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The apology Benedict should have given


Since the Irish abuse issue became a national scandal that has rocked the local Church, similar abuse cases have been reported in other European countries notably Germany and the Pope's own former archdiocese of Munich, Spain, Austria and Switzerland. These follow on from continuing scandals in Australia, the United States, Great Britain, Mexico and Brazil. Sexual abuse in the Church is now at last being seen as a worldwide phenomenon.

Pope Benedict's letter to the Irish Church released this weekend is indeed a watershed in the way the Church speaks on abuse committed by priests and religious. It is a deeply personal document and his condemnation of abuse, compassion for the victims and criticisms of bishops is stated with sincerity and some passion.

Victim advocacy groups in Ireland and Australia remain dissatisfied. They point out that while the Pope's letter does criticise the Irish bishops for their conduct, the Pope's letter fails to address the errors made by himself and Vatican officials. It is this failure to address these issues that leads for a call for significant structural change in the Church.

Could I humbly suggest that the Pope's letter would have been better received, not just in Ireland but throughout the world, if he had added a few extra paragraphs. Let me be his ghost writer.

On the role of the papacy and Vatican personnel in this scandal

I am deeply sorry for my part in this scandal and that of other Vatican officials.

I'm sorry that we often failed to investigate complaints and accused the media of intentionally manipulating statistics with a desire to discredit the Church. I've instructed all Vatican officials, especially the Secretary of State, Cardinal Bertone, to desist from making such statements.

I'm sorry that the instruction that I issued in 2001 when head of the Congregation of Doctrine of the Faith calling for absolute confidentiality in sexual abuse cases was interpreted by some bishops as meaning they should not inform civil authorities. This was not the intention.

I know many of you will be concerned with recent allegations that I was aware that Peter Hullerman, a convicted sex offender, was allowed to continue in the ministry while I was the Archbishop of Munich. I will fully cooperate with any enquiry into this matter and I urge all bishops throughout the world to similarly cooperate with civil authorities and make available all relevant documents.

I'm sorry that the papal nuncio used the excuse of diplomatic protocol to avoid giving evidence at the Irish government enquiries. I have ordered him to cooperate fully with future government requests.

I'm calling on all bishops to set up completely independent panels to supervise the handling of abuse cases in each diocese and to ensure that victims and their families are represented on these panels.I will ask bishops and heads of religious orders to be bound by the recommendations of these panels.

I ask bishops to desist from impugning the motives of support groups especially charges that they are out to profit from a 'victim's industry'.

John Paul II was a great pope in many ways but in this area he had some serious failings. I'm sorry in particular that he failed to act on the numerous complaints against Marcial Maciel the founder of the Legionaries of Christ and continued to include him in his entourage during papal tours. I did act on this matter when I became pope and removed Maciel from any public ministry. Subsequent additional revelations of Maciel's misconduct show nothing is gained from cover-ups.

I regret that when Boston Archbishop Bernard Law was forced to resign, John Paul gave him a major post in Rome in charge of the Basilica of Mary Major and allowed him to keep his positions on Vatican committees. I have asked Bernard Law to be honest about his role in the Boston scandals and if necessary stand down from his current positions.

I do not think celibacy is the key issue that brought about these scandals in that people do not commit these offences just because they are celibate. Some argue though that an all male celibate culture in a closed hierarchical environment has led to a lack of insight into the problem and hence poor responses. I will set up an enquiry to examine ways the Church can be more inclusive of laypeople, especially women, in its government and committees.

Elsewhere in this letter I invited you to devote your Friday penances for a period of one year between now and Easter 2011, to this issue. I asked you to offer up your fasting, your prayer, your reading of Scripture and your works of mercy in order to obtain the grace of healing and renewal for the Church in Ireland . I encouraged you to discover anew the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to avail yourselves more frequently of the transforming power of its grace. I also urged that particular attention should be given to Eucharistic adoration

I and my staff will do likewise. I am confident that this programme will lead to a rebirth not only of the Church in Ireland but the whole Church in the fullness of God's own truth, for the truth will set us free.


Garry Eastman is the founder and executive chairman of John Garratt Publishing which published Bishop Geoffrey Robinson'sConfronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church.


Topic tags: garry eastman, pope benedict, letter, apology, abuse, ireland, church, priests, religious



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Existing comments

Articulate, informed, honest, passionate, respectful, and utterly refreshing. Well-played, Mr Eastman.

Brian Doyle | 23 March 2010  

Congrats Gary Eastman.Your ghost writing is a perfect example of how the systemic deficiencies of the Church might begin to be corrected. The Pope's pontificating style is derived from the very culture that needs changing. Only by opening the culture to broader wisdom will we do better. Such an aggiornamento was recommended by all those who responded to John Paul1's plea for help to rethink the exercise of the papacy (c.f Ut Unum Sint) The combined exoperience and wisdom of ordained and not-ordained on the matter of sexual abuse, especially by clergy, should hasve been tapped deeply before the epistle to the Irish was composed and delivered.Maybe next time???????

Garry Everett | 23 March 2010  

Poor old Ireland!

As if it was the only country in which Catholic clergy and religious were not living up to the ideals and obligations of their vocation. Here was an opportunity, over Ireland's broken limbs, to admit to the contagion of an insidious disease, whatever its causes, within the Catholic church worldwide.

Whether the Pope has acted on his own, or with input from Vstican officials or fellows bishops, where is the admission that the church is made up of fallible human beings, dare I say, sinners? And where is the promise that we are in the process of making a searching and fearless moral inventory of our clergy and religious? Where is the commitment that where we find wrongdoing we will promptly admit it and try to make amends as best we can and soon as possible?

Uncle Pat | 23 March 2010  

Like so much that could have been allowed to happen after Vatican 2 ... if only! Well done Mr Eastman. I wonder if anyone out there is listening?

Eugene | 23 March 2010  

Excellent letter, but I do have issues with the end about Eucharistic Adoration. I would have thought more emphasis on the Eucharist itself would have been more opportune. Eucharistic Adoration is Pre-Vatican II, and is this really necessary?

Peter M | 23 March 2010  

Well done Garry.

Graham English | 23 March 2010  

In recounting sexual abuse cases across the world, it seems that the pleas for help from the Superiors of African convents for the protection of their young nuns from clergy abuse,have been forgotten. The abuse of power in these cases is part of the pattern of systemic abuse, and the attempts to silence the superiors, are part of the same collusion as in the abuse of minors.

Pauline Small | 23 March 2010  

I wholeheartedly concur with your addition/adjustment of Pope Benedict's letter.

Until something akin to this is done, dissatisfaction will remain and the situation will remain in headlines. These allegations will continue in other countries - and it will be girls as well as boys. Being straightforward might curtail the terrible damage done to the church.

Kathleen Anderson | 01 April 2010  

"I ask bishops to desist from impugning the motives of support groups especially charges that they are out to profit from a 'victim's industry'."

Unfortunately some bishops are accurate when they make this description of some sectors of support groups. Included in that 'victims industry' are the many lawyers and service providers who gain immensely from some areas of this victim victimizing industry. An industry which is predominantly Catholic and I feel sure the Benedict if he were this aware would make a particular reference to as that is the area responsible for the increasing suicide rate. ref: http://www.molestedcatholics.com/bishop-from-hell?ref=EKST

The other part Catholics appear to keep forgetting is the return to health, wealth, prosperity and social inclusion for the victims/survivors. Things like support programs, housing assistance and the basic needs it takes to get someone back on their feet after a lifetime of ostracism and rejection.

Other than those few omissions it reads rather well. It is within the grasp of the vast majority of the population so it should not be too difficult for most.

JohnB | 01 July 2010  

Well-written. If only the Church hierarchy could see this approach as a way forward, we might see some open wounds begin to heal.

Barbara | 14 October 2010  

... this guy is divorced and writes about other peoples problems? ... Not that honest, refreshing, probably passionate about turning dollar over a book!

Ian james | 28 February 2012  

If you can't do anything about it, forget it! ... defamatory and derogatory remarks against the Church will not assist in the mission to help people. Lets help not hinder.

Ian james | 05 April 2012  

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