Pope Benedict letter to Ireland fails to ease anger over abuse scandal
Pope Benedict XVI responded to a blossoming abuse scandal in Ireland with a letter that addressed Church failings in handling sexual abuse of children by priests. But he did not promise an end to the secrecy that has surrounded the church's policing efforts.
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Freda Donoghue’s abuse at the hands of Smyth began in idyllic surroundings – on the shores of Lough Sheelin in County Cavan in the summer of 1969. She was ten years old and was visiting her mother's family. “He just showed up down at the lake, and he’d chase anybody; it was always those sorts of games, the sorts of games you’d play yourself but when you were caught it was really really dangerous because of what could happen to you.”Skip to next paragraph
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Smyth had just arrived back in Co. Cavan from a posting in a parish in Rhode Island, where he had raped two children from the same family, according to Helen McGonigle, now a lawyer who in Connecticut. Ms. McGonigle says she was raped by Smyth when she was six and went public with her claims after the death of her sister from a drug overdose in 2005, who she says was also a victim.
This was the pattern, since his ordination in 1945. Smyth arrives, rapes children and his order hastily moves him on to the next posting: Ireland to Scotland to Wales to Northern Ireland, to Rhode Island, back to Ireland, back to Rhode Island, then to North Dakota.
In his St. Patrick’s Day homily at Armagh Cathedral, Cardinal Brady said he was ashamed of the fact that he has not always upheld the values that he believes in, and apologized for any failures relating to his role in investigating clerical abuses.
But despite calls for his resignation from a range of victims and victim’s groups, Brady has refused to go, saying he will only do so if asked by the Pope. Given that the Pope is himself embroiled in a controversy which starkly parallels that in Ireland, this does not seem likely.
Father Peter Hellermann was suspended by the Church earlier this month after a newspaper revealed that Pope Benedict - then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger - had allowed him to switch dioceses in the 1980s, despite being accused of sexually abusing children. A subordinate of Archbishop Ratzinger at the time said that while his boss had approved the transfer and knew that Father Hellermann had been assigned to undergo therapy he had not been told Father Hellermann had been accused of molesting children.
Ireland has now seen more than fifteen years of horrendous stories of both clerical child abuse and subsequent cover up by the hierarchy. Newspapers and radio call-in shows continue to seethe with public outrage.
Yet it would appear that ordinary Catholics have managed to separate their faith from the misdeeds of their church. A poll conducted in October of last year found that weekly church attendance had risen to 46 percent of the population, up from 42 percent a year earlier, while monthly attendance rose to 65 percent from 54 percent the previous summer.