The Wall Street Journal: Pope Tells Clergy: Face Crisis

The Wall Street Journal

Pope tells clergy: Face crisis

FEBRUARY 17, 2010

Benedict XVI asks Irish bishops to be courageous; fails to address demand for resignations

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI asked Irish clergy to be courageous in confronting the pedophile-priest scandal that has rocked the church, but took no action on victims’ demands that he force bishops to resign, the Vatican said Tuesday.

The Vatican statement came as the pope and 24 Irish bishops ended an extraordinary meeting on the crisis meant to restore the trust of Irish Catholics shaken by revelations of decades of clergy sex abuse and cover-up.

Cardinal Sean Brady, archbishop of Armagh and primate of all Ireland, listens to questions during a news conference on Tuesday at the Vatican, following meetings between Ireland’s bishops and Pope Benedict XVI. The victims of abuse had said the talks would be a failure unless the pope sought the resignations of those who played a role in cover-ups.

 A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said following the summit that the pope “shares the outrage” over the abuse, and that he had “already expressed profound regret.” Asked if the issue of resignations came up, Rev. Lombardi said “it was not addressed.” The spokesman also defended the pope’s representative in Ireland for refusing to testify to lawmakers there about covers-up by church hierarchy.

A Vatican statement said the pope called the sexual abuse of children “a heinous crime” and a “grave sin which offends God.” Irish bishops scheduled a news conference for later Tuesday before they head back to Ireland ahead of Ash Wednesday.

During the two-day summit behind closed doors at the Vatican, anger flared in Ireland over the refusal of papal envoy Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza to appear in the Irish parliament. The archbishop, who participated in the summit, told lawmakers in a letter published Monday that he wouldn’t answer questions from the foreign-affairs committee.

“I wish to inform that it is not the practice of the Holy See that apostolic nuncios appear before parliamentary commissions,” the archbishop wrote in the Feb. 12 letter.

Archibishop Leanza has faced heavy criticism in Ireland for ignoring letters from two state-ordered investigations into how the church suppressed reports of child abuse by parish priests and in Catholic-run residences for poor children.

Rev. Lombardi said Archbishop Leanza, as a diplomat, “has to respond to rules” about diplomatic privilege. “If this is not part of his duty, you can’t expect him” to testify, the Vatican spokesman told an improvised news conference minutes after the summit ended.

Irish lawmaker Alan Shatter expressed dismay over Archbishop Leanza’s refusal, saying that “it is acknowledged in Rome that members of the clergy in Ireland are guilty of abominable sexual abuse of children.”

Rev. Lombardi said the pope would send Irish faithful a letter about the crisis during Lent. That liturgical period of penitence begins on Wednesday with the tradition of distributing ashes to the faithful and ends on Easter Sunday, April 4.

“While realizing that the current painful situation will not be resolved quickly, he challenged the bishops to address the problems of the past with determination and resolve, and to face the present crisis with honesty and courage,” said a Vatican statement read to journalists by Rev. Lombardi.

Victims had said the talks would be a failure unless the pope demanded the resignations of bishops who had a role in concealing wrongdoing. They demand the pope accept in full the findings of the Irish investigations, which some church officials in Ireland have called unfair.

In their meeting with the pope, “the bishops spoke frankly of their sense of pain and anger, betrayal, scandal and shame expressed to them on numerous occasions by those who had been abused,” the Vatican statement said.

Rev. Lombardi indicated there was no mention of any plans for the pope to meet with Irish victims. The summit was “only a step in long process” in healing, he said.


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