Thursday 18 July 2019

Papal Nuncio says sorry for Vatican's 'mistakes'

John Cooney and Breda Heffernan

THE Government yesterday demanded that the Vatican co-operate fully with the Murphy commission's ongoing investigations into paedophile priests in the Archdiocese of Dublin and the diocese of Cloyne.

The ultimatum was put directly by Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin at a dramatic 45-minute meeting yesterday in Iveagh House, Dublin with the Papal Nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza.

An apologetic Archbishop Leanza afterwards said there was no intention on the part of the Vatican not to co-operate with the commission, and he expressed his "shock and dismay" at the Murphy report's findings into the systematic cover-up by four successive archbishops of Dublin of complaints of abuse by paedophile priests.

"We feel ashamed about what happened. I feel really I must express again my shock, my dismay," the Papal Nuncio said. "I understand the anger of the people and the sufferings of those who have been abused. We totally condemn this."

Archbishop Leanza was invited to visit the department to explain why there had been no response from the nunciature to correspondence from the commission.

"If there was any mistake from our side, we also apologise for this. But certainly there was no intention not to co-operate with the commission," added Archbishop Leanza.

Mr Martin told the nuncio of the Irish public's deep anger and outrage at the cover-ups by the Vatican and Irish bishops.

"My focus was very much on the need for a substantive response even now to the questions that have been raised by the Dublin commission, and also a very clear commitment that there would be a comprehensive response to any question that might be raised or asked in relation to Cloyne," Mr Martin said.


Later, victims of clerical sex abuse accused Archbishop Leanza of "side-stepping" the Church's role in the cover-up.

Andrew Madden, the first victim to go public about the abuse he suffered, said the Vatican was engaged in "damage limitation".

"It's not very believable the Papal Nuncio saying he was shocked by the report," Mr Madden said. "It was the Church's own rules and systems that allowed it. So he can hardly be surprised." Mr Madden said he was not expecting anything meaningful to come out of the meetings between senior Irish clergy and Pope Benedict XVI this week. Victim Marie Collins expressed dissatisfaction with Archbishop Leanza's apology and called for resignations of Catholic Church leaders who help shield abusers.

"Victims are tired of hearing apologies for what the abusers have done. Everybody is missing the point -- the Murphy report was about the leadership of the Catholic Church and how they facilitated abuse by moving priests into new parishes.

"These were men in leadership who did not behave correctly and they allowed abusers to go on abusing and more children to be hurt and an apology can't make that right. The only thing that can make it right is if these men show genuine regret and stand down," she added.

Last night Maeve Lewis, the head of the One in Four victims' support, group called on every bishop attending the Irish Conference of Bishops in Maynooth today to apologise for the abuses; and she called on 10 bishops implicated in the Dublin report to resign as a clear signal of a change of direction by Irish church leaders.

Meanwhile, the Government was last night shying away from extending an inquiry into clerical child abuse across the country. Children's Minister Barry Andrews told the Dail that probing clerical abuse in other diocese would "not add much".

Mr Andrews said commissions of inquiry could only try and find out what went wrong in the past and could not bring the perpetrators to justice.

His comments follow calls for the remit of the commissions to be extended to include every diocese in the State.

Fine Gael TD Dr James Reilly said clerical abuse was not limited to Dublin or Ferns and said an investigation was needed as quickly as possible.

But Mr Andrews told the Dail: "If we go through all of the dioceses and all of the congregations, as some people are now calling for, I doubt we will add much to our body of knowledge in regard to where we went wrong in the past."

He added: "The perpetrators are brought to book through the criminal justice system, not through commissions of inquiry."

Irish Independent

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