Cardinal insists Church will take ‘concrete action’ on abuse

Senior cleric coy on whether allowing priests to marry might solve shortage of priests

Cardinal John Dew, who is the Archbishop of Wellington, New Zealand, has said Pope Francis did “extremely well” in his handling of the clerical abuse issue.

Cardinal John Dew, who is the Archbishop of Wellington, New Zealand, has said Pope Francis did “extremely well” in his handling of the clerical abuse issue.

 

A senior cleric has insisted the Catholic Church will follow up Pope Francis’ apology to victims of clerical abuse with “concrete actions” to ensure children are protected and perpetrators are held to account.

Some 55 per cent of Irish people believe Pope Francis “did not go far enough” when he addressed the issue of child sex abuse in the Catholic Church on his visit to the Republic last week, according to an opinion poll in The Irish Times.

Cardinal John Dew, Archbishop of Wellington, New Zealand, has said Pope Francis did “extremely well” in his handling of the clerical abuse issue during his 36-hour visit.

“I thought he did extremely well to address it at the beginning of the mass at Phoenix Park. He was up front about it. He apologised for it.”

Cardinal Dew, who was speaking to The Irish Times on the fringes of a pastoral conference on “the future of the Irish parish” in Thurles, Co Tipperary, also addressed criticism that the Pope failed to outline concrete actions to be taken.

“It’s hard to know what people actually want,” he said. “But I think now that people have been speaking about this, I’m sure there will be. I’m sure there will be some concrete actions taken.

“But I haven’t heard too many of what those actions should be at this stage. It’s a massive challenge, but it’s something the Holy Father knows has to happen, and other people know has to happen.”

On the issue of the shortage of priests in Ireland and whether ordaining women or allowing priests to marry might help, Cardinal Dew said it was “hard to say”, but that he would find it difficult to balance a family and the priesthood.

“It’s clearly something that the Pope decides,” he said. “There are a lot of people around who want that. I think people see that and think it’s a possibility. I don’t know whether that would solve the problem.

“If I was a married man, I’d never be able to do the things I do as a priest. I wouldn’t have the time because of the commitment to a wife and family.

“I think there is something about being celibate and being available. You can see many more people. You can be involved in a whole range of families that you wouldn’t be able to do as a married man.”

During the conference, Cardinal Dew delivered a presentation on how the merging of parishes and the appointment of “lay pastoral leaders” in Wellington has helped to “relieve the heavy burden that priests are expected to carry”.

The pastoral leaders take on “just about anything” that’s possible without being a priest, including the preparation of baptisms; working with the bereaved; and sacramental programmes. However, the role involves seven years of training.

“The priest doesn’t own the church,” said Cardinal Dew. “The priest isn’t always the one with all the answers. But they can find some common ground. They can find who has got the gifts and the skills to do particular things within the parish.

“It could work as long as people have the willingness to understand that they must work together.”