Pope to Irish: Child abuse by clergy ‘a mystery’
By describing the decades of child abuse in Catholic parishes, schools and church-run institutions and parishes in Ireland as a “mystery,” the pontiff could further anger rank-and-file faithful in Ireland.
Benedict commented on the scandals of sexual abuse and cover-ups by church hierarchy in a pre-recorded video message for an outdoor Mass attended by 75,000 Catholics, many from overseas, in Ireland’s largest sports stadium. Ireland’s prime minister and president attended the Mass, the final event of a Eucharistic Congress aimed at shoring up flagging faith.
The weeklong Eucharistic Congress, held by the Vatican every four years in a different part of the world, took place against a backdrop of deep anger over child abuse cover-ups and surveys showing declining weekly Mass attendance in Ireland, where church and state were once tightly entwined.
“How are we to explain the fact that people who regularly received the Lord’s body and confessed their sins in the sacrament of Penance have offended in this way?” said the pope, referring to church staff who abused children.
“It remains a mystery,” he said. “Yet evidently their Christianity was no longer nourished by joyful encounter with Jesus Christ. It had become merely a matter of habit.”
Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has said the church in Ireland is facing a grave fight for survival.
“Your forbears in the church in Ireland knew how to strive for holiness and constancy in their personal lives,” Benedict said in his message. [More]