Victims of clerical sex abuse last night accused the Pope of “washing his hands” of the scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church in Ireland.
Abuse survivors condemned the Pope Benedict XVI for not acknowledging that senior clergy covered up decades of sickening abuse.
They said the Pontiff's unprecedented two-day summit with the 24 Irish bishops in the Vatican in Rome was “a charade” that had achieved nothing.
The 24 senior clergy were summoned to Rome over the past mishandling of child abuse scandals that rocked the Catholic Church in Ireland in the last year.
The Ryan Report found the Catholic Church and Irish government covered up almost four decades of sexual abuse and beatings by priests and nuns on thousands of children in State care. And the Murphy Report unveiled a catalogue of cover-ups by the Catholic hierarchy in Dublin to protect the Church.
But in a Vatican statement, the Pope specifically failed to acknowledge the cover-up or formally apologise for the abuse — leading to widespread condemnation from victims last night.
The Pope also failed to sack under-fire Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan — or even formally accept the resignations of other bishops, who were criticised in the Murphy Report for their mishandling of cases of sexual abuse.
The Pontiff also ignored the failure of the Papal Nuncio to co-operate with the Murphy Commission's investigation into abuse in Dublin.
In a statement, the Vatican said the Pope had told the bishops the sexual abuse of children and young people was not only a heinous crime, but also a “grave sin that offends God and wounds the dignity of the human person created in his image”.
“While realising that the current painful situation will not be resolved quickly, he challenged the Bishops to address the problems of the past with determination and resolve, and to face the present crisis with honesty and courage,” it said.
The Vatican said the Pope also told bishops the weakening of faith was a significant contributing factor in the phenomenon of the sexual abuse of minors.
Maeve Lewis, of support group One in Four, hit back and said the Pope's response was inadequate. “It is deeply insulting to survivors to suggest they were abused due to failures of faith, rather than because sex offending priests were moved from parish to parish, and those in authority looked away while further children were sexually abused,” she said.
Campaigner Andrew Madden, who was abused by Dublin priest Father Ivan Payne, said the meeting showed “self-preservation” was the Church's priority.
He said Pope Benedict and the bishops placed this over the concerns of people who had been abused for decades.
“That hardly represents change,” Mr Madden said last night. “I can only conclude the Catholic Church remains a disgraced, discredited organisation that seems to be entirely incapable of responding in any intelligent, meaningful way to the findings of the Ferns, Ryan and Murphy reports.”
Abuse victim and campaigner Marie Collins said the Pope had insulted the survivors by failing to put the bishops' resignations on the agenda and again ignoring the chance of reforms.
“This is a clerical club in a clerical world ... they are people who live in a different century,” she said after hearing the details. “I see no hope for the future.”
She said the Pope had said pae
dophilia was a “heinous crime” but he should have said that it was a heinous crime for a bishop to put an abusive priest in charge of children.
Goldenbridge orphanage survivor Christine Buckley labelled the Vatican's statement on abuse in Ireland “a charade”.
She said she was profoundly disappointed with news the Pope is to issue a pastoral letter to Irish Catholics on the scandal. “This is a charade. A collection of 24 bishops who appear to have been lectured about the tensions and the disunity of their members rather than trying to find out why these abuses happened and how to resolve them,” she said.
“The other part of the statement that really hurts me is there was 17 hours spent on diocesan abuse, there was half an hour spent on the Ryan abuses.
“I'm normally an optimist and for some unknown reason I really thought that the Pope was going to say, ‘let's start with Ireland. I will go to Ireland. I will meet with the victims of institutional and clerical abuse’.
“‘I will unveil a memorial. I will start a first world conference for victims of institutional and sexual abuse'. Instead he has washed his hands of it, he thinks it's okay and that a Lenten pastoral letter is going to help our pain. No, it is not.”