The Holy Father’s Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland has been published on the Vatican Website.
As we might expect, it is a letter full of concern for those who have been abused, and for the damage that the abuse has done to the Church in particular, and to Irish society in general; but unlike the bromides put out by certain hierarchs (not just in Ireland) in relation to such abuses, the Holy Father pulls no punches :
‘To priests and religious who have abused children
You betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents, and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals. You have forfeited the esteem of the people of Ireland and brought shame and dishonour upon your confreres’
Similarly, he is not exactly reserved in his remarks to the Bishops :
‘To my brother bishops
It cannot be denied that some of you and your predecessors failed, at times grievously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse. Serious mistakes were made in responding to allegations . . . it must be admitted that grave errors of judgement were made and failures of leadership occurred. All this has seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness.’
I think it is obvious to all that the Holy Father has taken this matter with a great deal more seriousness than at least some of the Irish Bishops – and indeed more than some other Bishops elsewhere in the Church : certainly there can be no suggestion that his expression of regret is in any way equivocal :
‘To the victims of abuse and their families
You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated. . . . It is understandable that you find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel.’
Clearly, whatever the world may want to think, the Holy Father is seriously concerned, and determined to do something about this situation : we must just hope that men of goodwill outside the Church will recognize and acknowledge this, and offer him their support . . . and we Catholics, of course, must not only support the Holy Father in thought and word - which includes sharing in the ‘shame and remorse’ to which he refers - we must support him in deed also :
in which context I should draw to your attention His Holiness’ ‘Prayer for the Church in Ireland’.
God of our fathers,
renew us in the faith which is our life and salvation,
the hope which promises forgiveness and interior renewal,
the charity which purifies and opens our hearts
to love you, and in you, each of our brothers and sisters.
Lord Jesus Christ,
may the Church in Ireland renew her age-old commitment
to the education of our young people
in the way of truth and goodness,
holiness and generous service to society.
Holy Spirit, comforter, advocate and guide,
inspire a new springtime of holiness and apostolic zeal
for the Church in Ireland.
May our sorrow and our tears,
our sincere effort to redress past wrongs,
and our firm purpose of amendment
bear an abundant harvest of grace
for the deepening of the faith
in our families, parishes, schools and communities,
for the spiritual progress of Irish society,
and the growth of charity, justice, joy and peace
within the whole human family.
To you, Triune God,
confident in the loving protection of Mary,
Queen of Ireland, our Mother,
and of Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid and all the saints,
do we entrust ourselves, our children,
and the needs of the Church in Ireland.