8 Dec 2010

Vatican investigators to Ireland instructed to evangelize youth and impose respect for priests

The Independent - Ireland June 7, 2010

New Vatican campaign to clamp down on 'liberal opinion'

By John Cooney

VATICAN investigators to Ireland appointed by Pope Benedict XVI are to clamp down on liberal secular opinion in an intensive drive to re-impose traditional respect for clergy, according to informed sources in the Catholic Church.

The nine-member team led by two cardinals will be instructed by the Vatican to restore a traditional sense of reverence among ordinary Catholics for their priests, the Irish Independent has learned.

Priests will be told not to question in public official church teaching on controversial issues such as the papal ban on birth control or the admission of divorced Catholics living with new partners to the sacraments -- especially Holy Communion.

Theologians will be expected to teach traditional doctrine by constantly preaching to lay Catholics of attendance at Mass and to return to the practice of regular confession, which has been largely abandoned by adults since the 1960s.

An emphasis will be placed on an evangelisation campaign to overcome the alienation of young people scandalised by the spate of sexual abuse of children and by later cover-ups of paedophile clerics by leaders of the institutional church.

A major thrust of the Vatican investigation will be to counteract materialistic and secularist attitudes, which Pope Benedict believes have led many Irish Catholics to ignore church disciplines and become lax in following devotional practices such as going on pilgrimages and doing penance.

Bishops and priests will be instructed to preach to their congregations the unchanging central message of Jesus Christ about love, healing and repentance.

While the restoration of church discipline and pious practices such as praying to Our Lady and the saints will be welcomed by regular church-goers, the Vatican investigation is likely to face a backlash from liberal Catholics who want more accountability and democracy in church decision-making.


Vatican officials are finalising the precise terms of the instructions for the investigators named last week by Pope Benedict, who initiated an 'Apostolic Visitation' last March in his pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland.

The investigators are clearing their diaries to visit Ireland's four principal archdioceses, the national seminaries and study centres run by religious orders in the autumn.

In the wake of the shocking Murphy report into clerical child abuse, the conservative Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, will examine the study courses conducted for trainee priests at the national seminaries in St Patrick's College, Maynooth, and the Pontifical Irish College in Rome.

At a meeting held in Maynooth last month, Archbishop Dolan told a gathering of priests "to return to basics" and to ground their ministry in "prayer, humility and a rediscovery of identity".

Archbishop Dolan's address, titled "God is the only treasure people desire to find in a priest", was the high point of the Irish church's celebration of The Year of the Priest, a campaign to encourage vocations to the priesthood.

The hardline address was enthusiastically endorsed by Cardinal Sean Brady, the Primate of All Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh.

This week, as part of the Vatican's rigorous restoration policy, a widely promoted rally will be staged in Rome to cap what Pope Benedict has called "The Year of the Priest".

Thousands of priests from across the world, including from Ireland, are expected to attend the showcase event which is planned as a major spectacle trumpeting the special status of the priesthood.

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Boston Globe - June 8, 2010

Mistrust, deep divisions await O’Malley in Ireland

By Michael Rezendes | Globe Staff

When Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley arrives in Ireland to investigate the handling of sex abuse cases in the Dublin Archdiocese, he is likely to encounter a divided clergy, skeptical victims, and a sense of betrayal that runs far deeper than what he encountered when he arrived in Boston seven years ago.

“He’s going to find a very divided church,’’ said Colm O’Gorman, an Irish clergy sex abuse victim and the founder of the organization One in Four. “On the one side, he’ll find those who are still very resistant to change and unwilling to acknowledge the extent of a very clear and deliberate coverup, and on the other side he’ll find those who are significant reformers.’’

Engulfed by a crisis rolling across Europe, Pope Benedict XVI last week called on O’Malley and four other prelates to conduct an “apostolic visitation’’ to Ireland, a country where the church for centuries was held in especially high esteem, but where government reports on the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests have roiled the faithful.

“Every religion has a clergy in which the people invest their trust and confidence, but few have invested as heavily as the Irish,’’ said Thomas Groome, a native of Ireland who is now a professor of theology at Boston College. “Traditionally, priests have enjoyed ultimate status in Irish community, so their fall from grace is all the more painful.’’

The situation in Dublin differs from that in many dioceses, in that O’Gorman and other victim advocates say the archbishop, Diarmuid Martin, stands out as a champion of change.

The victim advocates credit Martin with drawing attention to the role his fellow bishops played in covering up abuses committed by priests, and with presiding over the development of new church policies designed to protect children.

Martin has expressed deep skepticism about the willingness of his fellow bishops to face the crisis and follow the new policies.

Last month, for example, he delivered an address to a Catholic fraternal organization in which he said there were “strong forces’’ within the church that preferred to ignore the facts about clerical sex abuse, and he said he sees signs that his fellow bishops in Ireland were not following church policies.

“I have never, since becoming archbishop of Dublin, felt so disheartened and discouraged about the level of willingness to really begin what is going to be a painful path of renewal,’’ he said.

The speech drew praise from victims and their advocates. But there is also concern that Martin, who arrived in Dublin in 2003, has become isolated from other bishops and alienated from priests, many of whom believe he played a part in the recent resignations of five Irish bishops accused of covering up clergy sex abuse.

“Archbishop Martin has been at the forefront in the development of child protection policies,’’ said Maeve Lewis, executive director of One in Four. “But as a result he has become very isolated. I think this has been a very difficult year for him.’’

Some observers of the Catholic Church in Ireland believe that O’Malley, known for cleaning up clergy abuse scandals during his tenure as bishop in Fall River, Palm Beach, Fla., and Boston, may travel to Dublin in the fall with the purpose of shoring up Martin’s standing among his fellow bishops.

“If O’Malley says, ‘You look like you’re doing a good job; here are some minor suggestions,’ that could be very helpful to Martin,’’ said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. “His visit could be very supportive.’’

Kathleen O’Toole, the former Boston police commissioner who is now the chief inspector of Ireland’s police, also said she believes O’Malley’s visit holds much promise.

“I don’t think he’ll encounter any resistance,’’ she said. “In fact, I believe he’ll be warmly received.’’

But advocates for victims — in Boston and in Dublin — say they are skeptical about O’Malley’s visit because of what they call a lack of transparency in his handling of clergy sex abuse cases in Fall River and Boston.

Specifically, they point to a 2002 decision by Bristol District Attorney Paul Walsh Jr. to release the names of 20 priests accused of sexual abuse, citing frustration with the handling of the cases by church officials, including O’Malley, who was then the bishop of the Fall River Diocese.

In addition, the advocates have also cited O’Malley’s decision as Boston’s archbishop to reinstate three priests previously suspended after abuse allegations were leveled against them; O’Malley determined that the accusations were not credible.

“For an apostolic visitation to have any chance of success, the participating bishops cannot be guilty of the same offenses they are investigating,’’ said BishopAccountability.org, a Waltham-based group that tracks abuse allegations against priests.

In addition, Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer who has represented hundreds of clergy abuse victims, said he believes the purpose of O’Malley’s visit is public relations, an attempt to bolster the reputation of the Catholic Church.

“Cardinal O’Malley will say the correct things at the correct time in order to buy silence,’’ he said.

The abuse crisis in Ireland, which has been unfolding since the 1990s, intensified last year when the Irish government released two reports on sexual abuse by priests, one documenting the widespread abuse of children in the nation’s church-run schools; the other detailing a pattern of church officials and police working together to cover up allegations of clerical abuse.

The reports shocked Irish Catholics and appear to have accelerated a decades-long decline in allegiance to the church.

Irish clergy abuse victims say they find it difficult to believe the visits by O’Malley and other global prelates will add significantly to the government’s findings.

“The church should look to its existing records, which are extensive, and the results of the major state investigations carried out at the cost of millions of euros to Irish taxpayers,’’ said O’Gorman. “Most people are underwhelmed by the idea of an apostolic visitation by the Vatican.’’

Even those who believe Pope Benedict’s initiative is a welcome sign that the Vatican is finally moving to address clergy sexual abuse, such as Groome, question the decision to send a delegation to Ireland and not to other countries where scandals over the sexual abuse of minors have also erupted.

In Germany, for example, prosecutors have begun a preliminary investigation into the nation’s highest-ranking Catholic bishop for the role he allegedly played in allowing a priest accused of molesting a minor to be reassigned.

In addition, Benedict, who comes from Germany, has been criticized for his tenure as archbishop of the Munich Diocese, where an abusive priest who had been treated for sexual problems was reassigned to another parish, where he abused again.

“If Benedict is going to send apostolic visitors into Ireland, I think he should send them to Germany, as well,’’ Groome said.

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