Victims expected too much from Pope's summit, bishop claims
Published 24/02/2010 | 05:00
THE victims of clerical sexual abuse were "expecting too much" to come out of last week's meeting with the Pope, a bishop has claimed.
However, the Bishop of Clonfert, John Kirby, also acknowledged that the hierarchy in Rome did not appreciate the gravity of the problem of sexual abuse for many years because of an "obligation of secrecy". Dr Kirby said that canon law had to be updated as a result.
Last night, the survivors of abuse accused the Catholic Church of "the usual spin" after hearing the comments.
Dr Kirby made his remarks at a weekend Mass at St Brendan's Cathedral, Loughrea, Co Galway. "I was saddened that the survivors were disappointed with the outcome of the meeting," he told parishioners.
"Perhaps their expectations were too high. I got the clear impression that the Roman authorities paid great attention to our inputs." However, clerical abuse victim Andrew Madden accused the bishop of "spin".
Mr Madden added: "It's not our expectations that are high, it's our standards. Asking that the Pope fully accept the findings of the Murphy report is not a high expectation. Asking for an apology on behalf of the cover-up is not a high expectation.
"Asking for the Pope to accept without further delay the resignation of the three bishops is not a high expectation."
Dr Kirby described as "humbling" the fact that he had the attention of the Pope, cardinals and bishops during the seven-and-a-half minutes in which he spoke at the meeting.
He also spoke of the responsibility of the church in Rome.
"For years, they did not appreciate the gravity of the problem. The obligation of secrecy, originally promoted for the best of reasons, led to a culture of cover-up.
"The necessity of involving our own Irish State and reporting criminal activities was not emphasised," he added.
But Mr Madden said that the bishops should have been speaking of responsibility prior to the release of the Murphy report. "We now know there was a cover-up," he said. "But they should have been telling us that before the inquiry."
The Bishop of Cork and Ross, John Buckley, also released a short statement in which he said the bishops "spoke frankly of their sense of pain" as well as the anger of those who had been betrayed by the church. "They (the bishops) described the great work that is at present being provided by trained and dedicated lay volunteers at parish level to ensure the safety of children and to guarantee that the church's policies and procedures are followed," he said, adding that the current situation was their "dark night of the soul".
Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Tuam, Michael Neary, yesterday clarified a letter which he had sent to the Diocesan priests last weekend in which he stated that the Pope had asked for the forgiveness of the victims.
A spokesman said the Archbishop's comments were an interpretation of the verbal address given by the Pope after all 24 bishops had spoken. "Sexual abuse is a crime in civil law," he said. "It is also a sin, an offence against God, and against the dignity of the human person.
"Christian theology teaches that in dealing with sin we ask God's forgiveness and the forgiveness of those who have been hurt. The Pope was speaking in this context when he said we seek the forgiveness of victims. It was an expression of the seriousness with which he took the situation."