Abuse victims are hurting again this week at the apparent disregard of the Vatican for their suffering at the hands of paedophile priests and religious over decades in Ireland. While they may have been naive in thinking that the Church would change the habits of a lifetime and stage some sort of public lynching, the lack of any obvious compassion or regret by the world’s senior churchman has struck a sour note, not only in the minds of victims, but among all those who were viewing this meeting as a turning point for the Church.
While the main focus in the media was on whether there would have been any sanctions taken against bishops on the grounds of reckless endangerment, surely it would have been hypocritical of the Vatican to fire bishops on the basis of what they knew and when.
This is especially so given that we now know that the Vatican was aware of these crimes, and was aware of the cover-ups all along the way. Indeed, worse than this, members of the curia made a concerted effort to make sure that they handled all the abuse allegations, albeit in a ham-fisted manner which more often than not resulted in abusing priests being transferred to new areas where they were free to wreck lives again.
To the general public, this meeting, this call to Rome, should have been the beginning of a new chapter in this catalogue of horrors, but the apparent disdain for the victims that emanated from the Vatican and from the public utterances of the Bishops, only served to emphasise that this was an exercise in self-preservation.
The Pontiff’s statement that the diminishing adherence to the faith had a role to play in the conception of these crimes is simply not acceptable as most of these assaults were committed at a time when Irish faith was at its strongest. Indeed, it was because Irish faith was so strong that the victims were so vulnerable and the abusers so powerful.
It was the faith of those who were hired and taught to teach it that should have been in question and if Rome refuses to ask itself why people so schooled in the doctrine should then behave so abominably, then the Catholic Church is a worse state than we thought.
The only salvation for the Church at this stage is the possibility that this meeting was the inspiration for the pastoral letter due within weeks. Much hope is being placed on that now. If the Pope’s message in that is as cold and heartless as his utterances have been on the matter thus far, then expect the flak to grow. An apology, an acceptance of resignations and cover-ups, and a way forward are what is needed in that document. Anything less and Irish faith will then be irretrievably shattered.