FaithWorld

Irish clergy abuse victims torn between Dublin monument and Haiti aid

ryanreport

The Ryan report into child abuse, 20 May 2009/Cathal McNaughton

One of the healing measures suggested when Ireland’s Catholic clerical sex scandals shocked the country last year was a proposal to erect a monument in Dublin to all the youths abused for decades at schools and orphanages run by religious orders that looked the other way.  The idea, proposed by the government’s Ryan report last May, won so much support that half a million euros were earmarked for the project. The government appointed a group to consider what the Irish Times called “the most difficult public art commission in the history of the state.”

It’s just become even more difficult because one group of clerical abuse victims has now said the funds should instead be donated to victims of the Haiti earthquake. The gesture would genuinely mean more to victims of clerical abuse than a piece of stone on O’Connell Street,” the victims’ group Right of Place said last week at a meeting with Prime Minister Brian Cowen. O’Connell Street is Dublin’s main thoroughfare, an ideal place for any memorial.

Others disagree.

Christine Buckley, who works at the Aislinn Centre to support victims, said she recognised the deep suffering of Haitian people. But Ireland, whose government and citizens have already contributed millions in aid to Haiti, should still be able to afford just over 3 euros per each child affected by abuse, she said.

The Ryan commission that issued the shocking report about abuse committed throughout much of the past century recommended that the monument should have the words of an 1999 government apology inscribed on it:

“On behalf of the State and all citizens of the State, the Government wishes to make a sincere and overdue apology to the victims of childhood abuse for our collective failure to intervene, to detect their pain, to come to their rescue .”

Child abuse crisis to spark Irish Catholic Church shake-up

irishvatican Archbishop Diarmuid Martin (L) and Cardinal Sean Brady (C) after meeting Pope Benedict, 11 Dec 2009/Tony Gentile

Pope Benedict has expressed “outrage, betrayal and shame” at the sexual abuse of children by priests in Ireland, which Church leaders said would lead to a shake-up of the Irish Roman Catholic Church.  Church sources expected some bishops to resign in the wake of a government report that said Church leaders in overwhelmingly Catholic Ireland had covered up widespread abuse of children by priests for 30 years.

“I think that we are looking at a very significant reorganization of the Church in Ireland,” Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said after he and other Irish Church leaders held an emergency meeting with the Pope on Friday.

Pope and Irish Catholic Church to hold summit on child abuse by clergy

abuse (Photo: Irish Justice Minister Dermot Ahern while discussing abuse report with journalists, 26 Nov 2009/Cathal McNaughton)

Ireland’s top Roman Catholic leaders will hold talks with Pope Benedict this week to formulate the Vatican’s response to an Irish government report on a 30-year cover-up of sexual abuse of children by priests.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the pope and top officials would meet Cardinal Sean Brady, head of the Irish Bishops Conference, and Diarmuid Martin, the archbishop of Dublin, on Friday.

The meeting was called to discuss and evaluate “the painful situation of the Church in Ireland” following the publication last month of the Murphy Commission Report.  The rank of the participants — who will also include the Vatican ambassador to Dublin and top Vatican doctrinal officials — effectively makes it a rare summit about the problem of sexual abuse of children in the Irish Church.

GUESTVIEW:When it comes to clergy misconduct, take off those stained-glass specs

eee2 (Photo: Protest against clergy sex abuse at the Catholic cathedral in Sydney, 18 July 2008/Tim Wimborne)

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Elizabeth E. Evans is an American freelance journalist living in Glenmoore, Pennsylvania who writes about religion.

By Elizabeth E. Evans

Two large scale American studies of clergy gone off the rails raise a host of troubling and baffling questions, not solely about clergy sexual misconduct, but about how and why parishioners either tolerate or ignore signals that something is wrong. One sad but perhaps inescapable conclusion from them is that it may be time to start taking a more skeptical look at those who exercise power in our congregations.

garlandThis fall, Baylor University’s School of Social Work released the results of a national study of clergy sexual misconduct with adults. Roughly three percent of adult women who attend religious services at least once a month have been the target of inappropriate sexual behavior by pastors, researchers found . That’s a startling number. But even more eye-popping were the number of congregants — eight percent — who knew about clergy sexual misconduct in their faith community.

Ireland braces for another Catholic clergy sex abuse report

irish-reportA damning report on sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in Dublin is due out later this week, only six months after another report on abuse in industrial and reformatory schools across the country accused priests and nuns of flogging, starving and, in some cases, raping children in their care.

“It will not be easy reading,” Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said of this new report back in May when the uproar over the first report prompted so many calls to counseling services for abuse victims that the advice centre had to close temporarily because it couldn’t handle all the inquiries. (Photo: Copy of the first report on clergy child abuse, 20 May 2009/Cathal McNaughton)

The Sunday Independent newspaper, which broke the news, said the report will accuse the four archbishops who preceded Martin of covering up the abuse “to preserve the power and aura of the Church and to avoid giving scandal to their congregations.”

U.S. Catholic CEO responds to Benedict’s economic encyclical

charity-in-truthPope Benedict’s encyclical “Charity in Truth” proposed a sweeping reform of the world economic system from one based on the profit motive to one based on solidarity and concern for the common good. Like other such documents in the Roman Catholic Church’s social teaching tradition, the encyclical delivers a strong critique of unbridled capitalism. This can be uncomfortable for Catholics who champion free enterprise and some conservative Catholic writers reacted quickly and critically. One of them, George Weigel, wrote the encyclical “resembles a duck-billed platypus.” (Image: Charity in Truth/Ignatius Press)

We wanted to hear the views of a Catholic executive, one who’s involved in business rather than reacting from the sidelines. So I called Frank Keating, president and chief executive officer of the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI). The former Republican governor of Oklahoma (1995-2003) is a former chairman of the National Catholic Review Board, which he said “sought to identify and correct the horror of sexual abuse on the part of the clergy.” He is a Knight of Malta and a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre.

DB: What’s your overall reaction to the encyclical?

keatingFK:“I haven’t read the 30,000 words but I think what the pope is proposing is not inconsistent with other papal messages. The common denominator to all of them is the worth of the individual, the dignity of every human person. So Benedict XVI focuses on the right to life, he speaks against euthanasia, he speaks against the evil of abortion, he speaks against cloning. But at the same time he talks about duties and responsibilities to the vulnerable because the vulnerable are dignified human beings as well as those who are rich and powerful.

“The information was there” – Abp. Martin on Irish abuse report

martin1Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has shown a refreshing frankness in talking about the widespread abuse of children in Catholic-run schools and orphanages documented in the Ryan report last week. In an op-ed page piece for the Irish Times today, he described himself as shocked but not totally surprised and recalled hearing about the abuse from victims up to 40 years ago. He refers to reporting by “a few courageous and isolated journalists like Michael Viney,” whose series on abuse appeared in the Irish Times in 1966. (Photo: Archbishop Diarmuid Martin/Dublin Archdiocese)

“The stories they told then were not radically different from what the Ryan report presents, albeit in a systemic and objective way which reveals the horror in its integrity,” he wrote. “Anyone who had contact with ex-residents of Irish industrial schools at that time knew that what those schools were offering was, to put it mildly, poor-quality childcare by the standards of the time. The information was there.”

The official Church reaction in Ireland has been shame and apologies all around, starting with Cardinal Sean Brady. It included apologies from the Christian Brothers, a teaching order with a reputation for stern discipline and abuse charges that won a lawsuit to bar the report from naming abusers. These were certainly appropriate. What was missing, though, was the admission that the problem was well known, even if all the details were not. There was even a film made about one of these schools, The Magdelene Sisters, that won the Golden Lion at the 2002 Biennale Venice Film Festival.

Irish counselors swamped after Catholic Church abuse report

irelandDUBLIN – Victims of sexual abuse and neglect in Catholic-run schools and orphanages in Ireland swamped counseling services on Thursday after the publication of the harrowing findings of a nine-year investigation.

“We’ve had 30 times as many calls as usual and our phone lines are always quite busy,” said Bernadette Fahy of the Aislinn Center, an organization set up by an abuse victim. “We have had to close the center because we haven’t been able to cope with the amount of people coming in.

“It’s extraordinary the number of people who are contacting services for the first time.”

Short-lived scoop on Vatican changing laws on sex abuse

The New York Times, 19 April 2008Ouch! Just imagine you write the top story on the front page of the New York Times — and it gets promptly denied. That’s what happened today. Time had the same story, too, but only on their Web site. In both cases, the journalists were trying to pin down what if anything comes now, after Pope Benedict has spoken so strongly about the shame of the sexual abuse scandal and his determination to bar pedophiles from the priesthood. The victims who met him felt very strongly that Benedict’s gesture was a promise of more steps to come. But what? We had a story examining this question yesterday but we were not among the few at a closed lunch with Cardinal William Levada organised by Time for a few U.S. journalists.

The story the NYT and Time took away from that session was that Levada, who succeeded the pope as the Vatican’s top doctrinal official, had hinted that the Catholic Church was considering changing its laws to pursue more abuse cases. More specifically, he was supposed to have said it was considering lengthening the statute of limitations on sexual abuse cases. Under current canon law, an abuse victim has to report within 10 years of his or her 18th birthday. Levada said some victims took longer to come to grips with the issue and should be able to report abuse and see it investigated even if it happened more than a decade ago.

Cardinal William Levada, 24 March 2006/Tony GentileWe saw the NYT report on Friday evening and it didn’t seem watertight. We’d also been told that Time was going to post the transcript of Levada’s remarks, but it wasn’t posted late Friday evening. So we left it over for Saturday.

Burnout on the God beat – second top religion writer calls it quits

Covering religion may be harmful to your faith. Two leading religion journalists — one in Britain, one in the United States — have quit the beat in recent months, saying they had acquired such a close look at such scandalous behaviour by Christians that they lost their faith and had to leave.

Bates article in New HumanistStephen Bates, who recently stepped down as religious affairs writer for the London Guardian, has just published an account of his seven years on the beat in an article entitled “Demob Happy” for the New Humanist magazine. Bates followed the crisis in the Anglican Communion for several years and even wrote a book on it, A Church At War: Anglicans and Homosexuality.

“Now I am moving on,” his article concludes. “It was time to go. What faith I had, I’ve lost, I am afraid – I’ve seen too much, too close. A young Methodist press officer once asked me earnestly whether I saw it as my job to spread the Good News of Jesus. No, I said, that’s the last thing I am here to do.”