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Apostolic visitation is self-serving, window-dressing nonsense

Abuse survivor and children’s rights campaigner Andrew Madden says to engage with the process would be to give it credibility.

Andrew Madden Author of Altar Boy, a Story of Life After Abuse. Spent over 15 years campaigning for the safety, welfare, and protection of children and was the first person in Ireland to go public about clerical child sexual abuse in 1995

IN MAY OF this year, details were released from the Vatican about the Apostolic Visitation to Ireland of various Catholic Cardinals and Archbishops in response to the publication of the Murphy Report – and indeed the Ryan and Ferns Reports previously.
The reasons for this Visitation are given as:

1. To offer assistance to the Bishops, clergy, religious and lay faithful as they seek to respond adequately to the situation caused by the tragic cases of abuse perpetrated by priests and religious upon minors.

I don’t know what the Vatican means by ‘respond adequately to the situation caused by the tragic cases of abuse’ – what is ‘the situation caused’ as they see it?

2. To contribute to the desired spiritual and moral renewal that is already being vigorously pursued by the Church in Ireland.

I have no confidence in the moral renewal of a Church whose leaders only tell the truth about their response to the sexual abuse of children by priests when they are hauled in front of statutory inquiries and whose leaders fail to take responsibility for their actions or inactions.

3. To explore more deeply questions concerning the handling of cases of abuse and the assistance owed to the victims.

‘Explore more deeply questions concerning the handling of cases of abuse’? That is typical of the spin the Bishops like to put on the Murphy Report. There are no questions. They have been asked and answered at the Commission of Investigation and the ultimate finding was one of bishops covering up for priests abusing children in order to protect the Church.

4. To monitor the effectiveness of and seek possible improvements to the current procedures for preventing abuse.

I have no trust in a Church monitoring the effectiveness of child protection measures, when its own leadership is littered with Bishops who failed to protect children from priests known to the Church to be a danger and who still fail to take responsibility for that failure.

By having this Apostolic Visitation, the Vatican is trying to maintain the pretence that the sexual abuse of children by priests was an Irish problem. But it wasn’t Irish bishops who were covering up the sexual abuse of children by priests in Dioceses throughout the United States and in Europe. The Philadelphia Report described the Catholic Church as having employed well-orchestrated strategies for decades and in all parts of the United States to keep abusing priests in ministry, while minimising the risk of scandal or legal liability.

I also feel that there has been ample opportunity for Catholic Bishops to understand what was expected of them in response to publication of the Murphy Report – on all occasions the views of victims have been ignored.

Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan refused a request for a meeting in December 2009, while Bishops Eamon Walshe and Raymond Field eventually offered their resignations, but apparently launched a very successful campaign behind the scenes to ensure they were not accepted by Pope Benedict.

Pope Benedict himself has not even acknowledged the letter sent by Marie Collins, Maeve Lewis (OneInFour) and myself at the time the Irish bishops were meeting him earlier this year.

Cardinal Brady ignored victims’ requests for him to stand aside, after it was revealed that he had participated in a process of cover up for Fr Brendan Smyth in 1975, who was left free to carry on sexually abusing children for another 18 years.

This Apostolic Visitation is more about Catholic Bishops giving the impression of listening to what victims have to say as opposed to actually acting on our requests. To engage with this process is to mistakenly give it credibility and I do not intend to do that.

The Apostolic Visitation is nothing more than self-serving window-dressing nonsense.

This post first appeared on Andrew Madden’s blog. Reprinted in full with permission.

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About the author:

Andrew Madden  / Author of Altar Boy, a Story of Life After Abuse. Spent over 15 years campaigning for the safety, welfare, and protection of children and was the first person in Ireland to go public about clerical child sexual abuse in 1995

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