Resignation of bishops not on agenda, says Brennan


RESIGNATIONS:BISHOP DENIS Brennan of Ferns said yesterday the issue of resignations was not on the agenda at talks between the Irish bishops and the pope in Rome earlier this week.

He was responding to criticism from victims’ groups who expressed disappointment at the failure of the talks to address several issues relating to the church’s handling of child abuse cases.

Bishop of Galway Dr Martin Drennan did not attend Ash Wednesday Mass in Galway Cathedral yesterday as he was travelling back from Rome. A spokesman for Dr Drennan confirmed that he had not resigned.

Bishop Brennan said that the meeting with the pope was primarily a “briefing session” to assist the pope in preparing his upcoming pastoral letter to Irish Catholics, which will be issued before Easter.

“The Holy Father will be taking the views of the bishops into consideration in formulating his letter,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme yesterday.

Dr Brennan described the talks as a “watershed moment” that would redefine the relationship between the church and abuse victims. A number of points regarding the church’s mishandling of abuse cases were “very honestly” made by bishops in the presence of the pope, he said.

Dr Brennan said the meeting had focused on what can be done to safeguard children. He said he understood the negative reaction of victims’ groups and acknowledged that many victims had had “a very difficult and often scarring relationship with the church”.

“Sometimes they have been made promises that have not materialised, and I can understand they are sceptical. But to have the Holy Father there for a day and a half, and the nine heads of the Vatican congregations shows how seriously the church is taking the issue.”

“We understood the damage that has been done,” he said.

Bishop Brennan confirmed that criticism of the Vatican’s co-operation with the Murphy inquiry and the papal nuncio’s decision not to appear before the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs were discussed at the meeting.

“The response we got was that nuncios do not customarily meet with Oireachtas committees or other committees, but that the nuncio had, in this case, written offering to find other ways of co-operating and being helpful.”

When asked about the pope’s apparent linking of abuse to a weakening of faith, Bishop Brennan suggested the point may have been misunderstood and said that the pope was saying that “faith in God properly understood, accepted and integrated into one’s life is the greatest safeguard of the dignity each person”.