Irish diaspora prelates to probe Emerald Isle’s sex abuse crisis
The list of Catholic cardinals and archbishops chosen by Pope Benedict to head the official inquiry into clerical sexual abuse of children and the training of priests in Ireland reads like a list of grand marshals of a major Saint Patrick’s Day parade. They are Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Sean Patrick O’Malley, Thomas Collins, Thomas Prendergast and Timothy Dolan.
In Church terms, it’s an impressive line-up. They are, respectively, cardinal and emeritus archbishop of Westminster, cardinal archbishop of Boston, archbishop of Toronto, archbishop of Ottawa and archbishop of New York.
Our Vatican correspondent Phil Pullella has the full story from the Vatican here. As the Irish Times noted in its report on the announcement: “All are of Irish descent and have played leading roles in investigating and responding to allegations of sexual abuse and Church mishandling of abuse in their own countries.”
The experience these men have gained in investigating sexual abuse cases in their own archdioceses will certainly help them in this inquiry. Their family backgrounds may be just as important. The Emerald Isle’s sexual abuse crisis is based on several factors that are typically Irish, like the powerful and complex influence the Church has traditionally had in Irish society and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach long taken to scandal in the Church there. By choosing this team, Benedict has avoided having Irish bishops run the investigation of their own Church. At the same time, this line-up should know enough about the Irish Church to have an inside track on finding out the full story of what happened there and why.