Email Us My Blog

Vatican Summit a 'Waste of Time' - Madden

Pope Benedict at the conclusion of two days of talks between the pontiff and the Irish hierarchy at the Vatican yesterday. The pope urged prelates to be honest and courageous in handling the clerical sex abuse scandals, said the Vatican. Photograph: AP

Benedict at the conclusion of two days of talks between the pontiff and the Irish hierarchy at the Vatican yesterday. The pope urged prelates to be honest and courageous in handling the clerical sex abuse scandals, said the Vatican. Photograph: AP

Irish Times, February 17, 2010 by Alison Healy

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.


Andrew Madden: Let Them Never Preach High Standards to Anyone Again

Irish Independent February 17 2010 by Andrew Madden

WE have just witnessed the grandest two days of window-dressing I have ever seen.

The bishops and the Vatican are the people who billed this event as highly significant and yet they are the ones that at the end of it produced a statement which could have been written last year.

I wasn't expecting anything meaningful and that is exactly what we have got -- nothing intelligent, nothing coherent, nothing new.

What is particularly annoying in the statement is the fact that Pope Benedict XVI asked the bishops to identify steps that might bring healing to victims.

But victims have already submitted coherent requests as to what they would like to see happen -- and those have been completely ignored.

It is completely inappropriate to ignore our submissions and then say that the bishops need to identify the sort of things that would help victims.

We had very specific requests that didn't involve a fundamental reorganisation of the Catholic Church in Ireland, which is a huge piece of work.

The things we asked for were very precise.

We asked that the Pope fully articulate an acceptance of the findings of the Murphy report. We wanted that in order to quell the rise in denial and the surge in revisionism taking place among some priests and some bishops in Ireland.

They are people who find the word of the Pope important so it would have been crucial for him to express the view that the Catholic Church accepts the findings of the Murphy report. That is a very simple thing that they failed to do.

We also referred to the resignations of three bishops that have been on the Pope's desk for some time and have not been accepted as yet, which is worrying. We asked for that to be addressed. It hasn't been.

We also reminded the Pope that we found the presence of Bishop Martin Drennan in Galway objectionable given that when he arrived in the Archdiocese of Dublin in 1997 as an auxiliary bishop, he arrived in a diocese which had already been embroiled in scandal over the way it handled child sexual abuse.

To date, he has not publicly identified a single action and said, "that is what I did in response to challenge that culture of secrecy and cover-up that existed in Dublin when I arrived". That is turning a blind eye. That is why he should resign.

We are also mindful of the fact the rest of the bishops, at the end of their winter conference last December, issued a statement and included in it an expression of shame at the extent to which the sexual abuse of children was covered up in Dublin.

The bishops also said that this was indicative of a culture that existed throughout the church in Ireland and, on that basis, we said that any other bishops who felt their dioceses would not stand up to the same scrutiny as Dublin for the same reasons should resign now and not wait for any inquiry to find against them. That issue has been completely ignored.

The last thing we asked was that bishops coming back to Ireland would come back with the expressed instruction from the Pope to obey and follow all state guidelines and protocols as they exist and as they are developed in the future in relation to child protection. That too has been completely ignored.

All of these things could have been decided in five minutes.

The church has failed children and it is now failing those children who have asked for very specific and very simple responses.

The only engagement I would be willing to have with them now is to meet Archbishop Diarmuid Martin when he comes back to Ireland and ask him the extent to which the things we asked for were considered because the two days of meetings went on behind closed doors. I would like to know why he has come back empty-handed.

The church has a future for those who want to keep their heads buried in the sand and live with the same denial that some of the bishops and priests want to do following publication of the Murphy report.

Let them never preach high standards of anything to anyone ever again given how they have behaved and continue to behave.

Andrew Madden is a survivor of clerical child sex abuse