Irish Independent published letter ‘A new Church’ by the Catholic Communications Office
Your editorial of August 8, “Walking away from the church”, was based on the findings of the WIN-Gallup “Global religiosity index” which ranked Ireland 44th out of the 57 countries surveyed. But the term “religiosity” is not a synonym for Catholicity.
From the start, your editorial position incorrectly assumed that this survey was a poll only of members of the Catholic Church, which it was not, and as a consequence it evolved into an intemperate attack on that institution.
The reader was immediately informed that “the large drop over the past seven years in the proportion of Irish people describing themselves as religious is almost certainly part of the fallout from the Catholic hierarchy’s disastrous mishandling of the clerical child sex abuse scandal”. Is this factually correct or simply an editorial assumption?
What is true is that there has been church failure, and Cardinal Sean Brady, as recently as last December, reiterated his “deep sorrow to all those who were abused as children, their families and all people who feel rightly outraged and let down by the Catholic Church’s failure of moral leadership and accountability”.
Your editorial also thundered: “What has been the response of the church authorities to this accelerating drift away from organised religion?” Further, in a strong criticism of this year’s apostolic visitation report into Irish dioceses and religious congregations, we are informed that “the Vatican seems to believe that there is nothing wrong with the Irish Catholic Church”. This is an alarming inaccuracy for a national newspaper.
When Pope Benedict XVI met the Irish bishops in October 2006, he addressed child abuse by clergy and its consequences by saying: “The wounds caused by such acts run deep, and it is an urgent task to rebuild confidence and trust where these have been damaged.
“In your continuing efforts to deal effectively with this problem, it is important to establish the truth of what happened in the past. To take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again. To ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected and, above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes.
“In this way, the church in Ireland will grow stronger and be ever more capable of giving witness to the redemptive power of the Cross of Christ.”
These are not the words of someone who is without concern, and Pope Benedict’s pontificate has been characterised by action in the area of child protection.
To further assist the renewal of the church in Ireland, and in the aftermath of the Ryan and Murphy reports in 2009, Pope Benedict again met the Irish bishops, in February 2010, to further analyse the failings of the church concerning child abuse.
In March of the same year the Pope published his well-received pastoral letter to the Catholics of Ireland. This historic publication specifically addressed survivors of abuse and the wider church community.
A number of important, concrete initiatives were highlighted in the pastoral letter, including the announcement of the apostolic visitation.
Your editorial correctly refers to the need for “genuine contrition for the wrongs done to innocent children by Catholic priests and religious”, and this has been undertaken for some time by Irish bishops, priests and religious.
During this year’s 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Ireland, Pope Benedict’s personal envoy, the Papal Legate Cardinal Marc Ouellet, met Irish survivors of abuse and said: “Pope Benedict XVI asked me … that I would come to Lough Derg and ask God’s forgiveness for the times clerics have sexually abused children, not only in Ireland but anywhere in the church.”
Regarding your editorial’s concern for the future of the Catholic Church, I refer to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s response to this poll when he said: “The forthcoming Year of Faith announced by His Holiness Pope Benedict gets under way in October and provides the Irish church with another opportunity, just months after the moment of renewal that was the International Eucharistic Congress, to contribute to a renewed conversion to the Lord Jesus and to the rediscovery of faith.”
Director, Catholic Communications Office, Irish Bishops’ Conference,
Maynooth, Co Kildare