The Irish bishops have apologized to victims of clerical sexual abuse, decrying the “failure of moral leadership” and “the scale and depravity of abuse” described in a newly released report on the issue.
The first day of the Irish Bishops’ Conference’s Winter General Meeting gave full attention to the Commission of Investigation Report into the Archdiocese of Dublin, which was published Nov. 26.
“We, as bishops, apologize to all those who were abused by priests as children, their families and to all people who feel rightly outraged and let down by the failure of moral leadership and accountability that emerges from the Report,” the bishops said in a statement.
The bishops said that their initial response to the Report was to ask the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church to explore a mechanism to ensure that the Church’s current practices are best and that allegations of abuse are properly handled.
“We are deeply shocked by the scale and depravity of abuse as described in the Report. We are shamed by the extent to which child sexual abuse was covered up in the Archdiocese of Dublin and recognize that this indicates a culture that was widespread in the Church,” their statement continued.
“The avoidance of scandal, the preservation of the reputations of individuals and of the Church, took precedence over the safety and welfare of children. This should never have happened and must never be allowed to happen again. We humbly ask for forgiveness.”
The Report raises issues such as the functioning of the bishops’ conference and the lay faithful’s more effective involvement in the Church.
The bishops also responded to concerns about the use of “mental reservation,” an ethical concept related to honesty and truth-telling. The bishops said that the mental reservation “has no place in covering up evil.”
“Charity, truthfulness, integrity and transparency must be the hallmark of all our communications.”
The bishops’ statement reported that Cardinal Seán Brady and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin have been called to the Vatican by Pope Benedict XVI, who will be briefed on Friday. The Church leaders will also evaluate the “painful situation” of the Church in Ireland following the Report’s publication.
“We humbly ask that you continue to pray for all those who suffer due to child abuse,” their statement concluded.