Vatican should have replied to Murphy letters, says cardinal


INTERVIEW:THE CATHOLIC primate Cardinal Seán Brady has criticised the lack of response by the Vatican and papal nunciature to correspondence from the Murphy commission.

Speaking to The Irish Timesin Dundalk yesterday he said “it was unfortunate that requests from the [Murphy] commission didn’t get the courtesy of a reply” from the Vatican. “They should have,” he said.

Similarly, correspondence by the commission with the papal nunciature in Dublin “should have been acknowledged”, he added.

He repeated his belief that the Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray “will do the right thing” following publication of the Dublin diocesan report, and is awaiting a response from the others named in that report to a letter sent to them by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin.

The cardinal was speaking at St Joseph’s church in Dundalk after he had ordained three Redemptorist priests.

Asked about an open letter sent to him as president of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference by abuse survivor Marie Collins, seeking a public assurance that no Irish bishop would in future use the stratagem of “mental reservation” to avoid telling the truth, he said he had yet to receive the letter. When he did he would bring it to the attention of the bishops this week, he said.

The Murphy report outlined the concept of “mental reservation”, which some churchmen felt allowed them knowingly to mislead people “without being guilty of lying”.

Cardinal Desmond Connell explained the concept to the commission as follows: “You are not permitted to tell a lie. On the other hand, you may be put in a position where you have to answer, and there may be circumstances in which you can use an ambiguous expression, realising that the person who you are talking to will accept an untrue version of whatever it may be – permitting that to happen, not willing that it happened, that would be lying . . . So mental reservation is, in a sense, a way of answering without lying.”

Cardinal Brady said yesterday he had never employed mental reservation, “not to my knowledge”, and was even unsure about it as a concept.

The bishops’ conference will meet in Maynooth for their winter meeting on Wednesday and Thursday next.

Such quarterly meetings normally take place from Monday to Wednesday but as the feast of the Immaculate Conception falls tomorrow, it was scheduled for later this week.

As to those others also named in the report, he awaited their response to a letter sent them by Archbishop Martin last week.

The men concerned include Bishop Jim Moriarty of Kildare and Leighlin; Bishop Martin Drennan of Galway; Dublin auxiliary bishops Éamonn Walsh and Ray Field; and the chancellor of Dublin’s Catholic archdiocese Mgr John Dolan. “In fairness they should be allowed time and space,” the cardinal said.

Yesterday he said he and Archbishop Martin would be travelling to Rome later this week.

Details were still being worked out as to when they would go and who they would meet. In Rome they intended to convey “the anger and dismay among the people” at findings in the Murphy report, he said.

They would do so to Pope Benedict XVI, as well as to the heads of various Vatican congregations.

Last June, following publication of the Ryan report on May 20th, both he and Archbishop Martin met the pope and most of the curia in Rome to discuss that report and reaction to it. Arrangements are being worked out so that similar meetings can take place where the Murphy report is concerned for later this week.

Of his personal reaction to the Murphy report, he said: “Surprise is too weak a word to describe it. I was shocked, felt ashamed, dismayed, deeply shocked.”

He had received letters expressing “a lot of intensity of feeling. Very strong. I can understand that.”

People who did not usually write letters had been in contact with him saying they were dismayed by the report. He was “glad people are expressing their anger. Our job is to respond and not in a superficial way. It’s only beginning.” It was “a big test”.

As to whether the bishops had been unprepared for the report and were in disarray since its publication, he responded: “How could anybody be prepared for it? We have tried [to respond]. It came out 10 days ago. I preached on it last Sunday. I met groups. I was abroad meeting the bishops of England, Scotland and Wales. And of course everyone was shocked. It has taken time to deeply ponder the issues raised.”

Again and again he returned to the issue of child protection, where “interaction by church and State is essential”.

There had to be provision “for the future well-being of children, We have to ensure that in every part of the Catholic Church in Ireland children are safe and their parents are satisfied that they are safe,” he said. “No complacency can be justified,” he added.