The Vatican’s apology letter on the Church’s complicity with the child abuse furore in Ireland – no ‘mea culpa’ here!

Originally written on Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Here is the link to the Vatican  apology letter to the children, the people and Catholic Clergy in Ireland:

This is an interesting read to say the least. However a daunting one in that it translates into roughly 9 x A4 size pages of small font text, with a lot of obfuscatory theological verbiage, and very  little  gut-level sincerity. The kind of sincerity we have grown used to hearing/seeing even from the jaded, hard-boiled, teflon coated CEOs and Politicians we have voted in, who somehow succeed in getting it right. The right look, sound-bite, haggard demeanour and forthrightness so critical to making a connection with the hoi polloi, whenever they seek forgiveness for some political misstep from the political and moral ‘high-ground.’ (think CEO Mike McCain’s handling of the Maple Leaf  foods Listeria crisis in Canada). There is no such catharsis forthcoming in this epistle. 
Now I have no axe to grind with the Catholic Church (being a baptized, albeit non – practicing Catholic myself), but the entire tone and tenor of the piece makes me cringe…choke! Anyone familiar with the Heimlich maneuver please?
I am somewhat disappointed that our revered religious Illuminati, that vast council of  wisdom, holiness and intellect who grace the solemn halls of the Vatican could not (or would not) articulate with greater eloquence, honesty and simplicity  a more remorseful and empathetic apology to the innocent children and good  people of Ireland. Something more appropriate than this hubris driven diatribe.Yes this apology truly appears to emanate from a hapless leader to an equally hapless following. Will somebody please jog my memory about that cliched fumble rule the English professor was apt to regurgitate whenever our efforts at writing were less than pithy… “eschew obfuscation, espouse elucidation”. You will get an idea about the kind of prose style I am referencing, in the extracts and sentences copied below from the apology letter text (the examples  may seem disjointed but the intent here is to underscore the numerous references to the accusatory ‘you’ – the priests, pastors, church and clergy in Ireland, the obvious culprits – the collective ‘them’, as opposed to the blemish-free leadership council in the Vatican…or the infallible ‘us’). I don’t know why but there is something about this style of leadership thinking  that gets my hackles to horripilate – but then maybe it’s just me?
I have been deeply disturbed by the information which has come to light regarding the abuse of children and vulnerable young people by members of the Church in Ireland

I can only share in the dismay and the sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced and the way Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them
I recently invited the Irish bishops to a meeting here in Rome to give an account of their handling of these matters in the past

as they offered an analysis of mistakes made and lessons learned

considering the gravity of these offences, and the often inadequate response to them on the part of the ecclesiastical authorities in your country(Ireland)

the Church in Ireland must first acknowledge before the Lord and before others the serious sins committed against defenceless children

On several occasions since my election to the See of Peter, I have met with victims of sexual abuse, as indeed I am ready to do in the future

Speaking to you as a pastor concerned for the good of all God’s children, I humbly ask you to consider what I have said. I pray that, by drawing nearer to Christ and by participating in the life of his Church – a Church purified by penance and renewed in pastoral charity – you will come to rediscover Christ’s infinite love for each one of you. I am confident that in this way you will be able to find reconciliation, deep inner healing and peace.

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

I urge you to examine your conscience, take responsibility for the sins you have committed, and humbly express your sorrow. Sincere repentance opens the door to God’s forgiveness and the grace of true amendment. By offering prayers and penances for those you have wronged, you should seek to atone personally for your actions

Openly acknowledge your guilt, submit yourselves to the demands of justice, but do not despair of God’s mercy

As you carry out your vital responsibilities, be assured that I remain close to you and I offer you the support of my prayers

We are all scandalized by the sins and failures of some of the Church’s members, particularly those who were chosen especially to guide and serve young people. But it is in the Church that you will find Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and for ever (cf. Heb 13:8). He loves you and he has offered himself on the cross for you. Seek a personal relationship with him within the communion of his Church, for he will never betray your trust! He alone can satisfy your deepest longings and give your lives their fullest meaning by directing them to the service of others. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and his goodness, and shelter the flame of faith in your heart.

Together with your fellow Catholics in Ireland, I look to you to be faithful disciples of our Lord and to bring your much-needed enthusiasm and idealism to the rebuilding and renewal of our beloved Church.

All of us are suffering as a result of the sins of our confreres who betrayed a sacred trust or failed to deal justly and responsibly with allegations of abuse

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

Nevertheless, it must be admitted that grave errors of judgement were made

All this has seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness

I now wish to propose to you some concrete initiatives to address the situation

I ask parishes, seminaries, religious houses and monasteries to organize periods of Eucharistic adoration, so that all have an opportunity to take part. Through intense prayer before the real presence of the Lord, you can make reparation for the sins of abuse that have done so much harm

I wish to conclude this Letter with a special Prayer for the Church in Ireland, which I send to you with the care of a father for his children and with the affection of a fellow Christian, scandalized and hurt by what has occurred in our beloved Church

From the Vatican, 19 March 2010, on the Solemnity of Saint Joseph

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