I have to wonder why on earth the Pope would want to lend more credibility to the accusations that he has been soft on child abusing priests and the bishops who protected them. But that is precisely what he is doing.
In a letter to priests and other Dublin Church officials, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin (photo) reported that the Vatican has rejected the resignations of his two auxiliary bishops, Bishop Eamonn Walsh and Bishop Raymond Field, following their reported involvement in the Roman Catholic Church's cover-up of child abuse. In their joint Christmas 2009 statement, Walsh and Field had said they had hoped their resignations might "help to bring the peace and reconciliation of Jesus Christ to the victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. We again apologize to them."
The Vatican's refusal to accept the resignations is being seen as a rebuff to Martin, a veteran Vatican diplomat who was appointed in 2004 to lead Ireland's most populous diocese through a growing storm of child-abuse scandals. In doing so with firmness and determination, Martin has become a hero within the Catholic hierarchy to many abuse survivors.
Survivors of clerical child abuse in Ireland were disgusted by the decision. "So much was expected of the pontiff, and so little was delivered," said John Kelly, leader of an Irish pressure group called Survivors of Child Abuse, who was molested and beaten in a Catholic-run workhouse for boys.
Another victim of abuse, Marie Collins, called the decision "an insult to the people of Dublin." "They want the faithful in the church to respect the bishops and the Pope, but they are showing no respect toward us. There has to be a proper, official statement because this is just too important to be slipped out the way it has," she added. She said the attitude shown by the church so far has been that the laity are "just not worthy" of an explanation.
Collins' impression about the Church's attitude was corroborated by Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi, who refused to confirm that the resignations had been rejected or to offer reasons why bishops allegedly involved in covering up abuse would be kept in their posts. He said it is the Vatican's policy to make public announcements only when resignations are accepted, not when they are rejected.
Excuse me for a moment because I'm just not getting the concept: you assign Archbishop Martin to clean up a huge mess and when he finally manages to secure the resignations of two of the parties who were partially responsible for the mess, you refuse to accept the resignations? Archbishop Martin has been hasty to assure his flock that even though these two men will remain in office, they will be given different assignments -- mundane work like hearing confirmations rather than more important administrative duties.
I hope the Vatican doesn't expect this case to be closed because Collins and another high profile victim of clerical child abuse, Andrew Madden, author of Altar Boy, A Story of Life After Abuse, will be speaking and receiving 'Outstanding Courage Awards' at the Humbert Summer School in Castlebar, Co Mayo, next week.
The Humbert School, which bills itself as "a premier national forum for public debate on issues relating to contemporary Ireland, the peace process in Northern Ireland and Ireland’s role in the European Union and world affairs", will be taking up the clerical abuse crisis in particular and Church reform in general during its 2010 program. Author Robert Blair Kaiser will kick the event off with a keynote address on the theme "Catholic Church Reform: No more thrones". Fr Iggy O’Donovan, OSA, a Church historian, Bridget Mary Meehan, Ordained Bishop of the Roman Catholic Women Priests, and Brendan Butler, Lay Catholic Activist and chairperson of the El Salvador Support Committee will offer "Reflections on reaction of Pope Benedict and Irish Hierarchy to abuse crisis", followed by a panel of victims of abuse.
I expect that the Vatican, with its latest decision and "we don't have to explain nothing to nobody" attitude, has only guaranteed that the Humbert program will get more media attention than usual.