The Bishop of Galway returned home yesterday to criticisms that the two-day summit between his fellow bishops and the Pope at the Vatican had been a wasted opportunity for the Church to take responsibility for presiding over a culture of cover-up.
Galway-based Rape Crisis Network Ireland has said that the Church needs to accept responsibility in order to move forward and stop presenting themselves as “victims of circumstance”.
Bishop Dr Martin Drennan was one of 24 Irish bishops summoned to Rome for a special summit this week to discuss the mishandling of clerical sex abuse scandals.
In the lead up to the summit there had been many appeals by survivors for Pope Benedict XVI to at least consider the resignation of Bishop Drennan who has come under increasing pressure since the publication of the Murphy Report.
The Murphy Report revealed that the Catholic hierarchy had covered up numerous incidents of clerical sex abuse to protect the Church while the Ryan Report revealed that for almost four decades the Catholic Church and the Government had covered up sexual abuse and beatings by priests and nuns.
The Vatican released a statement following the meeting which stated the Holy Father told bishops the sexual abuse of children and young people was not only a heinous crime, but also a grave sin which offends God.
He then challenged the bishops “to face the present crisis with honesty and courage,” and said that “the weakening of faith was a significant contributing factor in the phenomenon of sexual abuse of minors.”
It is expected that the Pope will also issue a pastoral letter.
However Pope Benedict’s statement, his failure to issue an apology, to acknowledge the cover-ups, and to deal with the resignations of culpable bishops has been met with increased criticism.
The Rape Crisis Network Ireland, which has its headquarters in Quay Street, Galway, says that they “do not hold out much hope for the Pope’s letter”.
Communications director for RCNI, Clíona Saidléar, told the Advertiser that the only way the Church can move forward is to take responsibility for its actions.
“The meeting was an opportunity which they failed to take.
“The Pope needs to acknowledge the abuse and take responsibility. It’s almost as if they feel they were victims of circumstance, they’re not, the Church had a culture of cover-up.
“We’re shocked that the bishops put this down to talk of spirituality and faith. It re-directed the focus to priests’ lack of faith. We wouldn’t agree with that. The meeting didn’t address the key findings of the reports, that children weren’t protected because they were too busy protecting priests. They didn’t deal with the question of resignations or talk about taking responsibility. We must not lose sight of the fact that the Church, as an institution, has a role to play in this.
Referring to the Pontiff’s statement RCNI executive director Fiona Neary said: “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 was an opportunity for the Pope to apologise to victims for the Church’s reluctance and failure to report sex offenders to civil authorities, thus protecting and enabling abusers. This was an opportunity wasted,” said Ms Neary.
Bishop Drennan, who came home from Rome yesterday afternoon, made no statement on the outcome of his meeting with Pope Benedict.
Spokesperson for the Galway Diocese, Fr Sean McHugh, told the Advertiser that no comment could be made on the meeting or on the contents of the forthcoming pastoral letter. Regarding the continuing calls for a resignation Fr McHugh said: “The bishop had made his stance known before Christmas and his position has not changed.”