Bishops 'humbly ask for forgiveness'

 

The State's bishops have said they "humbly ask for forgiveness" for the sexual abuse of children in the Dublin archdiocese as outlined in the report of the Murphy commission.

Following the first day of its winter meeting at Maynooth, Co Kildare today, the members of the Irish Bishops' Conference said they were "deeply shocked by the scale and depravity of abuse" as described in the report.

"We are shamed by the extent to which child sexual abuse was covered up in the Archdiocese of Dublin and recognise that this indicates a culture that was widespread in the church," the bishops said in a statement.

"The avoidance of scandal, the preservation of the reputations of individuals and of the Church, took precedence over the safety and welfare of children. This should never have happened and must never be allowed to happen again. We humbly ask for forgiveness."

“We, as bishops, apologise to all those who were abused by priests as children, their families and to all people who feel rightly outraged and let down by the failure of moral leadership and accountability that emerges from the report," the statement said.

The normal business of the winter general meeting was suspended and the bishops gave their "full attention" today to the Commission of Investigation Report into the Archdiocese of Dublin which was published on November 26th.

The bishops said that as an initial response to the report, they agreed today to request the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church to explore with the relevant Government departments and statutory authorities, North and South, "a mechanism by which to ensure that the Church’s current policies and practices in relation to the safeguarding of children represent best practice and that allegations of abuse are properly handled".

They said the report raised "very important issues for the church in Ireland", including the functioning of the Bishops’ Conference, and, how the lay faithful can be more effectively involved in the life of the church.

"We will give further detailed consideration to these issues."

Responding to what they said were the "many concerns" raised about the use of a practice known as 'mental reservation’ by clergy to avoid telling the truth, the bishops said: "We wish to categorically state that it has no place in covering up evil. Charity, truthfulness, integrity and transparency must be the hallmark of all our

communications."

They noted that Cardinal Seán Brady and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin have been called to the Vatican by the Pope to enable him “to be briefed and evaluate the painful situation of the church in Ireland following the recent publication of the Murphy commission report”.

They will meet the pope on Friday.

Ending the statement, the bishops said: "We humbly ask that you continue to pray for all those who suffer due to child abuse."

Today's meeting was the first time the bishops met since the publication of the Murphy report. It was also attended by the papal nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, who yesterday apologised for mistakes made in the Vatican’s handling of child abuse.

Following a meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin in Iveagh House, Dr Leanza said: “I express my shock and dismay and certainly I understand the anger of the people and the suffering of those who were abused, so we certainly condemn this . . . If there was any mistake from our side we always apologise for this.”

Dr Leanza stressed there was no intention on the part of the Vatican not to co-operate with the Murphy commission and acknowledged that he himself should have responded to a letter from the commission.

Mr Martin said he had conveyed to the nuncio the Irish public’s “deep anger and outrage” over the Murphy report findings. He also insisted on full co-operation by the church with the ongoing inquiry by the Murphy commission into the handling of clerical child sex abuse allegations in Cloyne diocese.

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said he got "a few handshakes" from his fellow bishops as the meeting

started this morning in Maynooth.

Last week, Dr Martin said that just two bishops had lifted the phone to him following the publication of the Murphy report to ask if he was okay. Asked today whether more bishops had since been in contact, he said he hadn't meant the comment "in a nasty way".

Dr Martin was speaking to reporters during a break he took from the bishops' meeting to say prayers at the opening by the President, Mary McAleese, of new accommodation at Our Lady's Hospice in Harold's Cross.

He said consideration of the report would take up half the agenda of the bishops' meeting, but declined to comment otherwise at this stage.

Asked about the apology made by Dr Leanza for mistakes made in the Vatican's handling of child abuse, Dr Martin said he hadn't had the opportunity to consider them yesterday.

The Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray, who is already in Rome, is expected to meet the Congregation of Bishops over coming days to tender his resignation.

Bishops named in the Murphy report include the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin Jim Moriarty, the Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan, the two Dublin auxiliary bishops Éamonn Walsh and Ray Field. Msgr John Dolan who was vice chancellor in Dublin from 1980 to 1997, when he became chancellor, is also named.