Saturday 19 October 2019

Pope: I'll rid Church of pervert priests

But critics say more direct intervention is needed

John Cooney, Shane Phelan and  Barry Duggan

POPE Benedict has assured Catholics that he is determined to rid the Church of paedophile priests, according to his personal representative in Ireland.

The assurance was conveyed last night by the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, who told the Irish Independent that people needed to remember Pope Benedict's "forthright and constant condemnation of child abuse in all its forms".

Archbishop Leanza pointed to the meeting between Pope Benedict and the Irish bishops in Rome in 2006 after the publication of the damning Government report into child clerical abuse in the diocese of Ferns. At the meeting, the Pope instructed them to clean up the Irish Church of any vestiges of abuse.

However, weaknesses in adhering to a zero tolerance policy against pervert priests were revealed in the failure of Bishop John Magee to follow child protection guidelines in the diocese of Cloyne.

When the disgraced Bishop Magee refused to resign several times, Pope Benedict intervened and removed him from office and appointed the Archbishop of Cashel, Dermot Clifford, as apostolic administrator.

Despite Archbishop Leanza's comments, pressure continued to mount last night for the Pope to make a more direct intervention.

The weekly influential Tablet newspaper in London said in an editorial that the Irish people's relationship with the church "is now soured by disappointment and disillusion and will never be the same".

In the National Catholic Reporter in the US, Dominican priest Fr Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer and advocate for those abused by priests, described the Ryan report as "horrifying", even to someone with his experience in dealing with sex abuse cases.

Fr Doyle said: "This demands a deep and fearless examination of the celibate clerical subculture to find out why it happened, why there's still denial on the part of religious leaders, and why it took government intervention to bring this to light."

Meanwhile, two leading Irish clerics spoke yesterday of the shame felt by the Catholic Church following the publication of the report.

Bishop Leo O'Reilly, chair of the Irish Bishops' Commission on Education, said: "Children are to be loved and cherished and the Church's failure to protect those in its care was a shameful betrayal of trust.

Book of condolence

"Establishing the truth of what happened is crucial and the report contributed to that goal. Victims deserve justice and support to help bring about healing."

The Bishop of Limerick, Dr Donal Murray, also said the Church had betrayed the children in its care. "The pain that was caused to many children and so many religious orders, what should have been operating as a vision of hope, was actually destroying it," he said.

He said his sympathy was entirely with the victims who suffered abuse.

"It is horrifying, dreadful, you can't find words to describe what they went through. They went through so much," he said.

Meanwhile, a book of condolence is to be opened in Dublin for victims of abuse.

Lord Mayor Eibhlin Byrne said she had been approached by people all over the city who wanted to express their solidarity with the victims.

The book of condolence will be open at the Mansion House today and tomorrow.

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