'Gang of Nine' to shed light on a dark era
THE Vatican team of nine 'troubles-hooters' are being sent to marshal the Irish church and to restore confidence in a leadership which has been discredited by its mishandling of the clerical child-abuse crisis.
'The Gang of Nine' consists of five prelates claiming Irish forefathers, and two highly influential but relatively unknown priests, as well as two nuns.
Best-known here because of his Cork connections is Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the retired Archbishop of Westminster, who is to look at the archdiocese of Armagh led by Cardinal Sean Brady.
Cardinal Sean O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston, is to look at the archdiocese of Dublin led by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. The bearded former Capuchin monk is a humane and open-minded prelate who came under fire from conservative Catholics for attending the funeral Mass of the late Ted Kennedy, whom they turned against for his pro-choice stance on the abortion debate in the US.
Relatively unknown quantities are Archbishop Thomas Collins, the Archbishop of Toronto, who will oversee inquiries into the archdiocese of Cashel, and Jesuit Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, who is to look at the sprawling archdiocese of Tuam in the west of Ireland.
Most to be feared by liberal-minded clerics will be the colourful Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, who will head the inquiry on behalf of the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education. He will be demanding full orthodoxy to the conservative teachings of Pope Benedict.
All five prelates have played leading roles in investigating and responding to allegations of sexual abuse in their own countries, and will be keen to reassure their Irish counterparts of their sympathy for their troubles.
In addition, the 'visitors' surveying Ireland's male religious congregations will be: Redemptorist priest Joseph Tobin, and Jesuit Fr Gero McLaughlin SJ.
American nun Sr Sharon Holland and Irish nun Sr Mairin McDonagh will deal with institutes of women.
All four are "to carry out a careful study, evaluating the results obtained from the questionnaire and recommend possible steps to usher in a season of spiritual rebirth for religious life on the island."
In a statement, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin welcomed the visitation's evaluation of the current response to victims and the quality of the assistance which the church in Ireland owes to survivors.
He also warmly welcomed the nomination of Cardinal Sean O'Malley as visitor to the Archdiocese of Dublin.
"Cardinal O'Malley's experience and personal commitment render him particularly suited to bring ecclesial solidarity to the faithful and the clergy of the Archdiocese of Dublin at this moment, in which the church in Dublin addresses the truth of a dark moment in its history and undertakes a period of conversion, purification and renewal," Archbishop Martin said.
"The appropriate structures of the archdiocese continue in their reflection on the grave facts identified in the Murphy report and are offering full cooperation in the ongoing criminal investigation being conducted by An Garda Siochana in the wake of the publication of the report."