An opportunity missed in Rome
If the outcome of the meeting between Pope Benedict and the Irish bishops is a golden opportunity missed, then the damage has been done and the Pope and his bishops will find it very difficult to undo. The subsequent statement, described by one disappointed Irish priest as a clerical club talking to itself, contains so many odd nuances and omissions that it must puzzle victims of clerical abuse almost as much as it infuriates them.
It had been hoped that the Irish bishops would remind the Holy Father and the Roman Curia that child sexual abuse by Catholic priests was not confined to Ireland and that its proliferation around the globe, notably in the Pope's homeland, cries out for radical change and fresh thinking.
It was left to Cardinal Sean Brady, at a press conference later, to point out the global scale of Catholic clerical child abuse.
The Vatican statement contained no mention of a proven culture of cover-up that emanated from the Vatican itself. For example, officials of the Dublin Archdiocese told the Murphy commission they never felt they had the support of Rome in dealing with abuse.
Three major documents on clerical child abuse in this country have called for mandatory reporting of the crime to the civil authorities.
Pope Benedict conceded yesterday that child abuse was a heinous crime, but did not add that bishops' common practice of moving known abusers from parish to parish without reporting their crimes to the police was also a heinous crime.
The Vatican statement is being seen by some as an attempt to minimise culpability. Certainly the Holy Father's suggestion that a weakening of faith was a factor in the "phenomenon" of the sexual abuse of "minors" will sound strange to those who were raped as children.
It appears there was no discussion about bishops' resignations, certainly no acceptance of offers to resign, indicating some disregard for the findings of the Murphy Report.
Neither was anything said about the refusal of the Papal Nuncio, the Vatican's ambassador in Ireland, to co-operate with the Murphy commission in the name of diplomatic protocol.
If the outcome of two days of talk in the Vatican is somehow seen as being misinterpreted, that could have been avoided with a straightforward explanation of what exactly was achieved.