Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bishops’ resignations continue in Ireland


There are now seven bishops who have handed in their resignations in Ireland. Seamus Hegarty, the Bishop of Derry, has left his post, bringing the number of Catholic dioceses in Ireland awaiting a leader, to seven. The paedophilia scandal has engulfed the national Church like a cyclone, and now, more than a quarter of Ireland’s dioceses are waiting for the Vatican to appoint new bishops.
The "zero tolerance" rule imposed by Benedict XVI came down like an ax in areas of the episcopate, which for years had covered up cases of child abuse and covered for paedophile priests. Last summer, the sensational news emerged, according to which Benedict XVI was supposedly close to dismissing all of the Irish bishops to rebuild, from scratch, a church which no longer had credibility. This did not happen, but the fact that seven dioceses are still without a new bishop shows that the Irish Church is in “reset” mode.

Recently, “L’Osservatore Romano”, the Holy See’s newspaper, explained what the causes of this serious phenomenon are, and outlined the position of the Holy See with regard to sexual abuse by clergy. Referring to the amount of cases of abuse of minors by clerics, the Vatican newspaper pointed out that "most of the episodes occurred several decades ago." At that time, - “L’Osservatore Romano” added,  referring in particular to the ‘60s and ‘70s - "social influences worsened the vulnerable state of some priests, whose preparation was inadequate for a life to be spent in accordance with the vow of celibacy." Those candidates to the priesthood, which later became abusers, "certainly could not have been detected early on through psychological tests or by examination of their cultural development, nor by analysing their vocational experiences." Instead, "the growth of the level of human formation occurred over the years spent in the seminary - to make young people more aware of the authenticity of their vocation in the priesthood - was the major cause of the decrease in the number of acts of sexual abuse against children by men."
Throughout the Catholic world, "around the mid ‘80s, the reaction of bishops, faced with evidence that the news confirmed the abuse, was to focus on providing assistance to men who were guilty of acts of abuse. Despite the developments of the mid ‘90s onwards, a comprehensive programme for the victims, their families, and many others who had been affected as a result of sexual abuse, the policies followed by diocesan structures have not proven entirely effective. However, the decrease in cases of sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy, happened much faster than what was recorded in the wider social sphere."
Moreover, the crisis caused by the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy has roots in the historical context in which such crimes were committed. There are reasonable grounds to hope that what is happening now could actually be useful to prevent the recurrence of sexual abuse against children by priests. The impossibility of superiors foreseeing deviant sexual behaviour, consequently leads to the creation of programmes that make relational settings safer. The Catholic Church’s “zero tolerance” rule applies to any religious person who commits child sexual abuse. Such a decision not only protects children, but also reassures the tens of thousands of priests who have suffered on account of this crisis, while every day they commit to their ministry with honour and personal sacrifice.

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