The first phase of the apostolic visitation investigating clergy abuse in Ireland has concluded with the announcement that an overall synthesis of its results and recommendations will be published by early 2012.
The report will focus on the nationwide mission of renewal announced by Pope Benedict XVI in his March 2010 pastoral letter to the Catholics of Ireland, the Vatican said June 6.
The investigators, known as “visitators,” had set out to examine the effectiveness of the present response to cases of abuse and the current forms of assistance provided to abuse victims.
They also considered the prospects of the “profound spiritual renewal” presently being pursued by the Church in Ireland.
Because of the initial evaluation, the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for Catholic Education do not envisage further apostolic visitations. The visitors meetings with various organizations and individuals, including the local bishops, provided “a sufficiently complete picture of the situation of the Irish Church” concerning the areas under investigation.
The relevant Vatican dicasteries, or departments, will give indications to the bishops for the “spiritual renewal” of the dioceses and seminaries. The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life will provide similar recommendations for the religious institutes.
The congregation has analyzed responses to the visitation’s questionnaires sent to all institutes with religious houses in Ireland. Visits to some religious communities will follow.
The Vatican said that the visitation to the four metropolitan archdioceses of Ireland, the seminaries and the religious institutes was “very useful” because of the cooperation of everyone who took part.
“The Holy Father's sincere thanks goes to them, especially to the four Metropolitan Archbishops,” the Vatican said.
In April media reports speculated that the visitors would recommend the closure of the national seminary at Maynooth in county Kildare. The seminary authorities dismissed the reports as “without foundation.”
The four-man team heading the investigation into four of the key dioceses of Ireland consisted of Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto, Archbishop Terence Prendergast, S.J., of Ottawa and Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, the former Archbishop of Westminster, England.
A parallel investigation has examined religious institutes.
The apostolic visitors have conducted penitential services in Ireland seeking forgiveness for the abuse of hundreds of children by priests and religious over several decades.
In February, Cardinal O’Malley spoke of a “window of opportunity” to build a “holier church” in response to the abuse crisis.
And a spokesman for Archbishop Dolan told CNA that after his interviews with 113 Irish seminarians he sees “much hope for the renewal of the faith in Ireland.”
Pope Benedict’s 2010 pastoral letter to Ireland asked victims’ forgiveness and expressed “shame and remorse” over the abuse.