Listen with compassion to abusers, urges top churchman
AN English priest has called on Ireland's religious orders "to confront the unthinkable" by listening compassionately to the stories of paedophile clerics, writes John Cooney.
Fr Timothy Radcliffe, the former Master General of the worldwide Dominican Order, told the religious orders yesterday that they had opened their ears to conversation with victims of clerical abuse.
"And we must dare to hear the abusers, too," Fr Radcliffe said, to the audible gasp of priests, brothers and nuns at the CORI conference.
As all airports were closed because of the volcanic ash from Iceland, Fr Radcliffe was forced to deliver his keynote address via a conference circuit from Oxford.
He said he was sent an article written by a young American Jesuit priest who appealed to his fellow religious to listen to the 4,000 priests "warehoused" because of their abuse.
"But why did they do it?" Fr Radcliffe asked.
In the letter, the Jesuit asked: "Are we capable as a church of reaching out compassionately to those 4,000-plus warehoused priests and including them as genuine members of the Christian community?
"Are we capable of listening to their stories and learning more about them, and perhaps more about ourselves?
"Are we capable of appreciating the unfathomable complexity of human desires, emotions and relationships, and of understanding how God is able and willing to penetrate and transfigure them all, if we only allow himself to do so?
"If we are capable of these things, then we need to start acting now, for the time is short. Those priests will be dead in a very few years."
Endorsing the letter, Fr Radcliffe told a stunned CORI: "A true conversation cannot be controlled -- it leads you where it will."
Fr Radcliffe invited CORI members to think how marvellous it would be if the church really became a place of such open conversation.
In a wide-ranging address, Fr Radcliffe also said that the clerical child abuse crisis was caused because religious were often used to covering up what that they really thought.
"Do we really say what we believe to each other, to the bishops, to the Vatican?" he asked, adding: "We need a culture of truth-telling."