The moral authority of the papacy in Ireland, and of Catholic bishops here, is likely to collapse if the promised papal pastoral letter to Ireland does not squarely address the issue of the widespread cover up by bishops of the outrage of clerical child sexual abuse.
Despite the strong leadership shown by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, the prestige and authority of Catholic bishops in Ireland, and of the papacy, continue to decline in the wake of the Murphy report of November 26, 2009.
Especially damaging was the admission by the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference on December 9th, 2009 that the Murphy report indicated a widespread culture of covering up of clerical child sexual abuse in the church.
This should have been followed by the immediate resignation of all Irish bishops who had participated in or acceded to this cover up. It should also have triggered an immediate declaration from the papacy that this cover up would be investigated and explained - especially because it is well known to the faithful that this problem extends well beyond Ireland, and implicates the universal Church and its governance from Rome.
The reluctance of implicated bishops to resign, and the failure of the papacy to declare any such intent, have so seriously damaged the moral prestige of the office of Catholic bishops, and of the papacy, that recovery may already be impossible. We are alarmed also at reports that the promised papal pastoral may go no further than to repeat empty condemnations of clerical sex abuse, without fully addressing the issue of betrayal of children by bishops.
We therefore call urgently upon the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference:
To request the papacy to initiate a thorough inquiry into all aspects of the outrage of clerical child sexual abuse, especially the covering up of this outrage by bishops;
To request the Pope to declare an intention to do this in his promised pastoral letter to Ireland;
To assure the Pope that without such a declaration this pastoral will fail to grasp the scale of the crisis, and will fail also to initiate a recovery of the Catholic church in Ireland;
To ensure that a thorough investigation of all remaining Irish dioceses is undertaken, to determine whether the evils of abuse and cover up revealed in the Murphy Report are prevalent elsewhere;
To establish a National Forum for survivors of clerical abuse, and for their supporters, to help respond to their pastoral needs;
To request the immediate resignations of all Irish bishops implicated in the cover up of clerical child sex abuse.