Belfast Telegraph

Vatican report into clerical sexual abuse advises changes for would-be priests

Changes should be made to seminaries and admission criteria for would-be priests, a Vatican report on the child abuse crisis in the Catholic Church in Ireland has warned.

A probe into the handling of clerical sex abuse cases found that while guidelines to protect children against paedophile priests are being followed, academic programmes in seminaries should put more focus on the issue.

Senior churchmen were sent by Rome to investigate safeguarding procedures and protocols in the Catholic Church in Ireland after it was rocked by several reports which unveiled decades of abuse and cover-ups by church and state authorities.

The visiting clergy said they saw how much the shortcomings of the past gave rise to an inadequate understanding of, and reaction to, the abuse of minors.

"With a great sense of pain and shame, it must be acknowledged that within the Christian community innocent young people were abused by clerics to whose care they had been entrusted, while those who should have exercised vigilance often failed to do so effectively," they found.

"At the same time the visitators were able to verify that, beginning in the 1990s, progressive steps have been taken towards a greater awareness of how serious is the problem of abuse, both in the Church and society, and how necessary it is to find adequate measures in response."

The unprecedented probe, known as an apostolic visitation, was announced by the Pope in his letter to the Catholics of Ireland two years ago in response to the catalogue of abuse outlined in the Murphy and Ryan reports.

A summary of the report was published at the Columba Centre in St Patrick's College, Maynooth, by Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin and papal nuncio to Ireland Archbishop Charles Brown.

Cardinal Brady said the visitation was not intended to replace or supersede the ongoing work of the Church in Ireland, its watchdog the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland, or state agencies in the efforts they have made to deal effectively with child abuse.

"The report provides us with a helpful snapshot of a key moment in the ongoing journey of renewal, and a signpost to future priorities and directions," he added.

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