President tells envoys child abuse affects us all

Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, dean of the diplomatic corps and papal nuncio to Ireland, waits to make his introductory speech on the occasion of the presentation of new year greetings by the diplomatic corps at Áras an Uachtaráin.

Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, dean of the diplomatic corps and papal nuncio to Ireland, waits to make his introductory speech on the occasion of the presentation of new year greetings by the diplomatic corps at Áras an Uachtaráin.

 

“THE PROBLEMS addressed by the Ryan and Murphy reports, as well as the vulnerability of children to abuse in the home, are peculiar neither to Ireland nor to the Catholic Church,” President McAleese said yesterday.

In a seeming retort to comments by Cardinal Claudio Hummes, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, in the Vatican earlier this week, President McAleese said: “These are global problems and to assume otherwise is to offer abusers the same dishonourable secret veil which gave them protection and immunity for far too long.

“I hope the world’s children will benefit from the greater scepticism and vigilance that our experience rightly demands in order to better protect our children.”

She was speaking at Áras an Uachtaráin to members of the diplomatic corps at the annual presentation of new year greetings.

Before she spoke, the papal nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, dean of the diplomatic corps, conveyed “sincerest greetings” to the President in a brief address on behalf of his fellow diplomats.

Earlier this week Cardinal Hummes, a Brazilian, said clerical sex abuse scandals in Ireland were not representative of the behaviour of the vast majority of priests in the Catholic Church.

During an interview last Wednesday in the Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano, he said it would be wrong to “make generalisations” as a result of the Irish experience.

“The painful Irish happenings – which by the way have seen some bishops assume their responsibilities and resign – simply do not relate to the entire episcopal ministry. The bishops are good fathers for their priests,” he said.

He continued: “Certainly, there are some unbecoming situations but they are very limited in number. Unfortunately, we are talking about situations linked to the human condition. And that’s what happened in Ireland.”

Asked whether, in his view, the credibility of priests worldwide has been undermined by such scandals, he said: “Unfortunately, in a society that has little inclination to dig deep in its search for the truth, [such scandals] damage the image of the priest. Above all because the media concentrate on these events rather than on all the good that is done by the vast majority of priests.”

In a wide-ranging address yesterday President McAleese spoke of the lessons learned about “the utter vulnerability of children in the absence of stringent vigilance and accountability of those charged with their care. Irish State authorities and Catholic Church authorities were found seriously wanting and innocent children were hurt as a consequence”.

“Thanks to victims and their advocates, we have been able to offer redress and reassurance that child protection is a high priority, infinitely more important than the status of any institution or individual, and that child abuse is, as it has always been, a heinous crime – but today it is a crime that will be pursued, not suppressed. These matters rightly absorb us in Ireland . . .” she said.

She also told the diplomats “many of you will have seen the strong, caring and generous character of the Irish people showcased in their response to this winter’s recordbreaking floods and freezes. You will also have seen the solid determination of our people to right past wrongs in the publication of the Ryan and Murphy reports into child abuse.”

When asked by The Irish Timeslater yesterday about the President’s remarks, Archbishop Leanza responded that he had “no comment.”