Detailed reports for Holy See eyes only

On March 21, 2012, in Child Abuse, by Paddy

The Irish Times – Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Detailed reports for Holy See eyes only

No names named but general view of insiders is that the authorities seem to be doing a ‘solemn mea culpa’, writes PADDY AGNEW

THERE WERE contrasting reactions yesterday in Rome to the release of the summary document of the findings of the apostolic visitation in Ireland.

While some commentators were tempted to define the document as “bland” and not especially newsworthy, Vatican insiders begged to differ, pointing out that it had managed to avoid being simplistic and glib.

At first glance, the summary reads like a toothless “executive report”, primarily concerned about avoiding a further washing of dirty Vatican linen in public.

Names are not named, the question of episcopal responsibility slips by the wayside and, rather than offer specific criticism of specific incidents, the document offers a long series of pious intentions and devout goodwill. In short, and not for the first time, the Holy See appears engaged in damage limitation and corporate self-preservation.

Vatican insiders, however, suggested that while the summary report might seem bland, it is always possible that some of the seven reports prepared by the teams of apostolic visitors will be much more detailed and hard-hitting.

These reports, however, are for Holy See eyes only.

Other Vatican figures pointed out that, in the context of a document intended to promote a renewal of the faith in Ireland, the public reopening of old wounds and all-too-familiar sex abuse-related polemics serve no useful purpose.

In this sense, it is significant that the document attempts to look to the future, laying much emphasis on the nature of priestly formation and the quality of teaching that should be offered by the seminaries of Maynooth and the Irish Pontifical College in Rome.

Furthermore, at least one experienced Holy See insider suggested that the document had the merit of not attempting a “magic wand” approach to the Irish sex abuse problem.

In other words, the apostolic visitors had resisted the temptation to offer a facile recipe for “changes” that would “solve” the problem.

On the contrary, the summary suggests that the Irish church has within itself many of the human and spiritual resources needed to guide it through an obviously delicate ongoing historical moment.

Presenting the document to the media yesterday, Vatican senior spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi called it “extensive and exhaustive”.

The Holy See spokesman, however, declined to take questions, in deference to the fact that the document was simultaneously being presented to the Irish media in Maynooth by Cardinal Seán Brady.

Several Italian church commentators greeted the document favourably, pointing out that, yet again, the church appeared to be doing a solemn “mea culpa” on the question of clerical sex abuse.

On its website, the daily La Repubblica commented: “Bishops and religious superiors are judged to have been inadequate when confronting the plague of serious incidents of paedophilia amongst the clergy . . . This is a new solemn mea culpa document.”

Many commentators highlighted the fact that the summary document appears to hint at a future radical reorganisation of dioceses in Ireland with a view to making them “better suited to the present day mission of the church in Ireland”.