DEFIANT Bishop of Galway Dr Martin Drennan, who has refused to bow to calls for his resignation after his name was mentioned in The Murphy report into the handling of child abuse in the Dublin archdiocese, is to speak face to face with Pope Benedict in the Vatican next month as the pontiff draws up a response to the Irish abuse scandal.
The meeting to be held in Rome on Feb 15 and 16 — the two days before Ash Wednesday — is the first time that all bishops from one country have been summoned to the Eternal City together since the American hierarchy were called to the Vatican in 2002 in the wake of the US child abuse scandals which resulted in the resignation of several bishops and at least one cardinal.
The meeting is also being held to iron out differences in opinion among several bishops — differences which have been aired publicly in the past month by notable figures including Dr Drennan and the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin. Dr Drennan felt that his integrity had been questioned by some of Archbishop Martin’s remarks before Christmas.
However, before the Rome meeting, some of those tensions could be eased, as tomorrow (Friday ) Bishop Drennan will come face to face with his fellow bishops for the first time since the scandal, when they meet in Maynooth to prepare for the Rome visit. The meeting gives the bishops a chance to regroup following the publication of the report and will give them an opportunity to air their views on whether there should be more resignations before the Rome meeting.
It is not known whether Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin Jim Moriarty or Dublin auxiliary bishops Éamonn Walsh and Ray Field will be able to attend tomorrow’s Maynooth meeting, but it is thought unlikely.
Bishop Moriarty offered his resignation to the Pope on December 23 last. Bishops Walsh and Field offered theirs on Christmas Eve. The resignations have not yet been formally accepted by Rome — indicating that the Vatican may feel there is a need for further resignations in order to appease public anger.
Dr Drennan met with priests of the diocese at a meeting in St Mary’s College on Tuesday, at which child protection measures were discussed.
Since being mentioned in the report, Dr Drennan has steadfastly refused to resign his post on the basis that the report commended rather than condemned his handling of the one case to come before him. He responded to questions posed by The Irish Times in relation to another case, but some of his responses did not diffuse calls for his resignation.
At the Rome meetings, the bishops will meet with Pope Benedict and a series of high-ranking Vatican officials who will endeavour to draw up a response by the pontiff to the irish crisis. The Advertiser understands that, with all 26 bishops in the one room, each be given an opportunity to speak directly to the Pontiff and after that, he will respond to them.
It is believed that the meeting will be one of the most significant in the history of the Church in Ireland and will initiate a process of reorganisation and atonement. The bishops will return to Ireland on the night of Shrove Tuesday or early on Ash Wednesday and will deliver the Pope’s response in a Lenten letter to be read out at services that evening.