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Saturday 16 December 2017

Pope will take the pressure off Brady

Pontiff bids to defuse sex abuse crisis with letter

John Cooney and Ciaran Byrne

THE Pope will today ease the pressure on embattled Cardinal Sean Brady and bishops named in the Murphy report in his historic pastoral letter to Irish Catholics.

Church sources last night revealed Pope Benedict would avoid making any direct reference to the sacking or resignations of bishops in his long-awaited response to the spate of clerical sex-abuse scandals.

It is likely to provoke a furious reaction from victims of the abuse who are demanding that the named bishops quit their posts.

However, the pontiff will give clear assurances that bishops are obliged under state laws to report clerical sexual abuse complaints to police and civil authorities.

The contents of Pope Benedict's unprecedented letter to the country's four million Catholics will be monitored closely by abuse victims across the globe.

They will be watching to see if the Pope not only acknowledges the many horrific cases of abuse in Ireland, but also the cover-ups by bishops and the Vatican over many decades.

New cases of clerical sex abuse are tumbling out across Europe on a daily basis and in the Pope's own former diocese in Munich, where he was Archbishop between 1977 and 1982.

Church officials yesterday confirmed a new wave of allegations of physical and sexual abuse had surfaced.

"It is like a tsunami," said Elke Huemmeler, head of the Munich diocese's newly founded sexual abuse prevention task force. The Vatican itself was forced to reject claims Pope Benedict once helped provide housing for a paedophile priest in his former diocese.

Pope Benedict is also expected to signal in his Irish Lenten Pastoral letter, to be published at 11am today and read at all masses tonight and tomorrow, if he will visit Ireland in 2012 for the Eucharistic Congress. Such a visit would pave the way for an emotional meeting with victims of clerical sexual abuse, a key demand of Irish abuse survivors.

Last night there were indications the Pope would give the unambiguous assurance that bishops are obliged under state law to mandatorily report complaints to the gardai and the health authorities.

He is expected to stress this duty is not in conflict with the requirement of bishops, under canon law, to report complaints and allegations against priests to Rome.


But victims and survivors face bitter disappointment over his decision not to address their demands for the resignations of bishops named in the Murphy report on the Dublin Archdiocese.

They include the Bishop of Galway, Martin Drennan, who has said he will not resign, and Auxiliary Bishops of Dublin Eamonn Walsh and Raymond Field whose resignations are expected to be rejected.

Pope Benedict will also make no mention of demands for the removal of Cardinal Brady (pictured left) for his involvement in the cover-up of notorious paedophile priest Brendan Smyth in 1975.

Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor Donal McKeown yesterday defended Dr Brady's handling of allegations of abuse by Smyth. Speaking on RTE's 'Morning Ireland', Dr McKeown said Cardinal Brady made a "bad decision", which he regretted very much.

The 'Lenten Reflection' is due for release by the Vatican Press Office at noon in Rome (11am Irish time). On St Patrick's Day, Pope Benedict XVI asked Irish Catholics to read his pastoral letter on the sexual abuse crisis "with an open heart and in a spirit of faith". He added that it would contain "a sign of my deep concern" over "this painful situation".

Victim support group One in Four yesterday issued its own 'papal letter', setting out what it said survivors deserved to hear.

Its version of the letter from the Pope reads: "I want to say clearly and unequivocally that the Catholic Church at the highest levels has always known about the clerical sexual abuse of children.

"We have pursued a deliberate policy of cover-up, protecting sex offenders in order to avoid scandal, with no regard for the safety of children ... For this I am deeply sorry."

Irish Independent

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