Pope 'could meet' abuse victims


The Catholic Bishop of Killaloe Willie Walsh has said that he can see no reason why the Pope would not meet Irish victims of clerical child sex abuse.

He also said funding for the compensation of such victims should come from the sale of assets rather than by asking people to put their hands in their pockets.

He also did not believe the Vatican should be approached about assisting with such funding. “I do believe this is an Irish question which has to be solved, I believe, within Ireland,” he said today.

He was speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s This Week programme.

He pointed out the Pope had met clerical abuse victims over the years but that he hadn’t met Irish victims. “I think it would be great to see that happening but I don’t know whether that’s going to happen or not,” he said.

This hadn’t been discussed at the meeting between the Pope and Ireland’s Catholic bishops in Rome last month, he said but that he “would like that to happen. I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t happen, no.”

When it came to raising funds for compensation be said “overall I think it should be that one would sell assets, sell houses, that sort of thing” rather than asking people to put their hands in their pockets.

”Transparency, that’s the most important thing. That people would be consulted and know where the money was coming from”, he said

Ultimately it was for each bishop in consultation with the people, he said. “I would be very strong in emphasizing that. I don’t know of any diocese which has asked the people to contribute. I don’t know of any diocese that has done that. It’s unlikely. I would find it very hard to visualize doing it,” he said.

As regards the Vatican contributing to such funds he said there was nothing in canon law “to say that the Vatican should bail out.”

There was “a question mark of course about church, be it Vatican or local church, holding a whole lot of valuable assets.

“I’m not particularly comfortable about that but I do believe this is an Irish question which has to be solved, I believe, within Ireland . I think really, whether the Vatican should be selling assets or not, is really a separate question from this.” 

The matter “didn’t arise at all in the meeting in Rome,” he said.

He felt “the Rome visit certainly didn’t meet expectations of people and I think it was unfortunate that the formalities of dress and whether people kissed the Pope’s ring or didn’t kiss it, I think in a way it distracted from the real purpose of the meeting and indeed the substance of the meeting.”

The meeting had been “a very open and honest one where everybody had an opportunity to express their understanding of the dreadful failure on the part of us as bishops and others responsible for responding to the crimes of sexual abuse.”

But he felt “people were angry and rightly angry at the apparent pomp and ceremony, at the kissing of the Pope’s ring.” Bishop Walsh did not kiss the ring.

He felt “somewhat uncomfortable in relation to both the dress and the kissing of rings, that sort of thing. I feel it belonged to another era,” he said. It was “a pity in a way that the big focus seemed to be put on that more than on the substance of the meeting.”

He hoped the Pope’s pastoral letter “would be more satisfactory perhaps, from the survivors point of view. I think again there is no quick way of bringing healing to victims. I think it’s a journey and the most important thing on that journey is actually listening to them, listening to their pain.”