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March 20th, 2012
10:17 AM ET

Vatican begs forgiveness of Ireland abuse victims

By Richard Allen Greene and Peter Taggart, CNN

(CNN) - The Vatican begged forgiveness from Irish victims of child sexual abuse by priests as it released a major report into the problem Tuesday, but victims responded with anger and disbelief at the report's finding that new safeguards are working.

"With a great sense of pain and shame, it must be acknowledged that within the Christian community, innocent young people were abused by clerics," a high-level Catholic Church committee found.

"Those who should have exercised vigilance often failed to do so effectively," the committee found.

"For these faults, forgiveness must once more be asked: from God and from the victims!" the commission of top church leaders said.

The head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, echoed those words Tuesday.

"In expressing true sorrow and regret, we make our own the heartfelt plea for forgiveness from the victims, and from God, for these terrible crimes and sins," he said.

But activists for survivors of abuse said the report did not go nearly far enough.

"In a very, very small way in the summary they acknowledge the fact that damage has been done by what they call 'the problem' of the abuse of minors," said Jon McCourt of Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse.

But, he added, "the church could have used Ireland as a beacon of light and hope for victims of institutional and clerical abuse across the world. And it looks like the opportunity has been missed."

And a U.S.-based group dismissed the report as "another tired, ineffective re-hash of the promises made by U.S. bishops a decade ago, promises that have had little impact on this crisis."

"No institution can police itself, especially not an ancient, rigid, secretive all-male monarchy with a horrific history of ignoring and concealing child sex crimes," said Barbara Dorris, outreach director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

She said internal reports were "nearly meaningless," and argued that "self-serving Catholic officials can't police or reform themselves," so secular authorities should do so.

"That's the real remedy - increase the will and the ability of independent professionals in law enforcement and the judiciary to investigate, expose, punish and deter child sex crimes and cover-ups," she said.

The Vatican suggests in its report Tuesday that the problem is largely in the past.

"Beginning in the 1990s, decisive progress has been made, leading to a greater awareness of the problem and profound changes in the way of addressing it," the report said.

Guidelines dating from 2008 "have proved to be an effective instrument for handling accusations of abuse and for increasing the awareness of the entire Christian community in the area of child protection," it continued.

"Much attention and care has been shown to the victims, both in terms of spiritual and psychological assistance and also from a legal and financial standpoint," the report said.

The investigators make a number of recommendations, including suggesting that seminaries do more to prepare candidates for the priesthood for "a life of priestly celibacy."

They also recommend that the Irish Church develop guidelines for what to do with priests who have been accused of abuse but whom authorities have declined to prosecute.

And they advise that procedures be put in place to help those falsely accused and then cleared of abuse, and where to house those who are convicted of abuse.

Pope Benedict XVI set up the investigation, formally known as an Apostolic Visitation, in response to a series of independent reports that found thousands of Irish children had been physically or sexually abused by Catholic clergy over several decades.

Confronted with accusations of abuse, bishops tended to move abusive priests to new parishes, the Irish government-backed reports found.

The most recent one, known as the Cloyne report, found that abuse and cover-ups continued well after the scandal broke, and after safeguards were established by the Catholic Church in Ireland.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Catholic Church • Ireland

soundoff (356 Responses)
  1. CharlieSeattle

    Civil Rico Act plaintiffs are "Human Rights Defenders" under United Nations terminology. The Pope, Cardinals and Bishops can be arrested now!

    All it takes is a International Prosecutorial Body with the balls to kick in the doors of the Vatican and drag them out.

    Opps..there is one...

    The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) is, along with the Chambers and Registry, one of the Tribunal’s three organs. It is mandated to investigate and prosecute persons responsible for some of the worst abuses of basic human rights and international humanitarian law that took place in Europe since the Second World War, those that occurred during the violent disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

    The OTP is headed by a Prosecutor, appointed by the Security Council for a renewable four-year term, and a Deputy Prosecutor, appointed by the UN Secretary General. The Prosecutor is independent and does not seek or receive instructions from external agencies such as any government or international organization, or from either of the Tribunal’s other two organs.

    April 18, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
  2. read

    I dont know why the catholic church tries so hard to hide the truth, even the personal name of the Almighty One (YHWH).

    March 28, 2012 at 6:45 am |
    • credling

      Simple, because they are part of the anti-christ. Read 1Tim 4:1-4... basically forbidding to marry is a false doctorine.

      June 20, 2012 at 8:45 am |
  3. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 23, 2012 at 5:30 am |
    • Jesus

      ~`You've been proven a liar over and over again on this blog. A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested Friday morning...

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      Plus don't forget. The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!!~`

      March 23, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  4. RightTGurnClyde

    Cases have been heard and damages have been awarded. Individuals have been sentenced to terms in prison. It is well and good to accept the apology and move on. Put it behind you and let go of it .. that is the smart thing to do. It is so with any bad ting (or even good things) .. at New Years turning let go of it.. certainly let go at Sabbath and Jubile .. it's a thing in the past. The Catholic church has done incredible good all over the world - medical centers, universities, orphanages, shelters, food for the homeless .. and caring. So have many Protestant churches - also schools, colleges, hospitals, community centers, food for hungry people, shelters, havens, TB sanitariums ... lots of goodness from Christians. Lots of community and sharing. So .. let go of whatever may be negative and look at the incredible good that has come from Christians all over the world. Value it and (if you are intelligent) see how Jesus is at work to bring goodness into the world. (of course if you are unintelligent then you are unable to see – myopia)

    March 22, 2012 at 11:49 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.