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Irish Church under fire from politicians, media (news roundup)

July 18, 2011

Political leaders and media commentators in Ireland continue to pour criticism on the Catholic hierarchy, in the wake of a report that exposed a shocking failure to respond to sex-abuse complaints in the Cloyne diocese.
  • Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin expressed a good deal of sympathy for the critics, saying that he thought Bishop John Magee, who resigned under pressure from his post in Cloyne, should speak to the public about his errors. Archbishop Martin deflected a question about whether Bishop Magee should be prosecuted, but volunteered: “I do not foresee a situation where he would practice public ministry ever again.”

    Archbishop Martin also criticized some other Irish bishops--although he did not name them—when he said that the hierarchy had still not learned the proper lessons from the sex-abuse scandal. He revealed that some dioceses have conducted their own internal investigations of sex-abuse complaints, but decided not to make the results public; the archbishop said that he saw no purpose in keeping such reports secret. And when asked whether Cardinal Sean Brady of Armagh should resign, Archbishop Martin did not give his verbal support to the Primate of All Ireland, saying only that he would not tell other bishops what they should do.

    “Renewal will not be the work of sleek public relations moves,” Archbishop Martin said in a Sunday homily. “Irish religious culture has radically changed and has changed irreversibly. There will be no true renewal in the Church until that fact is recognized.”

  • A prosecutor explained that he did not bring criminal charges against Bishop Magee because the applicable law was “not broad enough” to cover the bishop’s actions. An Irish legal expert, explaining the situation more candidly, points out that there was no law in force at the time (2005) that would have allowed for prosecution.
  • Following the publication of the results of the apostolic visitation of four Irish archdioceses, the Holy See will “reduce the number of Irish dioceses” and “appoint surprise candidates to newly-amalgamated dioceses,” according to Kieron Wood, writing in the Sunday Business Post. Three of Ireland’s 26 sees--Cloyne, Kildare and Leighlin, and Limerick--are vacant following resignations tendered in the wake of the sex-abuse scandals, and an additional three have bishops over the age of 75.
  • A member of the Irish government said that she would not rule out the possibility of investigations into every Catholic diocese. Frances Fitzgerald, the children’s minister, suggested that the shocking revelations of the report on the Cloyne diocese could prompt other inquiries. “You cannot say that what was happening in Cloyne is definitely not happening in other dioceses,” she said.
  • Some media outlets raised the question of whether the rising hostility toward the Catholic Church could jeopardize plans for a visit by Pope Benedict XVI next year. The Irish Independent, quoting only unnamed “sources,” said that the papal visit is already being reviewed; an Irish Central report then cited the Independent as its source. The Vatican has said nothing about the papal trip—which, in fact, has not yet been officially confirmed.


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  • Posted by: RC - Jul. 18, 2011 9:27 PM ET USA

    I am puzzled by Abp. Martin's comment as to whether Bp. Magee might to serve in public ministry again. If this is a mere opinion, it doesn't belong in the public domain; it seems to violate the principle that bishops are judged only by the Pope.

  • Posted by: wolfdavef3415 - Jul. 18, 2011 5:32 PM ET USA

    “You cannot say that what was happening in Cloyne is definitely not happening in other dioceses,” she said. This is logically fallacious. You also cannot say it isn't happening in the police department. Or the Irish Government. But, in politics, the pitchforks always win over common sense. The effort should be expended on the future, not wasted on the past.