Bishops talking to abuse survivors ahead of papal meeting, says cardinal

 

BISHOPS ARE consulting locally with abuse survivors, priests and other lay people to prepare for their meeting with Pope Benedict in Rome next month, Cardinal Seán Brady said yesterday.

Bishops from the 26 dioceses will meet the pope and senior Curia cardinals in mid-February to discuss the implications of the clerical child abuse crisis.

Cardinal Brady said this would be his third time to discuss “a very painful situation in the Irish church” with Pope Benedict.

“I know from past experience I would expect to be heard very respectfully by the Holy Father, who has said that he wants to listen to us in order to help.”

He said it was an important moment but he did not want expectations to be heightened by the meeting with Pope Benedict. “It’s just one step in a big, long process of renewal of faith in our country.”

He said bishops were engaging “in as much consultation as we possibly can in this short time with lay people, with religious and with our priests”.

Asked if the bishops should be accompanied by a lay person, such as former Northern Ireland ombudsman Nuala O’Loan, Cardinal Brady said he greatly respected Mrs O’Loan but the invitation came from Pope Benedict, “so we’re not in control of the invitation list”.

Asked about his view on the conflict between Bishop Dermot O’Mahony and Archbishop Martin, Cardinal Brady said he had read about the matter in the newspapers.

“I think it’s natural that after the [Murphy] report there would be different perspectives on the whole report, but I think in all of this we must remember our first concern has to be the healing of survivors and a proper appreciation of what they have suffered, endured.”

In a series of letters sent to Bishop Martin and the Council of Priests, Bishop O’Mahony claims the archbishop has failed to support priests in the Dublin diocese following publication of the Murphy report. He also calls on priests to challenge the acceptance by media and diocese policy that the church engaged in a “cover up”.

One in Four, which represents sex abuse victims, said it was shocked by Bishop O’Mahony’s response to the Murphy report.

“It may be that Bishop O’Mahony is articulating the views held privately by other priests, bishops and members of the laity.

“It is this culture of denial which facilitated the sexual abuse of children in the first place,” said Maeve Lewis, executive director of One in Four

“If this response to the Murphy report is widespread, then the Catholic Church will never be a safe place for children,” she said.

Andrew Madden, a victim of clerical child sex abuse, said he was disappointed by Bishop O’Mahony’s decision to challenge the Murphy report.

“Bishop O’Mahony would do well to spend some time reflecting on the damage done to so many children by what he did, and what he failed to do, instead of criticising Archbishop Diarmuid Martin for correctly accepting the findings of the Murphy report in full,” said Mr Madden.

Bishop O’Mahony was criticised personally by the Murphy report for his “particularly bad” handling of complaints and suspicions of sexual abuse.