Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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Location: 3103 Arlington Avenue,, Bronx, NY 10463, United States

February 25, 2010


"Nero fiddled while Rome burns; Rome fiddles while the Church burns." That seems to be the general feeling of abuse victims, columnists, opinion pieces, letters,and the general public as shown in the pages of Dublin's "Irish Times' and "The Irish Independent" and Belfast's "Irish News". (Thanks to the "internet".) After his meeting with the twenty-four Irish bishops, the pope's statement of February 17, 2010 was faulted as offering no authorative action on accepting or rejecting resignations, as to failure to pledge the nuncio's and the Vatican's cooperation with civil authorities, as to declaring child abuse a "crime" and a "sin", as if this needed papal proclamation, and alleging that "a weakness of faith" was a part of the crisis.

The nuncio, Archbishop Guiseppi Leandro, had failed to reply to two communications from the Commission and had refused an invitation to appear before a parliamentary committee to work out solutions to the crisis. He had declared that the Commission's two letters had "not gone through diplomatic channels". A letter writer suggested a similarity to an observer who, seeing a house on fire, and refusing to call 911, insisted on sending a registered letter to be sure the fire house got it! "Hey, archbishop, your Church is on fire!"

Benedict had urged the bishops to address the crisis with one voice. This pointed to a disagreement between a majority of the bishops with Dublin's Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. Martin, an apostle for a more open Church, had suggested the retirement of those involved; the others opposed such action. When Martin returned from Rome, observers noted that he appeared as a chastened man. Many took this as a sign that Benedict had sided with the majority and may even have expressed his displeasure at Martin's view.

Galway's Bishop Martin Drennan showed another reaction to the crisis. He declared that the victims should practice forgiveness and suggested that they were acting out of revenge!

It is not pleasant to address issues of Church governance in a tone that might appear ungentle. But the views of independent observers, victims, and even those hostile to the Church are ingredients for approaching the needed reform in our beloved Church. The Irish Church, the rest of us, and the world await Benedict's letter for his seasoned judgment.