BY SARAH DELANEY
VATICAN representatives have completed the first phase of an investigation of major Catholic institutions in Ireland ordered by Pope Benedict XVI to examine the response of Irish Church authorities to the clerical sex abuse scandal.
A statement from the Vatican said that apostolic visitators to four metropolitan dioceses, as well as seminaries and religious institutes, had turned over their reports to the relevant Vatican agencies. In the coming months, the statement said, bishops and leaders of religious orders will receive notices on what they should be doing for the spiritual renewal of the Irish Church.
The visitation was announced by Pope Benedict in March 2010 in a pastoral letter to Irish Catholics after an independent report showed widespread and historic abuse of minors by Church figures. The report accused Church authorities of covering up and enabling a “culture of secrecy” regarding the problem.
The visitation began in November and continued through the spring of 2011. The Vatican said that no further visitations to dioceses and seminaries were planned but that there may be additional visits to some religious communities. It also said that by early 2012 the Vatican would publish a synthesis of the results of the visitation, as well as future prospects “with a view to the nationwide mission” announced by the Pope in his letter.
In that letter, the Pope specifically said the shame and betrayal justly felt by Irish Catholics was not only about sex abuse of minors by priests but also at “the way Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them”. The bishops’ response was “often inadequate”, and involved “serious mistakes”, he said.
He called for a number of measures that mostly dealt with repentance and the spiritual renewal of the Church in Ireland.
The visitations had examined specifically whether current procedures put in place to avoid future incidents of abuse and to deal with accusations were effective and whether victims were receiving the assistance the Church had promised.
The announcement came just days after Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin expressed frustration with the Vatican for delaying the release of the findings of the report. He said that he was “impatient to learn about the path that the apostolic visitation will set out for renewal for the Irish Church so that our renewal will move forward decisively”.