2011-03-20 12:26:01

Towards Healing and Renewal: Irish Bishops publish pastoral letter

“The abuse of children by some priests and religious was an appalling wrong. The inadequate response by some Church leaders has left a deep wound that may never be fully healed. No apology, no gesture of repentance or sorrow can ever make up for the hurt that has been caused to those abused and to their families”. These are the opening lines of a 16 page document by the Irish Bishops Conference, distributed in parishes throughout Ireland Saturday evening, to mark the first anniversary of the publication of the Pastoral Letter of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland.

The 2010 letter by the Pope followed an unprecedented meeting between the Holy Father and the Irish Bishops in the wake of two reports, the Ryan report and Murphy report. Both released in 2009, the Ryan report detailed cases of abuse of minors in state funded institutions for children, managed by religious orders, from 1936 onwards. The Murphy report investigated the abuse of minors by clergy in the Archdiocese of Dublin.

In synthesis the document published Saturday is a pastoral response to the Pope’s letter that outlines new and existing initiatives of support available to survivors of abuse shaped in large part by conversations with survivors. It presents six steps towards healing and renewal: prayers for the survivors of abuse, listening with sensitivity and care, spiritual support, creating a safer future for children in the church, the review of diocese, religious congregations and societies by the National Board for Safeguarding Children and financial support for future safeguarding and care

The leaders of the Church note that prayer “prayer is an essential part of the journey to healing and renewal”. The Irish Church has in fact dedicated the first Friday of each month to prayer and fasting “in reparation for abuse by clergy and for the failure of leadership in the Church to respond to it effectively”. The bishops also propose “liturgies of lament, atonement and healing”, overseen by a group at national level, that would include survivors of abuse and liturgical experts.

In the document the bishops write that one of their greatest failures in the past was their failure to listen to those who were abused. They praise the courage of victims who spoke out about what happened to them even when they “found that no one would listen”. In view of this, they announce that each bishop will continue to be personally available to meet with survivors of abuse and to listen attentively to their experiences.

In line with Pope Benedict recommendations, the bishops also reiterated their commitment to full and transparent cooperation with the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI), police and civil authorities in the Republic and in Northern Ireland.

“Honesty about the response to past, present and future allegations of child sexual abuse by priests in our dioceses is essential to restoring trust and moving forward”, the document reads. The Irish Bishops’ Conference, says this includes the ability of the NBSCCCI to monitor and report on the response of each bishop and each leader of religious congregations and societies to allegations of abuse which may arise.

In the document they also announce that as part of a specific commitment by the bishops to transparency about the past, the NBSCCCI has initiated a review of current and past practice of all twenty-six dioceses in Ireland. This review will also be extended to each religious congregation.

The Church in Ireland pledges to continue to provide financial resources to the structures for safeguarding children and young people in the Church and to the ongoing care of those who
have been abused. This includes a new independent counselling service co-funded by religious congregations and societies.

The Bishops conclude “in his Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland, Pope Benedict XVI .. says that ‘a new vision is needed, to inspire present and future generations to treasure the gift of our common faith’. We.. pledge to continue the process of dialogue with survivors of abuse and with lay faithful, priests and religious about how the Church in Ireland can inspire present and future
generations to a new vision of faith in the light of the guidance and support offered by the Apostolic Visitation”.

Listen to Emer McCarthy's report: RealAudioMP3

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