By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — In a pastoral letter in which he apologized for the Catholic church’s handling of sex-abuse cases, Cardinal Desmond Connell last week urged victims of clerical sex abuse to speak up.
Connell spoke of the “evil” of abuse by priests and religious and the effects of the “awful scandal” on victims and the faithful.
“Although words can help, it is above all actions that are required,” he said. “We have taken action. We will take whatever further action is necessary. There can be no flinching in the face of our duty.”
The 76-year-old prelate’s letter followed a nationwide poll last week that showed that 56 percent of Irish people believe Connell should step down over his handling of the issue.
The poll found 69 percent believed he had handled the issue “very badly” and a further 14 percent said “fairly badly.” Only 5 percent thought he had handled the matter very well or fairly well.
Never miss an issue of The Irish Echo
Subscribe to one of our great value packages.
As the clerical abuse crisis continued, a number of other bishops have issued apologies, pledges of action and the need to repent for past weaknesses and failures and ask for forgiveness.
Dublin Auxiliary Bishop Eamonn Walsh, who was appointed apostolic administrator to the diocese of Ferns by Pope John Paul II following the resignation of Bishop Brendan Comiskey, promises a reexamination of every clerical abuse complaint there.
He also said he would allow lawyer and former government minister George Birmingham access to church files to help him draw up a report for the government on what sort of inquiry should be held into the Ferns scandal.
Cardinal Connell said it was in the interests of everyone that abuse victims should come forward.
“Only when we have full knowledge about what we are dealing with can we be sure that we have put in place all the necessary structures and procedures to respond as best we can now and prevent recurrence in the future,” he said.
He added that it is regrettable that so much of the church’s learning process had only come through the testimony of the victims themselves.
“Only those who have suffered this terrible outrage can fully understand what is involved in revisiting what was done to them and exposing the trauma over again in the glare of publicity,” O’Connell said.
“We are so much in their debt for the courage and perseverance they have shown in doing this.