Under Watch


Juxtaposing the religious news, involving the Vatican at the end of 2009. About some irregularities and omissions in religious life. The news from Ireland, which involved the priesthood in the proclaimed year of the priest. While the Apostolic Visitation of Institutes of Women Religious in the United States continued, the pope was busy on one front with the news from Ireland. Pope Benedict XVI has convened Ireland’s bishops for a two-day meeting on February 15-16 at the Vatican to discuss the ongoing fallout from the priestly sex abuse scandal in the country.

It was in November 2009 that a report by an independent Commission of Investigation, headed by Judge Yvonne Murphy, looked at the handling in the years 1975-2004 of 325 sex abuse claims in the Archdiocese of Dublin. That period of time was under the reign of John Paul II. The conclusion of the report was that during those years, rather than being concerned about the victims, Catholic leaders were more interested in “the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the church and the preservation of its assets.”

The President of the Irish Republic, Mary McAleese, in her speech at the annual pres­entation of greetings from the Diplomatic Corps on Saturday rebuked a senior Vatican official who suggested that the recent child-abuse scandals were in some measure peculiar to Ireland. Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, the Papal Nuncio to Ireland, is Dean of the the Diplomatic Corps. The Ryan Commission report in May 2009 had cited 800 known abusers in over 200 Catholic institutions, over 35 years. The November 2009 Murphy Commission report dealt with priestly sex abuse in the country over 29 years.

That Papal Nuncio to Ireland must not be a real sensitive guy. If he read the news on December 4, 2009, the Irish Times was reporting that Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said it was discourteous that Papal Nuncio in Ireland did not respond to the two letters sent to him by the Murphy commission in February 2007 and earlier in 2009. The previous reluctance of the Papal Nuncio in Ireland to contribute to the report, and then the delay of one week before finally commenting upon findings of the Murphy commission led to calls for the Papal Nuncio’s expulsion in Ireland. Fine Gael leader in the House, Frances Fitzgerald, said the report of the Murphy commission should mark a defining moment in the relations between church and State. The Papal Nuncio in Ireland has denied ’showing contempt’ for the State institutions by refusing to respond to requests from the Murphy commission for information, according to Ivana Bacik (Labor).

It was also in November 2009 that the major superiors of United States women religious congregations had a deadline to respond to and return a questionnaire, as part of the three-year visitation of U.S. women religious congregations. Showing some understandable contempt, as the congregation’s regular status report had been sent to Rome, the president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas said that her congregation had responded to the questionnaire by forwarding a copy of their constitution back to the visitation office and indicating where answers could be found to specific questions, according to a piece by Kevin Clark in America. His article quoted the superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus chosen by the Vatican’s choice to head up the inquiry, Mother Mary Clare Millea: “When I recently met with Cardinal Rodé, he assured me that the Holy Father continues to show his interest in and support of the Apostolic Visitation.”

The maintenance of church secrecy was mentioned in the Murphy Commission report, as one reason the priest abuse was able to continue. The president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Sister Waskowiak, was also quoted on the matter of secrecy of the nun inquiry: “We believe we have a good story to tell and we would like to tell it; we know we are not perfect,” though the level of secrecy the Vatican is maintaining about the visitation and how the congregations will be evaluated is “not matched by the transparency they are requesting of us. . . . I would hope for more dialogue.”

Sister Waskowiak also seemed to be commenting on the sensitivities of the males in the investigation: “What women religious groups are saying is that the instruments being employed are not satisfactory for us to be able to tell our story . . . We continue to speak from different paradigms of religious life.”

In a November 4, 2009 radio interview, Cardinal Franc Rodé said the nun investigation was a response to concerns, including by “an important representative of the U.S. church” regarding “some irregularities or omissions in American religious life. Most of all, you could say, it involves a certain secular mentality that has spread in these religious families and, perhaps, also a certain ‘feminist’ spirit.”

While two Italian news web sites reported that an October 2010 date had been set for Pope John Paul’s beatification, Pope Benedict has yet to formally signs a decree recognizing beatification.

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