Vatican summit a 'waste of time' - Madden


VICTIM REACTION:DUBLIN ABUSE victim Andrew Madden said the bishops’ meeting with Pope Benedict was “a complete waste of time” and the greatest display of window-dressing he had seen.

Fellow abuse victim Marie Collins said the fact that the resignation of bishops was not even on the agenda had been insulting to survivors. She said it was also pathetic that the pope’s statement was “so far away from accepting that there was a policy of cover-up”.

Ms Collins said she could not say she was disappointed at the outcome of the meetings as she did not expect much to start with. “But I am disappointed for people who had high expectations.”

There was nothing new in the pope’s declaration that child sex abuse was a heinous crime, she said, and there was no sign that the Vatican’s approach to child abuse would change any time soon.

Mr Madden, who was the first victim to go public with an abuse lawsuit against the church, said he was very disappointed that a submission made by abuse survivors appeared to have been completely ignored during the meetings.

He said he would seek a meeting with Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin to discuss the issue.

The submission had asked that the pope fully and unconditionally accept the findings of the Murphy report that abuse was covered up in the Dublin diocese.

It also asked that the pontiff should remove Bishop Martin Drennan of Galway – the only one of five bishops named in the Murphy report who had not since resigned. Moreover, it asked the pope to accept the resignations of Bishops Moriarty, Walsh and Field. It said any bishop who did not challenge the cover-up culture should resign.

Mr Madden said he could not point to a single good thing that had come out of the bishops’ visit to Rome.

It seemed that “self-preservation and damage limitation for the Catholic Church was still a higher priority for Pope Benedict and the bishops than the concerns and wishes of people who had been sexually abused as children”, he said.

“I can only conclude that the Catholic Church remains a disgraced, discredited organisation that seems to be entirely incapable of responding in any intelligent, meaningful way to the findings of the Ferns, Ryan and Murphy reports.”

In a statement, Mr Madden noted: “Pope Benedict has not articulated full acceptance of the findings of the Murphy report, as we asked him to do, in order to quell the rise in revisionism and the surge in denial from some quarters within the Catholic Church in relation to its findings.”

He added: “Bishops returning to Ireland do not appear to have come back from Rome with an expressed instruction from Pope Benedict to follow all Sate guidelines and protocols as they exist, and as they are further developed, in relation to the safety, welfare and protection of children.”

Michael O’Brien of the Right to Peace group said his first reaction to the news from Rome was one of disbelief. “It’s unbelievable what we heard today from the pope. This is the man who is in charge of the Catholic Church worldwide and he hadn’t even the gumption to say he was sorry for what happened to us.”

He added: “All he’s done now is to add salt to the wounds and this is very hurtful. We were expecting something and we got nothing.”

He said he would be seeking a meeting with the bishops.

Fr Patrick McCafferty, who was himself a victim of clerical abuse, said he was trying desperately to take something positive from the meetings. “There’s such raw and deep hurt that it’s going to take a long, long time to ever recover what’s been lost.”

Fr McCafferty said there was no hiding place in the church for anyone who wanted to cover up child abuse. The church hierarchy, right up to the pope, would have to be made accountable for their actions, he said. If any bishop felt he had not done all he could to protect children then he should resign immediately, Fr McCafferty said.

Abuse groups took issue with the pontiff’s reference to the weakening of faith being a contributing factor in the phenomenon of child sexual abuse.

One in Four said it was “deeply insulting” to survivors to suggest they were abused due to failures of faith rather than because priests were moved from parish to parish.

Rape Crisis Network director Fiona Neary said it was “shocking” to hear the pope linking the weakening of faith to the abuse of children.

“It is shocking to the rape crisis sector that the systemic failures of the institutions of the Catholic faith are not mentioned as being a significant contributory factor in the sexual abuse of minors. It is clear that the most senior levels of Catholic institutions remain unable to take responsibility for their collusion with the abuse of children in Ireland,” she said.

Pope Benedict, Ms Neary added, had wasted an opportunity to recognise the systemic failures of the church in Ireland and the particular failures of his office.

The US Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests was also critical of the outcome of the talks.

Barbara Blaine, president of the network, said it was “heart-breaking” that the resignation of bishops was not even discussed at the meeting.