By Brady P. McLoughlin
The Popes Letter
On the 19th of March Pope Benedict sent a letter to be read at mass in every parish in Ireland. This letter was in response to the issues surrounding the abuse of children by members of the clergy.
We all know of the horrendous sins that were carried out on young defenceless boys and girls for decades. We now know of how heinously these crimes were covered up by church authorities.
Rumours were swept under rugs; “troubled” priests were moved from one diocese to the next to be allowed reoffend. No need for a history lesson there. After a recent convergence of Irish bishops in Rome in the days before lent the pope has now decided to publically lay out his thoughts and feelings on the matter. How have the Irish public reacted?
It’s clear the wounds still run deep in the conscious of the Irish public. As the letter was read out loud by parish priests that Sunday the 20th many people stood up and left as a sign of protest. I guess they missed the part where Pope Benedict talks of the wounds suffered by Jesus Christ to be the saviour of the Christian faith.
Well I am a practising catholic so I did want to know what the pope had to say and when it came to writing this piece I felt I owed it to the little old man in Rome to read his thoughts. One person’s view I was keen to find out was from our college chaplain Fr Joe Jones in the interfaith centre in DCU. (That’s the place with the free tea for you student heathens)
Fr Joe entered the seminary nearly thirty years ago and has worked in several parishes around Dublin. He also does allot of work with the disabled and is on a 3 year contract to be the keeper of the faith in DCU.
Joe felt some of the popes choice of words was quite brave but also acknowledged that for some people it wouldn’t be enough. Joe was warmed to hear the pope say he was truly sorry for what had taken place in Ireland by the clergy and also suggested that people of faith take a look at the pope’s prayer for those that have suffered.
Mass is celebrated every weekday at one p.m. in the interfaith centre and I myself regularly attend and take part in readings. I’m sorry to say my appearances don’t lower the average age all that much as the majority of worshippers are elderly local residents. From knowing these people to see it was easy to ask after mass how they felt about the pope’s letter.
Tom from Shanowen Park felt that the words from the pope to the people who still go to mass in Ireland was long overdue and he hoped that it will start a new chapter and that people may start returning to worship more.
Mary from Collins Avenue admitted that her main concern was still for those that had suffered and not for anything the pope had to say. Others again said they were happy that the pope was thinking of the people of Ireland that had suffered greatly.
It’s fair to say the reaction from the general public has been mixed and unsurprisingly the most critical voices of the letter have been survivors of abuse and the group that represent them. Maeve Lewis, executive director of One in Four said “While we welcome the pope’s direction that the church leadership co-operate with the civil authorities in relation to sexual abuse…we feel the letter falls far short of addressing the concerns of the victims.”
One in four is a charity set up in the 90s by Colm O’Gorman, a victim of Fr Sean fortune and a major campaigner for victim’s rights. Mr O Gorman was quick to appear on the news and in the papers.
Writing for the independent he accuses the letter of merely been an act to restore some credibility to the church. He echoed the sentiments of many survivors and lay people by saying, “There was no acceptance of responsibility for the now-established cover up, no plan to ensure that children will be properly protected around the global church, and no assurance that those who rape and abuse will be reported to the civil authorities.”
Dublin abuse victim Marie Collins said, “The pope and Irish hierarchy still see everything through the eyes of canon law and church law. That’s what’s disappointing about it.”
One person you just know will have to stick her two-cents in when it come to matters of the pope and Ireland is the singer Sinead O’Connor. Sinead of course once made a TV appearance on the hugely popular American TV show Saturday night live in 1992 and tore up a picture of the then pope john Paul II.
Sinead has just written a piece for the Washington post about Ireland’s reaction to the letter. It is almost a simplified history lesson but then it was aimed at an American audience, “I ask Americans to understand why an Irish Catholic woman who survived child abuse would want to rip up the pope’s picture. And whether Irish Catholics, because we daren’t say we deserve better, should be treated as though we deserve less.”
No Sinead didn’t appreciate the popes letter as many people haven’t, yes the pope has said sorry but the question still remains when will he admit the bishops carried out a cover up and when will those responsible be held accountable?