Vatican Explains Visit to Respond to Ireland Abuse

1st Phase Expected to End by Easter

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 12, 2010 ( At the start of the apostolic visitation called to respond to sexual abuse by clergy in Ireland, the Vatican is clarifying the purpose and goals of the visit.

A press release today explained the context of the visitation as well as the objectives shared by the visitators. The first stage of the visit is expected to be completed by Easter 2011.

«The visitation will identify whether the mutual relationship of the various components of the local Church, seminaries and religious communities is now in place, in order to sustain them on the path of profound spiritual renewal already being pursued by the Church in Ireland,» the statement explained. «It also has the goal of verifying the effectiveness of the present processes used in responding to cases of abuse and of the current forms of assistance provided to the victims.»

The Vatican clarified that the visitation is not an investigation into individual abuse cases nor a «trial to judge past events.» Nor in any way will it interfere with local civil authorities in their investigations and processes.

Though the visitators are not expected to receive allegations of new or old cases of abuse, the Vatican added, «if any were to arise, such allegations must be reported to the respective ordinaries or major superiors who have the duty to inform the competent civil and ecclesiastical authorities, in conformity with the current civil and ecclesiastical laws.»

The visitators will, however, be available «to meet with those who have been deeply wounded by abuse and who wish to be met and heard, beginning with the victims themselves and their families,» the Vatican statement explained.

It continued, «They will be received in the same fatherly manner in which the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has on several occasions greeted and listened to those who have suffered the terrible crime of abuse.»


The Vatican statement noted that the visitators will monitor the functioning and implementation of 2009 guidelines on safeguarding children, looking to see if there are ways in which these directives need to be improved.

The statement contained practical directives for contacting the visitators so that confidentiality will be protected.

It went on to mention the visitation to Irish seminaries.

«The visitator, [Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York], will examine all aspects of priestly formation,» the Vatican noted. «He, or his assistants, will conduct private interviews with all staff members, all seminarians and, where applicable, other parties normally involved in the life of the seminary. It is not his task to meet with victims of abuse who, as noted above, may be instead received by the visitators of the four metropolitan archdioceses.»

As well, the statement mentioned the visitation to religious houses.

The statement explained: «The first phase of this visitation will consist in responding to a questionnaire which seeks information regarding the involvement of institutes in cases of abuse, the responses offered to victims, and the compliance of the institute with the protocols contained in Safeguarding Children, Standards and Guidance Document for the Catholic Church in Ireland.

«The questionnaire also seeks to ascertain how each community is dealing with the revelations and their consequences. Additionally it asks what is being done, in the light of past experiences, to assist members in their primary mission of radically witnessing to Christ’s presence in the world.»

The visitators will submit their reports to the Vatican’s congregation for consecrated life, which will «determine what further steps should be taken to contribute to a revitalization of consecrated life in Ireland.»


The Vatican informed that interviews with the visitators should not be expected during the first phase of the visitation, given «the delicate nature of the subject matter and out of respect for persons involved.»

«When the visitation is complete,» the statement concluded, «the Holy See, after reviewing all the material submitted by the visitators and offering suggestions for the spiritual renewal of the archdioceses, seminaries and religious houses, will issue a comprehensive summary of the results of the visitation.»

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