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Bishop of Limerick says Catholic Church must acknowledge 'dark' aspects of its history

Bishop Brendan Leahy made his comments ahead of the Pope’s visit to Ireland later this month.

Bishop Brendan Leahy
Bishop Brendan Leahy
Image: Laura Hutton via RollingNews.ie

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH in Ireland needs to acknowledge the dark aspects of its history, the Bishop of Limerick has said.

Bishop Brendan Leahy said that the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland is a crossroads moment for the Church to acknowledge our past, good and bad.

Pope Francis will be in Ireland for two days, 25 and 26 August, as part of the World Meeting of Families event.

Bishop Brendan Leahy made his comments during his Feast of the Assumption of Mary homily at Mass Rock in Killeddy, Co Limerick, following Mass earlier at Ashford Church.

Bishop Leahy said that it is good for us to recall with a grateful heart just how much the Church contributed to Irish society.

However, he said that “we need to acknowledge the dark aspects of our Church’s history that have come to light especially in recent decades”, which he said includes:

A clericalism that ended up confusing power and ministry, the sexual abuse of minors by clergy and religious that did untold life-long damage to the victims, the violent and repressive treatment by church representatives of young people sent to the State’s reformatory institutions, the dark experience of vulnerable women in places meant to be residences of refuge.

He added that “sadly, as had been highlighted, cover-up, wilful or otherwise, and mismanagement compounded the damage, adding to our shame”.

“We know that not every bishop or priest or sister or brother or layperson engaged in church circles was bad. And we know that not everyone was good,” Bishop Leahy said.

“Those of us of a certain age, however, know many, many who were very kind, caring and helpful. But to acknowledge with gratitude the good can never eclipse recognition of sin, criminality and evil.

In some way, everyone in the church bears the shame of these dark aspects of our history. Few of us can throw stones as if we ourselves were not somehow associated.

Young people

Addressing young people, Bishop Leahy said their “difficulty with finding a connection with the Church isn’t their fault”.

He added that young people are needed to “help Church-attending members to find the way forward on how to reconnect youth cultures and Church”.

“Might this visit of Pope Francis be a moment when young people might look again at what the Church really has to offer? We need you because you are part of our access to what God is saying to the Church today. We need you to help us find the ways forwards the future that God has marked out for us all.”

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