Irish clerical sex abuse report reveals ‘betrayal of sacred trust,’ bishops say

.- Last week an Irish government investigation released its report about the Irish bishops’ failure to combat and report clerical sexual abuse. Irish prelates have reacted with dismay and shame about their predecessors’ “betrayal of the sacred trust.”

The report focused on why church leaders in the Archdiocese of Dublin did not report to police a single abuse complaint against a priest until 1995.

Archbishops and their senior deputies had compiled confidential files on more than 100 parish priests accused of sexually abusing children since 1940. The files were locked in the Dublin archbishop’s private vault, the Associated Press says.

Archbishops of Dublin John Charles McQuaid, Dermot Ryan and Kevin McNamara did not report cases of abuse but tried to avoid public scandal by moving offenders from parish to parish and also overseas to U.S. churches.

The present Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, said his predecessors, including Cardinal Desmond Connell, must have known that priests’ molestation and rape of boys and girls was “a crime in both civil and canon law.”

“For some reason or another, they felt they could deal with all this in little worlds of their own,” Archbishop Martin said, according to the Associated Press. "They were wrong, and children were left to suffer."

Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, reacted to the publication of the Report of the Commission of Investigation into the sexual abuse of children by priests, saying "I am shocked and ashamed." 

"I want to apologize to all those who have been hurt and their families. I also want to apologize to all the people of Ireland that this abuse was covered up and that the reputation of the Church was put before the safety and well-being of children."

"I also want to reassure everyone that the Church’s policy of Child Safeguarding in Ireland today puts the welfare of the child as the paramount concern. That policy is also based on the practice of full cooperation with the Statutory authorities and ongoing monitoring of the implementation of best practice in Dioceses by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland," the Cardinal also said.

Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam said in a statement that "everyone is deeply disgusted and disillusioned by the awfulness of the abuse, the vulnerability of the victims and the betrayal of the sacred trust placed in those who carried out this abuse. With our priests, I share these strong sentiments."

Neary also said that Catholics can respond to the revelations in two ways.

“We can, in anger, allow ourselves to be overcome by despair. We can opt for a world where sin and selfishness have the final say, where there is no such thing as faith, reconciliation or hope. On the other hand, we can work and pray together so as to ensure that the child safeguarding structures, already in place across the country, will greatly help to prevent such evil deeds from ever recurring in a Church environment."

"I am mindful of the perceived hollowness of repeated apologies. I must, however, be even more mindful of the many and life-long effects of clerical abuse on children. In this context, as a Bishop whose diocese has also had to confront evidence of child abuse on the part of some priests, I wish to apologize again, humbly and without reservation, to all who have suffered and to their families," he added.

Bishop Philip Boyce of Raphoe said that the report "lays bare the immense betrayal of sacred trust and duty on the part of priests. It is horrific to think that an innocent child could be sexually abused by any adult, let alone by a priest."

Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor stated that the report is “a shameful reminder to us of the pain and suffering experienced, both directly and indirectly, by children at the hands of those who should have cared for and protected them."

"As a Church, we must continue to apologize to those who have suffered for our failure to act and to listen to them in their hour of need. This abuse should never have happened and is contrary to the Christian call to reach out to the vulnerable in our society. Dreadful and painful as it is to address these issues, it is important to get to the truth of what happened and to find forums to discuss this problem," he added.

Bishop Treanor assured all parishioners that bishops will be examining the report “carefully” in order to “explore what lessons can be learned.”

“We also wish to take this opportunity to affirm that we are committed both morally and legally to upholding the rights of children and young people and will continue to work openly and collaboratively with all statutory authorities to ensure that we, as a Church and as a society at large, address these issues."

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