Pope Benedict XVI has issued an apology to Catholics in Ireland regarding the sex abuse scandal rocking the country’s Catholic Church. But the letter contains no action items, no real accountability for those implicated in the scandal.
Heartbreaking reports released last year detail an extensive history of sexual and other physical abuse of children by church authorities and subsequent cover-ups. In brief:
In one [report], four Dublin archbishops were found to have effectively turned a blind eye to cases of abuse from 1975 to 2004.
The Dublin archdiocese, it said, operated in a culture of concealment, placing the integrity of its institutions above the welfare of the children in its care.
In the wake of the report, four bishops resigned and the entire Irish hierarchy was summoned to the Vatican to give an account of themselves in person before the Pope.
Six months earlier, another report – the result of a nine-year investigation – documented some six decades of physical , sexual and emotional abuse at residential institutions run by 18 religious orders.
With the Church still reeling from the reports’ findings, a fresh scandal erupted in March 2010 when it emerged the head of the Irish Catholic Church, Cardinal Sean Brady, was present at meetings in 1975 where children signed vows of silence over complaints against a paedophile priest, Fr Brendan Smyth.
I was a high school student in Boston, MA when news of the Catholic sex abuse scandal in that city broke. Recent news is igniting those memories for me. Bostonians watched as Cardinal Law was given a cushy position in the Vatican by the previous pope after protecting priests who abused their parishioners. Cardinal Sean Brady, who heads the Irish church, was not even asked to resign in the Pope’s letter. Will any real action be taken against this Cardinal who also covered up abuse?
Sex abuse scandals are breaking in many other countries as well. There is an undeniable pattern among Catholic Church officials of protecting priests who use their positions of spiritual and moral authority to abuse those who look to them for guidance. What will it take for this incredibly church to confront its own culture of abuse?