Editor's Viewpoint: Abuse victims want action, not words
There were many fine words from Pope Benedict after his unprecedented two day meeting with Irish bishops on the issue of child abuse.
His description of the crimes as ‘heinous’ and ‘a grave sin’ and his call for the Bishops to address the problems of the past with determination and resolve and the current crisis in the church in Ireland with honesty and courage, echoed the revulsion people feel about clerical abuse of children.
But neither the Pope nor Cardinal Sean Brady, head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, put forward any practical steps the hierarchy will, or can, take to redress the wrongs done to so many young |people over such a protracted period of time. It is fine to use theological terms like repentance and atonement, but victims want action.
There was no suggestion that the victims’ principal demands — the resignation of all the Bishops named in the Murphy report into child abuse and a meeting with the Pope when he comes to the UK — will be met. Of course, the task of rebuilding faith in the church in Ireland and in the clergy lies with the Irish hierarchy. They must ensure that every assistance is given to the civil authorities investigating allegations of abuse and that victims are treated sympathetically.
The hierarchy should also consider extending its investigations north of the border. While we already know of some clerical paedophiles such as Fr Brendan Smyth who served in Northern Ireland, there may be other allegations which have gone unheeded.
The Pope recognises that the Catholic Church in Ireland has been badly shaken by the whole clerical abuse issue. His hope that it can regain its authority may be more wishful thinking than reality. The Irish hierarchy has an enormous job to do just to retain its current congregations never mind build upon them.