Open letter to the Pope
OPEN LETTER TO POPE BENEDICT XVI ON BEHALF OF MARIE COLLINS, ONE IN FOUR, ANDREW MADDEN
Dear Pope Benedict,
As the Irish bishops gather in Rome for their meeting with you, we are writing to ensure that the voices of the survivors of abuse by Catholic priests have a place in your deliberations.
The distress, anger and frustration experienced by survivors since the publication of the Report of the Commission of Investigation into Sexual Abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin (the Murphy Report) is enormous. Many who have suffered throughout their lives from the impact of sexual abuse by priests in childhood now realise, having read the Report, that their pain and suffering could have been avoided if senior churchmen and the civil authorities had acted properly in response to complaints received from earlier victims.
Survivors find in incomprehensible that the Vatican and your representative in Ireland, the Papal Nuncio, saw fit to hide behind diplomatic protocols to avoid co-operating with the Murphy Commission.
Bishops Donal Murray, James Moriarty, Eamon Walsh, Raymond Field and Martin Drennan were all bishops in the Archdiocese of Dublin during some of the period investigated by the Commission. When the Report was published each of these Bishops attempted to remain in office by insisting that the findings of the Report did not warrant their resignations. They initially took no responsibility for either their actions or their failure to challenge a culture of cover up which they instead became a part of. Since then Bishop Murray has resigned and his resignation has been accepted by you. We understand that Bishops James Moriarty, Eamon Walsh and Raymond Field have offered their resignations too, which we urge you to accept without any further delay. We would also urge you to remove Bishop Martin Drennan who still refuses to accept any responsibility for his part in supporting a culture of cover up during his time in Dublin.
The core finding of the Murphy Report was that the sexual abuse of children by priests was covered up by the Archdiocese of Dublin and other Church authorities over much of the period 1975 – 2004. Furthermore it found that the Dublin Archdiocese’s pre-occupations in dealing with cases of child sexual abuse, at least until the mid 1990s, were the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church, and the perseveration of its assets. All other considerations, including the welfare of children and justice for victims, were subordinated to these priorities.
This finding was rightly accepted by the Irish Catholic Bishops in their December 2009 statement where they said that they were shamed by the extent to which child sexual abuse was covered up in the Archdiocese of Dublin. They also said that they recognised that this indicated a culture that was widespread in the Church. We also now request that other bishops throughout Ireland who engaged in this culture of cover up in their own dioceses should resign from their positions instead of waiting to see the extent to which they are criticised in any future Reports should the Commission of investigation be expanded to include their dioceses.
Responsibility for child protection properly rests with the civil authorities. We ask you now to instruct the Irish bishops to comply fully with civil child protection guidelines, including the mandatory reporting of all concerns or complaints to the civil authorities for investigation.
The lives of thousands of Irish people have been devastated by sexual abuse by priests. We ask you to write, not only to Irish Catholics, but to all people of Ireland, accepting fully the harm that has been caused by the acts of omission and commission of the Catholic Church and its priests and bishops in Ireland.
Marie Collins, survivor of Clerical Abuse, Maeve Lewis, One In Four Andrew Madden, survivor of Clerical Abuse