Women would have dealt with abuse crisis better -- archbishop
Published 23/02/2010 | 05:00
A senior Catholic leader has admitted that the response of bishops to clerical abuse cover-ups would have been different if more lay men and women held positions of authority in the church.
Archbishop of Tuam Michael Neary said yesterday that the lesson was drawn when Ireland's 24 bishops met Pope Benedict and heads of the Vatican at last week's Rome summit.
This absence of married couples and a feminine presence in church administration arose during a discussion of the causes which contributed to the abuse of children, he said.
Archbishop Neary in his Lenten Pastoral Letter to Catholics wrote: "If lay people, and particularly women, had been involved, as they now are, in addressing this issue the response would have been different. Poor past management of sexual abuse cases has contributed to the suffering experienced by victims."
Over the weekend Archbishop Neary and other bishops mounted a media drive to convince the Catholic faithful that the Rome meeting was a genuine outreach to survivors.
Their aim was also to explain to Catholics that the Pastoral Letter that Pope Benedict will send them during Lent will be "an important milestone on a road, from which there is no going back".
But this campaign to focus on ways of bringing healing to victims was deflected in a a fresh row on Sunday when the embattled Bishop of Galway made exclusive comments to this newspaper that enraged survivors of clerical abuse.
Bishop Martin Drennan told the Irish Independent that nothing would ever be enough to address the needs of victims, whose "most natural response to injustice was a desire for revenge".
Yesterday, Dublin abuse victims Marie Collins and Andrew Madden, along with Maeve Lewis, director of the One in Four victims' support agency, issued a joint statement.
"These are not the words of a man fit to convey the 'suffering, hurt and pain of victims' to anyone," it said.
"Bishop Drennan is attempting to portray victims of clerical child sexual abuse as unreasonable in their needs and set on revenge. This is most reprehensible. Survivors are justifiably angry at the ways in which the church has responded to them. Attempting to pathologise this anger is insulting."
The statement also attacked Bishop Drennan's claim that it made no sense to ask Pope Benedict to apologise for what he did not personally do.
"Victims asked Pope Benedict to apologise, on behalf of the Catholic Church, for the cover up by bishops of the rape and sexual abuse of children in the Archdiocese of Dublin over many years," it said.
Bishop Drennan was an auxiliary bishop in the archdiocese of Dublin from 1997 to 2004 and was named in the Murphy report's finding of a systematic cover-up by church authorities.
"Clearly the views of victims were not at all properly represented by Irish Catholic bishops in Rome."
Meanwhile, the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, William Lee, said in his Lenten Letter that the bishops were determined mistakes of the past would not be repeated. As an act of penance Bishop Lee recommended that the faithful revive the devotional practice of the Stations of the Cross.