Those who predict the demise of the Catholic Church in Ireland because of clerical sex abuse scandals are mistaken, a bishop has said.
Bishop of Cloyne William Crean said the scale of clerical abuse scandals had shocked and disgusted people in and outside the church and left the hierarchy with a challenge in trying to regain the trust of many, particularly younger people. Bishop Crean said those in leadership roles will continue working towards healing and reconciliation.
“It’s been a tragedy of immense proportions on many levels . . . survivors will take their scars to the grave and we in leadership will always be found wanting in our response to their wounds,” he said. “We continue to work for healing of memories and hearts; the scale of the loss of trust is immense.”
Bishop Crean was appointed to his role in 2012 in succession to former papal secretary Bishop John Magee who stood down over child protection issues following a report into clerical sex abuse in the diocese, which covers most of east, mid- and north Cork.
Speaking on Sunday at a Mass marking the centenary of the dedication of St Colman's Cathedral in Cobh, Bishop Crean said that, notwithstanding such challenges, he was confident "the prophets of doom were mistaken" in condemning the church to "a dire future".
“Despite the sin and failure of a few, goodness, kindness, mercy and compassion was shared in difficult economic circumstances for many of our people. We need to give ourselves credit for nurturing a society where humour and neighbourliness lifted the hearts through life’s trial.”
What now for the church?
Bishop Crean said the church looked forward to the prospect of a new covenant with the State. And he challenged those who see the church’s goal as being one of control and indoctrination for, if that was the case, it had failed miserably in recent decades.
“The Catholic Church’s goal is one of service to humanity through its understanding of the human person’s unique dignity before God. It is in that spirit that those of us in leadership wish to go forward. Not to control, but to serve.”
Recalling the world that his predecessor, Bishop Robert Browne, faced when he celebrated the Mass of Consecration of St Colman's in 1919, Bishop Crean noted that Europe had just come through "the war to end all wars", only to discover that reality was very different.
“One hundred years on an unimaginably different Ireland, Europe and global reality prevails. In the North of Ireland, the ancient divisions have eluded resolution. In the south, a liberal secular world view seeks to suppress the Christian narrative,” he said.
“Europe struggles, through the EU, to maintain the harmonisation of peoples intended to banish to history the nightmare of the second World War.”