It is too early to be sure that the Holy See has absorbed the full import of the Murphy report on clerical child abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin. We are disappointed especially to hear nothing about the necessary resignations of those bishops who while in service in the Dublin archdiocese failed to challenge a cover-up culture that led to unspeakable harm to many children. We are disappointed also that there is no reference to the failure of the Holy See to respond to requests from the Dublin Commission of Inquiry for cooperation with it.
We welcome, however, the following passages from the Holy See’s communiqué:
“The Holy See takes very seriously the central issues raised by the Report, including questions concerning the governance of local Church leaders with ultimate responsibility for the pastoral care of children.
“The Holy Father intends to address a Pastoral Letter to the faithful of Ireland in which he will clearly indicate the initiatives that are to be taken in response to the situation.”
Studied alongside the statement by the Irish Bishops’ Conference on Dec 9th, these passages provide an opportunity for the papacy to respond to the open letter that Voice of the Faithful in Ireland has sent to the pope, calling for an investigation and explanation of why so many bishops in so many countries have betrayed so many children.
The Irish bishops declared on Wed 9th December:
“We are shamed by the extent to which child sexual abuse was covered up in the Archdiocese of Dublin and recognise that this indicates a culture that was widespread in the Church.”
This culture was not confined to Ireland and should not be referred to solely in the past tense. There is a wealth of evidence that it is part of a church-wide system of secretive and autocratic governance that subverts the principle of accountability, endangers children and undermines the mission of the church.
The crisis in the Irish church is merely a local reflection of a global crisis of Catholic church governance. If the promised pastoral letter from the papacy does not reflect this reality it will have failed to grasp the full scale of the global Catholic crisis.