Church's failure to stop abuse 'a source of pain and shame' says Pope in Ireland
On first papal visit in decades, Pope Francis faces tough calls for action on sex abuse by priests
Pope Francis says he shares the outrage over the failures of church authorities to punish the "repugnant crimes" of priests who raped and molested children, seeking to respond to a global Catholic outcry over the abuse scandal at the start of his visit to Ireland.
In a speech to Irish government authorities on Saturday, Francis cited measures taken by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, to respond to the clergy abuse crisis. But he provided no new indications that he would take forceful action to hold bishops accountable for protecting children or to sanction them when they don’t.
Francis said: "The failure of ecclesial authorities ... to adequately address these repugnant crimes has rightly given rise to outrage and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community. I myself share these sentiments."
Francis is making the first papal visit to the traditionally Roman Catholic country in almost four decades, but the reception he received in Dublin was a contrast to the raucous, rock star welcome that greeted St. John Paul II in 1979.
No one from the general public was on hand at the airport or the roads nearby, and only a handful of people waited to cheer him outside the Vatican residence, despite the gloriously sunny weekend weather.
While hundreds of thousands are expected to turn out to see the pope, there will also be demonstrations and vigils by survivors of clergy sex abuse in a country where attitudes on the Catholic Church are shifting.
Neither Francis' words nor a new meeting with abuse victims is likely to calm the outrage among rank-and-file Catholics following new revelations of sexual misconduct and cover-up in the United States, an ongoing crisis in Chile and prosecutions of top clerics in Australia and France.
Ireland has had one of the worst records of abuse in the world, crimes that were revealed to the deeply Catholic nation's 4.8 million people through a series of government-mandated inquiries over the past decade. The reviews concluded that thousands of children were raped or molested by priests and physically abused in church-run schools while bishops covered up for abusers.
In a country where Catholic bishops held such sway that they advised the drafters of the republic's constitution in the 1930s, voters in recent years have turned their backs on core Catholic teachings. They have overturned a constitutional ban on abortion and legalized divorce, contraception and same-sex marriage.
After the Irish church moved to atone for its past and enact tough new norms to fight abuse, it had looked to the pope's visit as a way to highlight a different, more caring church that understands the problems of ordinary Catholic families today.
Irish Health Minister Simon Harris, who recently played a prominent role in the successful campaign to liberalize the country's strict abortion laws, said it would be a weekend of "mixed emotions."
Abuse in the Catholic Church
Irish premier Leo Varadkar urged the pope to ensure justice for abuse victims worldwide in a blistering criticism of the Church's legacy.
"Wounds are still open and there is much to be done to bring about justice and truth and healing for victims and survivors. Holy Father, I ask that you use your office and influence to ensure that this is done here in Ireland and across the world," Mr Varadkar said standing next to the pontiff.
"We must now ensure that from words flow actions," he said.
But not all believe that concrete proposals will be forthcoming. "The actions of the church do not match the words, and they are in fact totally the opposite," Irish abuse survivor and advocate Marie Collins said.
Addressing a safeguarding panel at the Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families, which started in Dublin on Tuesday and runs through Sunday, she called for "robust structures" and strong sanctions to hold accountable bishops and even Vatican officials who fail protect children.
Ireland's tortured history of abuse has left its mark.
Updated: August 25, 2018 09:55 PM