Vatican to Irish bishops: admit blame in abuse cover-ups
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ROME -- A top Vatican prelate on Monday told Irish bishops at an extraordinary Vatican summit with Pope Benedict XVI that they must admit their own blame in cover-ups of generations of sex abuse of minors or risk losing the faith of Ireland's Catholics.
But the former Dublin altar boy who helped expose the scandal doubted that any real hierarchy housekeeping would result from the two days of talks behind closed doors in the Apostolic Palace.
Pope Benedict's top aide, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, delivered a stinging homily at a Mass before the talks, decrying the "particularly abhorrent deeds" of some in the Irish church hierarchy, although he didn't name any names.
Cardinal Bertone, the Vatican's No. 2, who participated in the summit with 24 bishops from Irish dioceses, likened the crisis to a "most dangerous storm, that which touches the heart of believers, shaking their faith and threatening their ability to trust in God."
To restore faith, "sinners must acknowledge their own blame in the fullness of truth," urged Cardinal Bertone, the Holy See's secretary of state. He worried that the evil could push faithful toward "discouragement and desperation."
A state report last year found that church leaders in Dublin had spent decades protecting child-abusing priests from the law, while many fellow clerics pretended not to see. A separate inquiry documented decades of sexual, physical and psychological abuse or children and teens in Catholic-run schools, workhouses and orphanages.
Bishops kissed the pope in a fraternal gesture of respect before cameras were ushered out. The Vatican won't comment before the summit ends today, nor has it released Pope Benedict's remarks at the sessions, which began in the morning and ran into the evening.
The bishops made themselves unavailable for comment. Irish bishops conference spokesman Martin Long said the bishops had chosen to stay at a guest house within Vatican City's walls, so they could better "focus" on the crisis talks.
The delegation's top member, Cardinal Sean Brady, archbishop of Armagh and primate of all Ireland, described the talks as a first step on a journey toward "penitence, renewal and reconciliation."
Cardinal Bertone called for "humility" from the bishops. But Clogher Bishop Joseph Duffy had already said resignations were not on the summit agenda, defying victims' demands that clerics who were involved in protecting pedophile priests should step down.
That raised pessimism in Andrew Madden, who became the first in Ireland to publicize the abuse by filing a 1995 lawsuit against the church. "It's clear that most of Ireland's bishops should go, because they conspired in covering up heinous crimes," Mr. Madden told The Associated Press in Ireland. "Most of them will cling to their positions regardless of the anguish this causes the victims."
A U.S. lobby of clergy sex abuse victims echoed Mr. Madden's lack of expectations.
"Does anyone honestly think that the very same men who ignored and concealed child sex crimes for decades can or will do a sudden and complete 180-degree turnaround and suddenly be part of the solution?" said Barbara Dorris, of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
First Published February 16, 2010 12:00 am