Inaction adds to victims' anguish
It has been a bleak Christmas for the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland as it continues to struggle with the consequences of Judge Yvonne Murphy's shocking report into the abuse of children in the Dublin Diocese.
Despite the admirable leadership shown by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the Church has shown once again that it is institutionally incapable of understanding what it did and institutionally incapable of accepting the consequences of its actions. Slowly, reluctantly, four of the bishops named in the Murphy report have tendered their resignations to Pope Benedict, but each resignation has been a drawn out drama rather than a swift acceptance of responsibility and accountability. It should not have been possible for any organisation to inflict further damage on itself in the wake of such a devastating report by Judge Murphy, but that is what the Church has managed to do.
All too late, the Church has begun to comprehend what the general public thinks of what happened in Dublin, in Ferns, in industrial schools and parishes all across the country. The public now sees a Church that protected child abusers and put their interests ahead of the children they were abusing. They see a Church that knowingly placed children at risk and then ignored their cries for help when their abusers struck; a Church that set itself above the law of the land and which lost all connection to the teachings of Jesus Christ. The Church failed its most vulnerable and then covered up their pain.
Bishop Jim Moriarty, who resigned last week, seemed to recognise some of those failings when he said that "the Murphy report covers far more than what individual bishops did or did not do.
"Fundamentally it is about how the leadership of the archdiocese failed over many decades to respond properly to criminal acts against children. . . I should have challenged the prevailing culture. I know that any action now on my part does not take away the suffering that people have endured. I again apologise to all the survivors and their families."
Bishop Moriarty's words would have sounded so much more compelling and so much more heartfelt if they had been uttered on the day that Judge Murphy's report was published. By waiting, by going through the charade of Bishop Donal Murray's week-long resignation trip to Rome, and by indulging the reluctance of other bishops to accept responsibility for their failings, the Church has failed its followers. It is a collective failure, one that is made more acute by Archbishop Martin's honesty and contrition. He offered leadership but his bishops spurned him, and his very obvious distress has served to highlight the apparent indifference of those who were so reluctant to resign.
There remains but one bishop who has yet to resign: Martin Drennan, the Bishop of Galway, is the last man standing of the five bishops named in the Murphy report. He said yesterday that he would not resign because he felt he had done nothing wrong. According to a spokesman for the Galway diocese, Dr Drennan had not been called to give evidence to the Murphy Commission, nor had he been furnished with the part of the report which mentioned him by name.
The survivors of abuse have called for all five bishops to resign and their voices deserve to be heard. The slow-motion resignations of four bishops, and the refusal of the fifth to resign, have increased -- if that is possible -- the hurt and anguish of the survivors and have caused further damage for the Church. Bishop Drennan should reconsider, urgently. Only when he goes can Archbishop Martin start the painfully slow process of renewal that his Church needs.