Monday, February 15, 2010

Irish bishops at Vatican for discussions on clerical abuse

The bishops of Ireland have begun meetings with Pope Benedict XVI and officials of the Roman Curia to discuss the clerical abuse scandal in their nation. The February 15-16 meeting was arranged following the publication of the Report by the Commission of Investigation into Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin, popularly known as the Murphy report.

Pope Benedict is expected to attend most-- if not all-- of the sessions during the 2-day meeting. In a clear demonstration of the importance that he attaches to the talks, the Pope has asked most of the leading prelates in the Curia to attend, including the prefects of the Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith (Cardinal William Levada), for Bishops (Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re), for the Clergy (Cardinal Claudio Hummes), for Religious (Cardinal Franc Rodé), and for Catholic Education (Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski), as well as the Secretary of State (Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone) and the president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts (Archbishop Francesco Coccoplamerio), the body that handles interpretations of canon law. All active members of the Irish hierarchy are also expected to take part, with Cardinal Sean Brady speaking first in deference to his senior position as Primate of All Ireland.

In his homily at a Mass inaugurating the meeting, Cardinal Bertone said that Church leaders must face up to the damage done by "some churchmen involved in particularly abhorrent acts." He acknowledged that difficulties facing the Church may come from inside or ouside, and "those that come from within are naturally difficult and humiliating." The painful result, he said, should "strip us of any false security and push us to entrust ourselves to God alone."

“The fullness of the truth must come out, everything must be laid on the table,” said Bishop Joseph Duffy of Clogher said on the eve of the two-day summit. He added that “precise questions of resignation [are] not on the agenda of the bishops because that is not our prerogative.” During the meeting with Pope Benedict, each Irish bishop participating in the meeting will have seven minutes to speak.

Pope Benedict will issue a pastoral letter to the Church in Ireland following the meeting, and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin-- who has been both praised and criticized for his criticism of bishops implicated in a cover-up of abuse-- raised eyebrows again with the remarkable statement that he expects “a very significant reorganization of the Church in Ireland.” (The Associated Press inaccurately reports that Archbishop Martin “heads the Holy See’s office on justice;” in reality, he served as Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace from 1994 to 2003, when he was named Coadjutor Archbishop of Dublin.)

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