Vatican to begin abuse inquiry
The Vatican said today it will begin its investigation into clerical sexual abuse in Ireland this autumn.
The Vatican will send five senior clerics to Ireland to look into the Catholic Church's handling of sexual abuse cases and "assistance owed to the victims," according to a statement posted on the Holy See's website today.
The apostolic visitation was first announced in Pope Benedict XVI’s letter to the Catholics of Ireland on the abuse in March of this year. In his letter, the pope said the visitation was intended “to assist the local [Irish] church on her path to renewal.”
There will be one apostolic visitor appointed to each of the four archdioceses and one for the seminaries and congregations.
The Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, has been appointed apostolic visitor to the Archdiocese of Dublin. The other four apostolic visitors will be retired Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor; Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan, Archbishop Archbishop of Toronto Thomas Collins and Archbishop of Ottowa Terence Prendergast.
All are of Irish descent and have played leading roles in investigating and responding to allegations of sexual abuse and Church mishandling of abuse in their own countries.
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin welcomed the inquiry, which he said was an “important element in the broad process being set in place by Pope Benedict to assist the Catholic Church in Ireland in its renewal”.
The Irish Bishops’ Conference also welcomed today's announcement, saying it represented another important step “on the path to healing, reparation and renewal in the church in Ireland”.
Pledging their full co-operation with the mission, the bishops described the visitation as an opportunity to further address the needs of survivors of abuse, and “to build upon the strong procedures and guidelines for the safeguarding of children and to work for a renewal of faith”.
In his March letter, Benedict said the apostolic visitation will involve a visit to certain dioceses in Ireland, as well as seminaries and religious congregations by officials from the Roman curia.
They will assess how much practices and procedures in each are in line with what the Vatican expects.
It will take place with the co-operation of the Irish Bishops Conference, the Conference of Religious of Ireland and the Irish Missionary Union, thus involving all Irish clergy.
Currently, there is an apostolic visitation of institutes of women religious in the US. It has angered more liberal American Catholics who see it as an attempt by the Vatican to stamp out new gender or feminist ideas on the status of women that some nuns appear to have embraced.
The apostolic visitation there has been described as “a formal but personal meeting [by Vatican officials] with the superiors and members of a religious community which offers an opportunity to comment on various aspects of community and religious life”.