Fr Paddy ByrneThe painful wounds of sexual abuse by clergy…

Speaking to the Irish Bishops in October 2006, Pope Benedict reminded the Irish Bishops on their Ad Limina visit, that we must deal fully with the past before we can truly be reconciled and look forward to the future.

Fr Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Carlow Nationalist
This column appeared on 22nd February 2008

The Dublin Inquiry a necessary pruning for our Church

Cardinal Connell’s recent decision to release certain files, to an inquiry established to examine the handling of clerical sexual abuse within the Dublin Diocese, once again opens a very painful wound within our church. Most people have indeed expressed a sense of relief regarding the cardinal’s decision to drop his High Court action against the Dublin Inquiry. All of us in recent years have been shocked and horrified by this brutal reality.

These scandals, all great tragedies have inflicted life long damage, to innocent victims, families and indeed parish communities. The story of Clerical child sexual abuse, has also left a terrible bruise to the morale and confidence for the vast majority of clergy and perhaps at times silenced the Irish Hierarchies leadership, regarding its important morale voice for many within our communities. No doubt these terrible occasions of abuse have had its impact regarding too many turning away from public practice and our diminishing numbers of active clergy because of a vocation crisis.

Sexual abuse is a horrible reality within society as a whole. It always brings with it silence, fear, shame and a deep lasting wound. For our Church perhaps it will take many years, even a generation to fully live and be reconciled because of the hurt and pain that has been caused by such clergy. In the past terrible and sinful mistakes were made by the Church regarding to allegations of sexual abuse of children by priests and religious. I have no doubt, when the modern ecclesiastical history of Ireland will be written our present moment will be described as one of the most painful and tragic periods in our entire Church history.

Speaking to the Irish Bishops at their recent ad limina visit to Rome in October 2006, Pope Benedict made many references to this painful issue. The Pope highlighted

The wounds caused by such acts run deep, and it is an urgent task to rebuild confidence and trust where these have been damaged.

Pope Benedict reminded the Irish Bishops, that we must deal fully with the past before we can truly be reconciled and look forward to the future.

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 problems of justice are fully respected and, above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes.

It is in a growing awareness of working together, in partnership and accountability, grounded in humility and service that we can begin to look forward with great hope. The structure and make up of Church has changed so much for the better in recent times. The painful pruning that has taken place will I believe bring us to a healthier space where we can all be Church in an approachable and more participative manner. The Church needs the Dublin Commission of Inquiry to be completed in order for the Church to be able to move forward, not forgetting the past, to be conscious that the full truth has been established and that clear procedures are now in place to ensure that these terrible things will never happen again.