Ok – so I’m Catholic! Yep, I really believe the Church was founded by Christ and that by the power of the Holy Spirit, He acts through it, in spite of all its human failings. So, sure, I’m coming at this from a definite angle.
But even allowing for that, am I way off in thinking that what happened in Rome over the last few days was, objectively speaking, worthy of some welcome? Surely it’s a sign of a Church genuinely trying to address the problem of serious failings in the way child abuse was dealt with? Garry O’Sullivan, Editor of the Irish Catholic newspaper said on Drivetime (RTE Radio 1) that the bishops were really surprised when they heard how the meeting was being received at home, and he himself was surprised too.
The statement issued by the Vatican Press Office afterwards (http://www.zenit.org/article-28373?l=english) acknowledged the “failure of Irish Church authorities for many years to act effectively in dealing with cases involving the sexual abuse of young people by some Irish clergy and religious.” The statement spoke about “significant measures have now been taken to ensure the safety of children and young people” and about the bishops “commitment to cooperation with the statutory authorities in Ireland – North and South – and with the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland to guarantee that the Church’s standards, policies and procedures represent best practice in this area.” I have to say I was pretty encouraged by this – especially in the light of Archbishop Martin’s reminder today that the visit is only one part of a process.
But listening to the coverage of the visit today, I couldn’t help but think that maybe some of the voices being heard were pretty determined not to acknowledge any positives no matter what was said or done at the meeting. I can understand this from survivors of abuse – what can anyone say or do that will take away the pain of what they’ve suffered?
But surely the media have an obligation to try to represent a broader range of views, and therefore to acknowledge that the bishops trip to Rome represents a genuine effort to at last do the right thing? It doesn’t look like this is going to happen any time soon, so the Church will have to continue on its journey of renewal despite this. This means, among other things, that it will have to find alternative ways of communicating directly with the ordinary faithful.