NOT THE ONLY
JAMMED WITH PEDOPHILE PRIESTS
Francisco de Goya
Says 102 Priests Suspected of Abuse Report
Cites Abuse of 350 Children Over Decades
By Shawn Pogatchnik
SHALL WE PUT WOMEN BEHIND THE ALTAR NOW, BEFORE THE CATHOLIC CHURCH COLLAPSES COMPLETELY, OR JUST LET IT COLLAPSE AND START WOMEN BASED RELIGIONS?
DUBLIN, Ireland (March 8) - The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, rocked for a decade by sex scandals, on Wednesday made its biggest admission yet: 102 of its Dublin priests past and present, or 3.6 percent of the total, are suspected of abusing children.
The disclosure comes a week before the government convenes a probe into how church and state authorities conspired, by negligence and design, to cover up decades of child abuse within the Dublin priesthood.
"It's very frightening for me to see that in some of these cases, so many children were abused. It's very hard to weigh that up against anything," said Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, a Vatican diplomat assigned to Dublin in 2003 to address the problem in Ireland's largest Catholic congregation.
Since his appointment, the archdiocese - home to more than 1 million Catholics - has been going over the personnel records of more than 2,800 priests who have worked in Dublin since 1940.
The conclusion: 102 are suspected of abusing children, 32 have been sued, and eight have been convicted of criminal offenses.
The archdiocese already has paid $7 million, including $2 million in both sides' legal bills. Martin says the archdiocese probably must begin selling property to meet looming bills for 40 unresolved lawsuits and potential claims from hundreds more.
The government probe, expected to run for at least 18 months, follows a similar inquiry into clerical abuse in the southeast diocese of Ferns. When the earlier report was published in October, it exposed a catalog of abuse, including a priest who molested a group of First Communion girls on the altar but was never punished.
While the church has been on the legal and moral defensive in the United States in recent years, the sense of uproar and disillusionment has been more profound in Ireland, a predominantly Catholic country that once exported priests worldwide. Here, church and state were intertwined until the 1970s - a breakup being accelerated by the abuse fallout.
The first major scandal, in 1994, involved the government's failure to extradite a notorious pedophile priest to the neighboring British territory of Northern Ireland. The government of the day collapsed over it.
In 2001, Prime Minister Bertie Ahern apologized for state agencies' role in prolonging children's suffering and injustice and established a compensation-paying panel that exposed the taxpayer, rather than the church, to most of the bill for victims abused in orphanages, workhouses and other Catholic-run institutions.
The Residential Institutions Redress Board is expected to pay out about $1.2 billion when the last of its more than 11,000 claimants is processed.
But Ireland's 26 dioceses and archdioceses must face the bills for abuse claims against parish priests. So far, Martin is the only archbishop to address the scandal so directly, establishing a Child Protection Service at a cost so far of $3 million and publishing reports on the number of cases identified.
Wednesday's report said Dublin church officials had positively identified at least 350 abuse victims and "a possible further 40 persons who may have been abused but who it is not yet possible to identify or trace."
Colm O'Gorman, who runs a support group for Irish abuse victims called One in Four - a reference to the idea that about 25 percent of Irish people suffered sexual abuse as a child - praised Martin's approach as courageous, but also wise given that his turf is about to be investigated in searing detail.
"Diarmuid Martin sticks out like sore thumb, not just in Ireland but internationally. I've never seen this open, transparent approach in any other diocese in the world," said O'Gorman, who as an altar boy was abused by a Ferns priest who committed suicide in 1999.
"Prior to Archbishop Martin's investiture, the leadership was suggesting they didn't really understand the nature of the problem," he said. "We're not hearing that kind of nonsense anymore."
But O'Gorman predicted that many more wrongs would be exposed by the coming government-commissioned probe. He noted that before the Ferns investigation began, he had expected it to identify eight to 10 priests as abusers; instead, the report identified 26, more than 10 percent of the area's priests.
Martin discussed the latest findings in private over the past few weeks with groups of Dublin priests. "I know that the vast majority of priests don't abuse, that they do good work, that they're extremely upset and offended by what's happened," he said.