By Jesús Colina
ROME, FEB. 16, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The president of the Irish episcopal conference says the Church in his nation can regain credibility in the aftermath of a widespread sexual abuse scandal. But, he says, it will take time and humiliation.
Cardinal Sean Brady, archbishop of Armagh and primate of All Ireland, is returning to his country after two days of meetings with Benedict XVI, his fellow Irish bishops, and representatives of the Roman Curia.
The cardinal said today to journalists gathered at the Vatican Radio offices that he’s convinced the Church can recover.
The Pope called all of the acting Irish bishops to join him in Rome, after having already met Dec. 11 with Cardinal Brady, and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin. The meetings have been to discuss the Murphy Commission Report, which details abuse cases in the Dublin Archdiocese from 1975 to 2004. That report was published last November and it followed another, the Ryan report, which was released last May and detailed child abuse in Catholic schools throughout the country.
Cardinal Brady said that at the beginning of the meeting Monday, each of the 24 Irish diocesan bishops addressed those gathered.
In statements to ZENIT, the cardinal disclosed that in his address, he informed the bishops and the Pope on the latest events of the Church in Ireland — which has also seen positive developments, such as advances in the issue of disarmament — but above all he dedicated time to his experience after having listened to persons affected by the abuse.
Cardinal Brady recounted his “own personal story of the impact of listening to the various people we have met in the last six weeks. Last Thursday, I met 70 parishioners and they told me about their shock and shame and they want to know how it could have happened.”
The bishops’ president was accompanied by four other prelates in his meeting with the press.
Cardinal Brady said victims and other people have told them that “humiliation” is needed for the Church to recover credibility. He affirmed the Church will begin a particular period of penance with this Lent.
The cardinal acknowledged that he cannot foresee how long the process of recovery will take.
“But I can say,” he said, speaking in Italian, “that we will make every possible effort to heal this wound and also with the help of God we will succeed. Collaborating with the state and with all the faithful who are helping us in this service. It is very important for the future of the Church, because the boys and youths are the future of the Church. And we must be sure that they are sure.”
Cardinal Brady said the Pope presented to the bishops a draft of the letter he has written to the Irish people, scheduled to be published this Lent. The bishops were asked to make their contributions to the Holy Father’s text.
This meeting, he continued, was not focused on concrete steps. Regarding the concrete steps the Church in Ireland must take, there will be a plenary assembly of the episcopate within three weeks, the cardinal reported.
The Armagh archbishop acknowledged the errors and faults of the pastors of Ireland when it came to addressing the cases of sexual abuses in their dioceses, and he explained that in this connection no responsibility can be attributed to the Holy See, as the clerics and religious depended on their local superiors.
The cardinal said in his statements to ZENIT that the Holy Father did make some suggestions for the governance of the Church.
“We need greater collaboration between the dioceses and the religious, between lay faithful and ordained,” Cardinal Brady said, “and before inventing new structures we need to use at the maximum effect the structures that do exist, such as parish pastoral councils, diocesan councils. … But we need to prepare the people to realize that by baptism they too are co-responsible with the ordained people for the future of the Church.”
The journalists asked the cardinal if the Pope would meet with Irish victims abused by priests. “I do not know,” he answered. “It depends, if he comes to Ireland … But he is going to England and Scotland later this year. We know he has met victims in the past in Australia, in the United States, and that gives us hope that, if he comes to Ireland, he will meet more victims.”
Cardinal Brady stressed the importance of a renewal of faith in the Church in Ireland, saying the crisis of sexual abuse is also due to the crisis of faith in Ireland, in particular, among its priests.
And what does renewal of the faith mean? According to the cardinal, it means renewal of “prayer, of charity.”
“We must begin this renewal tomorrow,” he said, “with the beginning of Lent.”