Benedict meets with Irish bishops over abuse scandal

The bishops of Ireland wrapped up their meeting with Pope Benedict today regarding the sex-abuse scandal in that country. The Holy See has released an official statement about the closed-door meeting:

For his part, the Holy Father observed that the sexual abuse of children and young people is not only a heinous crime, but also a grave sin which offends God and wounds the dignity of the human person created in his image. While realizing that the current painful situation will not be resolved quickly, he challenged the Bishops to address the problems of the past with determination and resolve, and to face the present crisis with honesty and courage.

He also expressed the hope that the present meeting would help to unify the Bishops and enable them to speak with one voice in identifying concrete steps aimed at bringing healing to those who had been abused, encouraging a renewal of faith in Christ and restoring the Church’s spiritual and moral credibility.

The Holy Father also pointed to the more general crisis of faith affecting the Church and he linked that to the lack of respect for the human person and how the weakening of faith has been a significant contributing factor in the phenomenon of the sexual abuse of minors. He stressed the need for a deeper theological reflection on the whole issue, and called for an improved human, spiritual, academic and pastoral preparation both of candidates for the priesthood and religious life and of those already ordained and professed.

Some survivor groups are, perhaps predictably, already saying that the results of the meeting are inadequate:

A US-based abuse survivors’ group has criticised the outcome of the meeting between Pope Benedict and the Irish diocesan bishops that was held today. Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said it was “heart-breaking” that the resignation of bishops was not even discussed at the meeting.

“Words come easy to Vatican officials, who time and time again tell us they’re allegedly upset about clergy sex crimes and cover-ups,” she said. “But if they were as upset as they claim about clergy sex crimes and cover-ups, there would be more than just words.”

She said the resignation of bishops would not suddenly fix everything but it would be a long-overdue, tangible step in the right direction.

Granted, some of these survivor groups have been criticized for being too extreme in their demands, but is it fair to say that, in general, more was needed from the meeting than what is contained in the Vatican’s statement?


Margaret Cabaniss


Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at

  • Austin

    We speak of the abuse survivors, but there is much unseen damage. How many ordinary Irish Catholics will no longer take the Bishops seriously? Credability is difficult to restore. It will take many years of hard work, and more than a little humility.

  • georgie-ann

    tremendous cultural “slog” going along with all this, too,…it’s a BIG adjustment/needed-growth for ALL concerned,…our prayers should be with them,…

  • irene lagan


    I went to this press conference – actually two – the pre and the post. Vatican officials seem upset that Irish media in particular are still angry. But in all honesty, I left press conference deeply saddened. It’s hard to believe that after so much scandal preceding the one in Ireland, and so much time before the publication of the Murphy report, the bishops had nothing to say – No plan in place for reconciliation, no plan to deal with media requests. One bishop chose to speak in Gaelic, not English so that Italians and non Irish had no chance of understanding what he was saying – as if this were an intra-Irish issue when it is clearly not. Not even the Vatican spokesperson, Fr. Lombardi, took part in the press conference. Media, by contrast, asked very fair questions. It was disappointing – to say the least.