A summit between Irish bishops and Pope Benedict XVI opened Monday in what Ireland’s top bishop called a first step toward repentance for the country’s clergy sex abuse scandal.
An investigation last year revealed church leaders in Dublin had spent decades protecting child-abusing priests from the law while many fellow clerics turned a blind eye. A separate report in Ireland released months earlier documented decades of sexual, physical and psychological abuse in Catholic-run schools, workhouses and orphanages.
The revelations shocked the predominantly Catholic nation.
Clogher Bishop Joseph Duffy said resignations were not on the agenda, despite victims’ demands that clerics who played a role in concealing pedophile priests step down.
Victims have been clamoring not only for resignations but for the Vatican to take clear responsibility for what they call a culture of concealment of abuse.
Several Irish bishops agreed to resign, but others flatly refused.
Bishops will each speak with the pontiff about their views and knowledge of the decades-long abuse of minors by parish priests and by clergy in Catholic institutions.
In the Dublin report, investigators determined that a succession of archbishops and senior aides had compiled confidential files on more than 100 parish priests who had sexually abused children since 1940. The files had remained locked in the Dublin archbishop’s private vault.
Abuse victims, galvanized by former altar boy Andrew Madden, who in 1995 became the first Irish person to go public with a lawsuit against the church, have accused the pope and his diplomat in Ireland, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, of hiding behind “diplomatic protocols” in refusing to respond to letters from Irish investigators.
The reports follow a campaign by the archbishop of Dublin and primate of Ireland, Diarmuid Martin, to confront abuse allegations and deal honestly with the cover-up and victims’ suffering.
The pope led the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a Vatican office that reviews abuse claims against clergy worldwide, during John Paul II’s papacy, which was stained by an explosion of sex abuse and cover-up scandals in the United States and Australia, among many other countries.
During pilgrimages to those countries, Benedict met privately with sex abuse victims.
In recent weeks, a new sexual abuse scandal involving clergy has erupted in Benedict’s homeland of Germany.