Catholic Culture Podcasts
Catholic Culture Podcasts

The Ferns Report

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Oct 21, 2005

A long-awaited report on sexual abuse by priests of the Ferns Diocese in Ireland has been completed, to be released sometime next week. The Irish Independent says the report, written by Judge Frank Murphy, discusses twenty priest-abusers and "contains stinging criticisms of two bishops, the late Donal Herlihy and Brendan Comiskey," and faults the police and the South Eastern Health Board as well. Even though the scale of wrongdoing is small compared to that reported for the more infamous U.S. archdioceses, the repercussions will certainly be painful. So how are the clergy preparing themselves?

At a meeting earlier this week at Ballyvalloo Retreat Centre, Blackwater, Co Wexford, around 60 priests were told how the Church would respond to victims, clergy and parishioners.

Priests were addressed by clinical sports psychologist Tom Moriarty. He helped prepare them for likely fallout from the report. Mr Moriarty worked with the 1995 All-Ireland winning Dublin football team.

How long, O Lord?

The impact of the report is going to be tough on the local priests. There's nothing amiss in trying to fortify them against the hardships to come. Yet the palliative they reach for goes a long way toward explaining how the disease came to be in the first place. Given the sacramental character of the priest, given his training in prayer and penance, given his own pastoral engagement with souls in grief, given the Church's treasury of spiritual consolation on which to draw -- why does his diocese, in his moment of need, offer him the services of a clinical sports psychologist?

The irony runs deeper still. A large part of the reason clerical abuse reached the level it did was the tendency of ecclesiastical superiors to see the problem and its remedy in psychological terms. Concluding their report on the U.S.scandals, the National Review Board made this perspicuous judgment: "By viewing sexual abuse with minors primarily as an issue of 'sexual identity' and not primarily as a crime and a grave sin, bishops failed to fulfill their responsibilities to members of the public and members of the Church." We might have expected, by way of reparation, greater attention paid to the spiritual duties and eternal destiny of priests -- matters largely unrelated to the success of the 1995 All-Ireland winning Dublin football team. We were wrong.

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