It shouldn't be a surprise to learn that Pope Benedict XVI's decision to refuse the resignations of Dubln auxillary bishops Eamonn Walsh and Bishop Raymond Field has unleashed an outpouring of outrage in Ireland. The bishops had resigned at the urging of Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who demanded that some accountability be shown in the wake of the poor judgment and oversight detailed in the devastating Murphy report on clerical sexual assault and abuse in Ireland. The Vatican decision is being interpreted in Ireland as a rebuke to Archbishop Martin's persistent focus on greater accountability and penance among the hierarchy in the face of decades of apparent indifference and ineffectual leadership during which many priests were allowed to continue to molest children and adolescents while parish-shifting and coverup kept their crimes out of the headlines and away from police inquiries.

In an Irish Independent editorial, "Church policy is clear as mud," the editors complained: "Once again, the public—and the congregation of the Catholic diocese of Dublin in particular—are left wondering what's going on behind the scenes. 

"The refusal by Pope Benedict XVl to accept the resignations of two Dublin auxiliary bishops appears to be a rejection of the views of the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin. As usual, no clear explanations are on offer. . . Although no reasons were given, it could be assumed the Pope refused to accept the resignations because neither Dr Walsh nor Bishop Field were heavily criticised in the Murphy Report.

"In May, the sense that more goes on than meets the eye intensified when Dr Martin told the Knights of St Columbanus, in an address, that 'strong forces' in the Catholic Church wanted the truth about clerical sex abuse scandals to remain hidden. The Archbishop of Dublin confided then that he had never felt so disheartened and dejected since assuming the post six years ago. It is unlikely that he has had reason to cheer up in the past day or two."

Irish abuse survivor Andrew Madden said the announcement came as no surprise. "Today's announcement also shows how utterly meaningless the instruction was that Pope Benedict gave to Irish bishops to identify steps that would bring healing to victims of clerical child sexual abuse." He said, "Victims asked for those who were part of the governance of the archdiocese when sexual abuse was being covered up to resign, and this is ignored."

In the United States, the Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests joined the criticism:

"By rejecting the resignations of two complicit Irish bishops, the Pope is rubbing more salt into the already deep and still fresh wounds of thousands of child sex abuse victims and millions of betrayed Catholics. He’s sending an alarming message to church employees across the globe: even widespread documentation of the concealing of child sex crimes and the coddling of criminals won’t cost you your job in the church. The two bishops said, when announcing their resignation, that they hoped 'to bring peace and reconciliation' to the victims. The Pope’s callous decision has done the opposite."

It is truly becoming difficult to comprehend the thinking going on within the Curia on this issue. Here were two men who, after some episcopal arm-twisting that no doubt cost Archbishop Martin a great deal, offered themselves up in a small gesture of accountability—so much more is required—but even this meek effort has been rejected in Rome. Could the Curia truly be so oblivious to the anger and frustration of average Catholics worldwide trying to make sense of the church's response to years of sexual abuse by clergy on Catholic children? It doesn't seem possible.

And if it isn't, if this move represents the Curia's strategic road ahead on the sex abuse crisis, one is tempted to join Archbishop Martin in his dejection. 

Comments

ROBERT KILLOREN | 8/14/2010 - 6:11pm
Once again, my cousin Vincent speaks well. At least the Vatican seems to be learning one lesson in PR from the White House: release your stink bombs five minutes before you leave town for holiday.
peter martial | 8/14/2010 - 1:55am
Once again it is all about power.  That the 1600 year old church in Ireland is being destroyed seems secondary to the folks in Rome.  They still think they can do whatever they like and most people will obediently swallow it.  Many will, wrongly afraid they will "lose their souls" otherwise.  But the tipping point is here.  Most Catholics will walk.
JIM MCCREA | 8/15/2010 - 8:16pm
Peter Martial correctly mentions power as being the operative principle.
 
(with credit to “There Is POWER in the Blood” by Lewis E. Jones)
 
Would you be free from the pesky need to lead?
There’s power in control, power in control;
Would you o’er pastoring a victory succeed?
There’s wonderful power in control.
 
Refrain
There is power, power, self-serving power
In control of the lambs;
There is power, power, self-serving power
In total control of the lambs.

 
Would you enjoy your passion and pride?
There’s power in control, power in control;
All those pretty gowns that come with the ride;
There’s wonderful power in control.
Refrain
 
Would you be attired in raiment all aglow?
There’s power in control, power in control;
Guilt stains are ignored no matter where you go.
There’s wonderful power in control.
Refrain
 
Would you avoid service to the flock that you lead?
There’s power in control, power in control;
Would you have them daily your praises to sing?
There’s wonderful power in control.
David Pasinski | 8/13/2010 - 4:51pm
It might be useful to also know what other bishops have resigned and not had their resignations accepted. I realize that many have offered at the mandatory age and been refused, but have there been others who have attempted to resign and been "denied?" And without any explanation from the Vatican, it is truly incomnprehensible...

One must wonder what the good people of the diocese think of that when they've had their bishop resigna dn now find out months later that he cannot. I can't imagine the confusion and renewed loss of confidence!  And what does the bishop say, "Well, i tried, but I guess you're stuck with me!" How effective a policy!!!

The Church gets crazier....
david power | 8/12/2010 - 6:07pm
What is the world coming to when I agree with everybody on an America blog?Except that Archbishop Martin should resign. After this I am sure that the german football coaches will be looking to the talent in rome.This is a perfectly placed kick in the teeth to all of the victims of sexual abuse in Ireland.I was close to fainting when I read it first.It took me five minutes to get over the shock.The callousness of it .This is not about two innocent bishops.If they were sure of their innocence back then they should have had the courage to say so. Archbishop Martin is worth ten of anybody in Rome.He is the only one not blinded by clericalism and if they went onto the streets of Dublin he is the only one who would come off them without a bloody nose. We must pray that the church of the future has the courage of Archbishop Martin and not the cowardice and hypocrisy of those now calling the shots. Ireland needs Jesus and you can be sure that the bishop of Dublin is His voice there now and not the Bishop of Rome.Sickening!!  
Michael Bindner | 8/12/2010 - 5:15pm
I wonder how much of this is Benedict and how much is the Curia.  I agree that this will lead to change in the Church - and should - and the A/B Martin should resign in protest.  I also agree on Peter's Pence and had already taken a similar action.  If I gave anything, it was a dollar.  Actually, the correct response would be to give 2 cents in the form of a check.  If enough Catholics would do that, it would cost the church money and send the message - with our names on it.
ed gleason | 8/12/2010 - 2:56pm
Easy pastoral solution.. Archbishop Martin needs to resign this weekend. Someone needs to show up to the hierarchy that one man is not more important than the community . that's what ministry/leadership/honesty/courage/Christ is all about. STAND UP MARTIN. SHOW US THE WAY. 
Brendan McGrath | 8/12/2010 - 2:52pm
I can't help hoping that Benedict gets an earful when he goes to England.  Dear God, someone has to knock some sense into him - I'm sorry to phrase it like that, but it's precisely because I believe that the papacy and episcopacy are divinely established that I am furious at those popes and bishops whose "knavish imbecility" (to quote Hillaire Belloc) is causing people to reject the papacy and the episcopacy, and to drift away from the Church. 

Good luck re-evangelizing Europe.
Charle Reisz | 8/12/2010 - 1:55pm
The Pope and the institutional church are guilty of pride.  Their arrogance will not allow them to be leaders of the faithful.  They choose to be sovereigns.  I refuse to be a part of their sorry kingdom.  I believe that God weeps when he sees the damage they are doing to mankind. 
William Lindsey | 8/12/2010 - 11:08am
"It is truly becoming difficult to comprehend the thinking going on within the Curia on this issue."

I don't find it difficult to comprehend at all.

In my view, it's all about the raw assertion of raw power, when the Vatican believes the claims of the church pastors to rule are being contested.
Molly Roach | 8/12/2010 - 7:24pm
I second Brendan and Belloc: knavish imbecility
JIM MCCREA | 8/12/2010 - 4:35pm
B16 will get his "smaller and purer" church alright.  Unfortunately it will not be a "sadder but wiser" church.

Petulant arrogance has become THE defining mark of the contemporary church.
Vince Killoran | 8/12/2010 - 3:31pm
The Pope's action is so wrong in so many ways. His "learning curve" lacks the curve.

I would stop giving my money to Peter's Pence and the diocesean annual drive but I did that already.
Claire Mathieu | 8/12/2010 - 1:49pm
Said Pope Benedict to the bishops of Ireland in his letter: ''Only decisive action carried out with complete honesty and transparency will restore the respect and good will of the Irish people towards the Church to which we have consecrated our lives. ''

I recalled those nice words many times in the last few months. But that was naive. They're hollow and my hope in them was misplaced.