Archbishop says visitation about renewal, not sex abuse


THE APOSTOLIC visitation announced by Pope Benedict in his letter will involve a visit to “certain dioceses in Ireland, as well as seminaries and religious congregations”, by officials from the Roman curia.

They will assess how much practices and procedures in each are in line with what the Vatican expects.

In his letter, the pope said the visitation was intended “to assist the local [Irish] church on her path to renewal.”

It will take place with the co- operation of the Irish Bishops Conference, the Conference of Religious of Ireland and the Irish Missionary Union, thus involving all Irish clergy.

Details of what the visitation to Ireland will involve at a practical level have yet to be worked out.

Speaking about it at the Pro Cathedral on Saturday evening, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin said: “I know very little about it.” He said, however, that he had been asked once to conduct such a visitation at a seminary.

“You got a number of questions. You met anybody in the seminary who wanted to speak to you and you drew up a report which was given then to the director of the seminary and a plan for applying the recommendations.”

He added: “I don’t think the visitation is about management of child sex abuse, it’s about a renewal of the church.”

Currently, there is an apostolic visitation of institutes of women religious in the US. It has angered more liberal American Catholics who see it as an attempt by the Vatican to stamp out new gender or feminist ideas on the status of women that some nuns appear to have embraced.

The apostolic visitation there has been described as “a formal but personal meeting [by Vatican officials] with the superiors and members of a religious community which offers an opportunity to comment on various aspects of community and religious life”.

Announcing the visitation last November, Cardinal France Rodé, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and for the Societies of Apostolic Life, said he “had been listening to concerns expressed by American Catholics – religious, laity, clergy and hierarchy – about the welfare of religious women and consecrated life in general”.

He had “been considering an apostolic visitation as a means to assess and constructively address these concerns”.

He expressed his hope that “the apostolic visitation will not only provide the Holy See with a thorough analysis of the condition of religious life in the United States, but also be a realistic and graced opportunity for personal and community introspection, as major superiors and sisters co-operate with this study”.

The “apostolic visitor” there is Mother Mary Clare Millea, superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, whose role is to oversee the entire visitation, which is taking place this spring and again in the autumn.

She is being helped by teams made up of representatives of various congregations, ministries, and others with relevant expertise, all of whom have taken “an oath of fidelity to the Apostolic See”.

This will “assist them to faithfully carry out their role in communion with the sound teachings and practice of the Catholic Church, and not according to their own private judgment or subjective ideology”.