VATICAN CITY, MAY 31, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The apostolic visitation for Ireland, which responds to the scandal of sexual abuse that has plagued the Church there for more than a year, will begin in the fall, the Vatican is reporting.
A communiqué published today by the Vatican press office revealed the details of the visitation, which Benedict XVI first announced in his March letter to the Catholics of Ireland. He said the goal of the visitation would be to “assist the local Church on her path of renewal.”
An apostolic visitation is a formal but personal process, initiated by the Holy See, to look into the welfare of a particular aspect of the Church. The visitation will extend to some dioceses, seminaries and houses of religious.
In today’s communiqué, the Vatican said that the visitation intends to aid the Church in Ireland as it seeks to “respond adequately to the situation caused by the tragic cases of abuse perpetrated by priests and religious upon minors. It is also intended to contribute to the desired spiritual and moral renewal that is already being vigorously pursued by the Church in Ireland.”
“The Apostolic Visitors will set out to explore more deeply questions concerning the handling of cases of abuse and the assistance owed to the victims,” the note added. “They will monitor the effectiveness of and seek possible improvements to the current procedures for preventing abuse, taking as their points of reference the Pontifical Motu Proprio ‘Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela’ and the norms contained in Safeguarding Children: Standards and Guidance Document for the Catholic Church in Ireland, commissioned and produced by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church.”
Four archdioceses will receive a visitor: Armagh, Dublin, Cashel and Emly, and Tuam. The visitation will the be extended to some dioceses, the communique revealed.
The visitors named for each archdiocese include: Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, retired archbishop of Westminster, for the Archdiocese of Armagh; Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, for the Archdiocese of Dublin; Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto, for the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly; Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, for the Archdiocese of Tuam.
The Congregation for Catholic Education will coordinate the visitation of the Irish seminaries, including the Pontifical Irish College in Rome. The scope of the visitation will be that of all aspects of priestly formation, and will be conducted by Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York.
The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life will organize the visitation of religious houses, and it will do so in two phases. The first phase will be in the form of a survey sent to the superiors of all religious houses, and the second phase will be the actual visitation.
The visitors for the second phase will be Redemptorist Father Joseph Tobin and Jesuit Father Gero McLaughlin for institutes of men; Sister Sharon Holland of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and Sister Mairin McDonagh of the Religious of Jesus and Mary for institutes of women.
The communiqués added that Benedict XVI “invites all the members of the Irish Catholic community to support this fraternal initiative with their prayers.”
He also expressed his wish that the visitation be “an occasion of renewed fervor in the Christian life.”
Ryan and Murphy
The Holy Father has taken an unprecedented role in helping the Church in Ireland deal with the widespread crisis.
Last June, the Pope called for a meeting with Cardinal Sean Brady, president of the Irish episcopal conference, and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, to discuss the situation of the Church in Ireland following the May 20, 2009, release of a 2,600-page report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, known as the Ryan report.
Archbishop Martin affirmed at the time that the Pontiff was “visibly upset” when he was presented with the details contained of the report, which detailed widespread child abuse in Catholic schools throughout the country.
On Nov. 26, the Murphy Commission Report was published, which provided details of abuse cases in the Dublin Archdiocese from 1975 to 2004 and the response of Church and state authorities to these accusations.
Benedict XVI called for another meeting with Cardinal Brady and Archbishop Martin in December. After his December meeting, he called all the acting Irish prelates to Rome in February for a two-day summit with himself and high-ranking members of the Curia.
In March, the Pope released a letter to the Catholics of Ireland, in which he acknowledged that “grave errors of judgment were made and failures of leadership occurred.” He also encouraged the faithful to “persevere” along the path of “profound renewal.”
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On ZENIT’s Web page:
Full text of Vatican statement: www.zenit.org/article-29428?l=english