Irish Church is now fighting abuse, Vatican says

Fr. Federico Lombardi

Fr. Federico Lombardi

April 2, 2012

A Vatican-appointed investigation of the Church in Ireland recognized serious shortcomings in the handling of accusations of the sexual abuse of minors, yet found that bishops, clergy and lay faithful are doing an "excellent" job in creating safe environments for children today.

The investigators found that Irish bishops need to update their child protection guidelines, establish "more consistent admission criteria" for seminarians, and formulate policies on how best to deal with clergy and religious accused of abuse.

In a summary of findings from the probe, known as an apostolic visitation, the investigators also warned of a "fairly widespread" tendency among priests, religious and laity to hold unspecified unorthodox views.

"This serious situation requires particular attention, directed principally toward improved theological formation," the visitors found, stressing that dissent from the Church's teaching authority would only hinder its renewal.

On March 20, the Vatican released an eight-page summary of the findings and recommendations of the visitation to four archdioceses, religious institutes and seminaries in Ireland.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said "there is no large, more extensive document" giving details of the visitation.

Rather, he said, "the summary is a synthesis of all the reports, materials," observations and recommendations made by the visitors as well as further observations made by the Holy See and Vatican offices involved in the investigation.

"The Holy See re-echoes the sense of dismay and betrayal which the Holy Father expressed in his Letter to the Catholics of Ireland (2010) regarding the sinful and criminal acts that were at the root of this particular crisis," the written summary said.