Friday 26 April 2019

Don't stand in way of justice for abuse victims, churchgoers told

Archbishop Martin backs survivors' calls to speed up process

In prayer: Pope Francis attends the four-day meeting on the global sexual abuse crisis at the Vatican yesterday. Photo: Getty
In prayer: Pope Francis attends the four-day meeting on the global sexual abuse crisis at the Vatican yesterday. Photo: Getty

Sarah MacDonald and Philip Pullella

The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland yesterday called on congregations to stop putting obstacles in the way of justice for victims of clerical sex abuse.

Archbishop Eamon Martin, who is representing the Irish bishops at the Vatican's four-day summit on abuse in Rome, said survivors had told him that some congregations have been slow to allow the legal process to take its course.

The religious congregations' response, he said, appeared to be putting obstacles in the way of survivors.

"We simply can't afford to do that; we must allow these dear members of the Body of Christ to receive restitution," Dr Martin told 'RTÉ News'.

He was speaking on the second day of the Vatican summit which has gathered together 180 representatives of bishops and religious congregations from across the world to respond to the crisis of abuse in the Church.

Leading cardinals told the conference yesterday that the Church must repair the failures that enabled sexual abuse to take root around the world.

The conference also heard calls for bishops to police each other's conduct and speak out honestly when they see problematic behaviour.

"This past year has taught us that the systematic failures in holding clerics of all rank responsible are due in large measure to flaws in the way we interact and communicate with each other," said Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago.

Various aspects of the sexual abuse crisis made 2018 the worst year for the Pope since his election in 2013.

In Chile, all of the country's 34 bishops offered the Church their resignations over a nationwide scandal.

In Ireland, a papal visit shone a new light on decades of abuse in the once staunchly Catholic nation. And a damning report by a grand jury in Pennsylvania revealed priests in the state sexually abused about 1,000 people over seven decades.

Last week, the former cardinal and archbishop of Washington DC Theodore McCarrick was dismissed from the priesthood after the Vatican found that he had been guilty of sexual abuse of minors and adults over decades.

The Church had "to confront the past grave and callous errors of some bishops and religious superiors in addressing cases of clergy sexual abuse", said Cupich.

He added it also needed "the discernment to understand how to establish just accountability for these massive failures".

At the start of the conference on Thursday, five victims told painful stories of abuse and cover-up and the Pope said they could expect concrete measures from the meeting.

In what appeared to be a reference to the McCarrick case, Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai told the conference that bishops should "fraternally correct" each other.

"Do we really engage in an open conversation and point out honestly to our brother bishops or priests when we notice problematic behaviour in them?" he said.

Before proof of McCarrick's child sex abuse was discovered last year, his misconduct with adult men studying for the priesthood, and his abuse of power over them, was an open secret in the US Church.

The conference ends tomorrow, when the Pope will make a final speech. Officials will then formulate a range of follow-up measures.

Irish Independent

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