VOTFI open Letter to Pope Benedict XVI following Murphy Report – Nov 2009

Reflecting on the content of the report of the Irish state inquiry into clerical child sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin, Ireland, 28th November 2009

Your Holiness,

Once again our church has been most grievously shocked and mystified to learn of the endangerment of thousands of Catholic children by senior bishops, to whom was given by Our Lord the instruction “feed my lambs.”

This situation is painfully familiar. Repeating the tragedy of Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Ferns, Cloyne, Sydney and so many other dioceses worldwide, four archbishops of Ireland’s most populous diocese have behaved in a manner that facilitated the deepest psychological, emotional and spiritual trauma to many children. They have also endangered gravely the divine mission of the church, as well as the souls once more repelled from it.

This, and the fact that such misgovernance has been revealed only by outside agencies of accountability, not by the Catholic Church itself, must surely compel Church leadership to consider the following questions:

* Why have so many bishops behaved secretly in this way, without check or hindrance, in over twenty countries, for decades?

* How can we ensure that a culture of Christian openness, accountability and safety will henceforward prevail at all levels of church administration in all dioceses?

* How can we measure and address the pain of countless victims?

You yourself declared to the bishops of Ireland at their last Ad Limina visit of 2006:

“The wounds caused by such acts run deep, and it is an urgent task to rebuild confidence and trust where these have been damaged. In your continuing efforts to deal effectively with this problem, it is important to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected and, above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes.”

The time to act is now. The secrecy must come to an end. We are convinced that this programme cannot be speedily achieved in Ireland or elsewhere without the deployment of the full authority of your own office. We hope also that your own determination in this regard is unquestionable, and ask you urgently:

1 To institute a thorough church-wide inquiry into all aspects of the clerical child abuse catastrophe, including the reasons why so many bishops endangered so many children by their failure to act decisively against sexual predators.

2 To publish the findings of that inquiry for the enlightenment of the church and the world.

3 To note the call for a ‘culture of accountability’ in the church by the Irish National Board for the Safeguarding of Children, and the observation made by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin on the feast of the Epiphany 2009 that “We have to have a system whereby people are pushed to be accountable.”

4 To begin the task of ensuring that the administrative structures of the church do not continue to fall so far short of what is now so obviously necessary to protect its most vulnerable and innocent members. This will require the practical implementation of this Christian principle of accountability.

5 To accept that this principle of accountability cannot be achieved while so many bishops and archbishops, who have knowingly over a considerable period of time permitted this tragedy to persist, continue in office. It is time to remove the enablers and replace them with bishops who will take seriously their responsibility to the People of God, and especially to Children.

You yourself have outlined these principles of truth, justice and healing. We believe that all three principles are blessed and supported by the Most Holy Trinity, and that these five steps are essential if these principles are to prevail. Action must be taken and it is now up to you.

Yours respectfully,


Sean O’Conaill
Acting Coordinator
Voice of the Faithful (Ireland)