irish clergy in general he says, "I urge you to examine your conscience, take responsibility for the sins you have committed, and humbly express your sorrow."

That "take responsibility" phrase could be taken as a call for resignations, but if that's what he means, why not say so?

When it comes to what he calls "concrete initiatives to address the situation," the Pope calls for more intense prayers, Lenten devotions, Eucharistic adoration and so on. He says he is "confident that this program will lead to a rebirth of the church in Ireland."

Well he may be, but I think most ordinary Catholics, as opposed to the daily Mass goers, want something much more concrete.

The Pope also says in the letter there is to be an "Apostolic visitation" (a formal process whereby the Pope sends outside church investigators) to some places in Ireland where the worst abuse was going on -- dioceses, seminaries and religious orders. But that's not going to impress anyone here if they're more clergy.

As I was saying here last week, there is one big problem for the Pope in all of this. At the beginning of his message he says that he decided to write the letter to Ireland because of the "gravity of these offenses, and the often inadequate response to them on the part of the ecclesiastical authorities in your country.”

But it's not just a problem for the Irish bishops. It's a problem for him, as well.

Under an edict from the Vatican in 2001, which was mainly the work of the present Pope who was then Cardinal Ratzinger, all bishops were ordered to report cases of clerical child abuse to the Vatican authorities instead of police in their own countries. Such cases were to be handled under canon law and kept secret, as they always had been.

Which is exactly what the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, had done back in 1975 when he handled cases of clerical child abuse under canon law and did not report them to the police.

People now say Brady must resign because of the cover-up. But if Brady goes, surely the Pope must resign as well?

In recent weeks we have learned about dozens of abuse cases in Germany which happened during the time he was Archbishop of Munich from 1977 to 1982, and there were cover-ups and priests were moved around there as well.

For all those reasons, the Pope's letter was greeted here with indifference, disdain and contempt. Too little, too late.

This article was found at:

http://www.irishcentral.com/story/roots/ireland_calling/too-little-too-late-pope-benedict-88998287.html

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The Belfast Telegraph - March 24, 2010

A clerical collar shouldn’t keep these vile abusers out of prison

By Sharon Owens

The revelations of clerical abuse just keep on coming. And some of the stories are so harrowing and heartbreaking it's hard to contemplate how the survivors lived to tell the tale.

Many victims took their own lives. We will probably never know if any of the victims actually lost their lives during an attack.

That's a possibility few are willing to suggest, but I think we must assume that out of many, many thousands of attacks on poor and defenceless children, at least a small number of children may have died.

I'm not really interested in what the Catholic Church, or anyone in it, has to say about clerical abuse any more. If the Church was going to do anything to protect children, it would have done it by now.

Therefore, I can only assume that the hierarchy does not intend to modernise the organisation in any way.

I think we can safely assume that married men and women will never be ordained into the Church, nor will independent investigators be allowed access to Church archives.

As far as I am aware, not a single cleric worldwide has handed himself in to police and made a full confession of his crimes.

If any of the governments in any of the countries where children were abused had any courage whatsoever, all and any clerics concerned would be under arrest today.

And so would any of the clerics who deliberately concealed what was happening from the public. I include the current leader of the Church in that number.

Just because these men wear priestly outfits doesn't mean they are above the law. If that were the case, then any secular paedophile in the world could set up their own religion and go on to abuse children at will.

They could also demand weekly donations from anyone living in their catchment area and use some of that money to silence whistleblowers. This sounds like a ridiculous scenario, but that's basically what happened within the Catholic Church.

Clerical abuse has been going on for decades; perhaps for many centuries. Perhaps the entire religion was conceived as a way to wield power and control over lay people.

And in recent years they added insult to injury by collecting money every Sunday in tiny pastel envelopes.

If the Church really cared about children it would have stamped out child abuse a long, long time ago. It would have vetted everyone in the Church, ordained married men and women into its ranks, made sure young children were never left alone with clerics and handed abusers over to the police immediately.

Some commentators from within the Church are suggesting that the vow of celibacy may have contributed to the problem; and that any religion that is presided over by an all-male, celibate elite is bound to struggle to relate emotionally to its flock.

I'm sorry, but I don't accept that idea at all. Millions of women across the globe were widowed in two world wars and they didn't abuse children.

They did their best to struggle on amid their grief and loneliness. And they did it without a house, a car and a housekeeper all paid for by the Church.

Millions of people in the world today are single, divorced, bereaved, gravely ill, seriously depressed or otherwise unable to enter into a physical relationship. They don't become child abusers; again they live their lives to the best of their ability.

They have friends for emotional support. They spend their spare time doing housework, on hobbies, or pottering in the garden.They satisfy any sudden sexual urges with a little bit of thoroughly healthy self-pleasuring.

They do not resort to recreational rape and they do not threaten small children with excommunication and everlasting hellfire.

How could any child possibly have the maturity to sign an oath of secrecy?

And what does it matter if one is excommunicated for breaking the oath? Just join another religion, for heaven's sake.

One that doesn't have a hopelessly outdated stance on birth-control, divorce, remarriage, female ordination, gay rights and the concealment of crimes against humanity.

I can't be the only person who is absolutely terrified that many seriously disturbed individuals may still be at large in various religious communities throughout the world. I have no idea what causes a person to become an abuser of children, but experts tell us such people can never be fully cured. Therefore they must be locked up or otherwise prevented from abusing another child.

The very least the Vatican can do now is accept full responsibility for what happened and compensate all of the survivors without further delay.

This article was found at:


http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/columnists/sharon-owens/-14737972.html


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Los Angeles Times - March 24, 2010

Sinead O'Connor: 'There should be a full criminal investigation of the pope'

Years after her controversial 'Saturday Night Live' appearance, the Irish singer is still at odds with the Catholic Church, saying it must come clean about sexual-abuse allegations.

By Henry Chu

Reporting from Bray, Ireland


She shot to fame 20 years ago with her shaved head, chiseled cheeks and haunting rendition of the song "Nothing Compares 2 U." Then she gained notoriety when she tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II on American TV, calling him "the enemy" and urging people to fight child abuse.

Sinead O'Connor is still singing. And she's still speaking out against abuse -- only now her 1992 stunt on "Saturday Night Live" almost seems prescient as the Roman Catholic Church faces a growing catalog of complaints about child sexual and physical assault by priests in her Irish homeland and across Europe.

Such mistreatment was rampant here in Ireland, going back decades. By 1987, the Irish church was alarmed enough that it took out an insurance policy against future lawsuits and claims for compensation stemming from sexual-abuse allegations.

This past weekend, Pope Benedict XVI issued a "pastoral letter" apologizing to the flock in Ireland for the church's past failures. He did not outline any disciplinary action against the bishops who many here say covered up priestly misdeeds, though on Wednesday he accepted the resignation of Bishop John Magee, who had been accused of failing to report suspected pedophile priests to police. The pope also pinned no blame on the Vatican itself for a culture of secrecy that critics say it deliberately fostered.

O'Connor, now 43 and a mother of four, spoke to The Times on Tuesday at her seaside home in Bray, south of Dublin, about the abuse scandal.

Do you feel the pope's letter was enough?

It's a study in the fine art of lying and actually betraying your own people. . . . He starts by saying that he's writing with great concern for the people of Ireland. If he was that concerned, why has it taken him 23 years to write a letter, and why did he or the last pope never get on an airplane and come to meet the victims in any of these countries and apologize?

The letter sells the Irish [church] hierarchy downriver by stating again and again that the Irish hierarchy has somehow acted independently of the Vatican. . . . The documents are there to prove that that's a lie. . . .

If you were the boss of a company and some of the employees of your company were known to sexually abuse children, you would fire them instantly. You would also go instantly to meet the people who had been abused and profusely apologize and offer your help in any way whatsoever to deal with this. . . . That has never happened.

As a cardinal, the pope wrote an order in 2001 demanding that abuse cases be dealt with in secret. But doesn't the directive also mention cooperating with civil authorities?

That document stated that all matters of abuse were to be sent to him in Rome, where he would decide whether they would be dealt with by Rome or locally by the bishops. They were to be dealt with exclusively by the church, and they were subject to pontifical secret, which means you can be excommunicated if you breach the secret. . . .

[It's true that] it's the first time ever that any document coming from the Vatican actually does say to the clergy that they should cooperate with civil authorities. . . . What I object to here is, the first time they said that was 2001. They knew back in 1987 at least that this was an issue. . . . They knew so much that they took out an insurance policy.

So what should the pope do?

There should be a full criminal investigation of the Catholic hierarchy of any country in which this has been an issue. There should be a full criminal investigation of the Vatican.

There should be a full criminal investigation of the pope. The pope should stand down for the fact that he did not act in a Christian fashion to protect children, and for the fact that his organization acted to preserve their business interests decade after decade rather than be concerned about the interests of children, and for showing so much disrespect for Christ, God, the victims, the rest of us, their own clergy. . . .

The Vatican and the pope need to get on their knees and confess the full truth in the same language they make us use in Mass. . . . They need to get on their knees, open everything up, be transparent, tell the truth, ask the people for forgiveness and prayers.

That confession is their only hope of survival into the 21st century. It's a rickety bridge, but it is a bridge. And personally, I would be willing to bring them across that little bridge into the 21st century and help them. . . .

If they don't do that, they will not survive. . . . I hope they do survive, because there's a lot that's really beautiful about Catholicism. Even though there are those of us who are fighting it like you would fight an abusive parent, you love the parent still and you want it to be healed.

What about the abuse victims?

He [the pope] says his concern is "to bring healing to the victims." But he's denying them the one thing which might actually bring them healing, which is a full confession from the Vatican. . . .

You're talking about some very broken people. . . . Life is very difficult for them. They can't hold down jobs, can't hold down relationships. . . . Life is difficult. Therapy costs a lot of money. These people don't make much money; hardly any of them are actually fit to work. They need the Vatican to cough up some of its billions [to] pay for these people to be able to live their lives.

Should Irish bishops resign, as a few have offered?

Resignation gets them off the hook. They should be criminally prosecuted. . . . If you or I covered up crimes like that, we'd be slap-bang in jail in five minutes, and rightly so. There's a double standard. . . .

What should the Irish people do?

It's the good-hearted, sweet Catholic people who go to Mass still despite all of this -- they are the people who have the power in their hands to get the Vatican on its knees and confess. . . . How these people can do that is by refusing to go to Mass, boycott them until they actually come to their knees and confess. . . .

The way we are at the moment, we're in a very dysfunctional relationship with an organization that's actually abusing us. And we can't see what's being done to us. We have the mentality of a battered wife who thinks it's her fault. If we had a friend in a similar relationship, we would beg him or her to walk away.

Yet you still consider yourself a Catholic?

I'm a Catholic, and I love God. . . . That's why I object to what these people are doing to the religion that I was born into. . . .

I'm passionately in love and always have been with what I call the Holy Spirit, which I believe the Catholic Church have held hostage and still do hold hostage. I think God needs to be rescued from them. They are not representing Christian values and Christian attitudes. If they were truly Christian, they would've confessed ages ago, and we wouldn't be having to batter the door down and try to get blood from a stone.

This article was found at:

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-sinead-qa25-2010mar25,0,5122266.story

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