ROME – A top Vatican prelate told Irish bishops at an extraordinary Vatican summit with Pope Benedict XVI on Monday 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.
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.
Bertone, the Holy See’s secretary of state 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,” Bertone urged.
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 of children and teens in Catholic-run schools, workhouses and orphanages.
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 involved in protecting pedophile priests step down.
That made Andrew Madden, who in 1995 became the first in Ireland to go public with an abuse lawsuit against the church, pessimistic.
“It’s clear that most of Ireland’s bishops should go, because they conspired in covering up heinous crimes,” Madden said. “Most of them will cling to their positions regardless of the anguish this causes the victims.”