Pope’s Pastoral Letter to Irish Catholics

Postcards from Hell

As I read the Pope’s Pastoral Letter on clerical sexual abuse I was worried that he wouldn’t come up with practical ideas to deal with the problem.

After all, he correctly identified the cause of child abuse in section 4 of his letter:

In recent decades, the Church in your country has had to confront new and serious challenges to the faith arising from the rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society.

Fast-paced social change has occurred, often adversely affecting people’s traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values.

All too often, the sacramental and devotional practices that sustain faith and enable it to grow, such as frequent confession, daily prayer and annual retreats, were neglected.

Significant too was the tendency during this period, also on the part of priests and religious, to adopt ways of thinking and assessing secular realities without sufficient reference to the Gospel.

The programme of renewal proposed by the Second Vatican Council was sometimes misinterpreted and indeed, in the light of the profound social changes that were taking place, it was far from easy to know how best to implement it.

In particular, there was a well-intentioned but misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches to canonically irregular situations.

It is in this overall context that we must try to understand the disturbing problem of child sexual abuse, which has contributed in no small measure to the weakening of faith and the loss of respect for the Church and her teachings.

See?  Sex abuse started in recent decades and it was because the Irish people took up secular ways, and moved away from religion. Combined, with a  tendency to avoid a penal approach — well-intentioned, naturally.

It was our own fault and had nothing to do with Catholic priests, brothers and nuns raping children since the 1920s and before.

In section 11, he addresses the Irish bishops:

It cannot be denied that some of you and your predecessors failed, at times grievously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse.

Serious mistakes were made in responding to allegations.

I recognize how difficult it was to grasp the extent and complexity of the problem, to obtain reliable information and to make the right decisions in the light of conflicting expert advice.

Nevertheless, it must be admitted that grave errors of judgement were made and failures of leadership occurred.

All this has seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness.

I appreciate the efforts you have made to remedy past mistakes and to guarantee that they do not happen again. Besides fully implementing the norms of canon law in addressing cases of child abuse, continue to cooperate with the civil authorities in their area of competence. Clearly, religious superiors should do likewise.

So there you have it.  The bishops made mistakes, especially in implementing church law.  The Pope seems to have overlooked mention of Irish civil law, but perhaps he’ll come back to that with another pastoral letter when he has time.

He understands how hard it was for the bishops to understand child sexual abuse but now, he wants them to continue to cooperate with the civil authorities in their area of competence.  I have no doubt he’ll explain later what he means by area of competence.  I also have no doubt whatever that he’ll explain what he means by continue.

But, as I read through the letter, for all this wonderful understanding of the bishops, and for all this uplifting talk of canon law, I had a tiny doubt.  How was he going to fix things?

I needn’t have worried.  In section 14, he says, I now wish to propose to you some concrete initiatives to address the situation.


Here are the Pope’s concrete proposals to deal with the problem of clerical sexual abuse in Ireland:

  • Set aside Lent this year as a time to pray for an outpouring of God’s mercy and the Holy Spirit’s gifts of holiness and strength upon the Church.
  • Devote Friday penances, for a period of one year, between now and Easter 2011, to this intention.
  • Offer up fasting, prayer, reading of Scripture and works of mercy in order to obtain the grace of healing and renewal for the Church in Ireland.
  • Discover anew the sacrament of Reconciliation.
  • Give particular attention to Eucharistic adoration.

What a relief.  That will really get on top of the problem, won’t it?  You can just see the survivors of abuse, and their families throwing a party.  Thanks be to Jesus, they’re telling each other.  At long last we got what we needed.  Fasting, prayer, scripture reading and adoration of the eucharist.  That won’t be long getting those rapist bastards into the slammer.

Unfortunately, the Holy Father also seems to have overlooked the question of the Vatican coming up with money to help the survivors get on with their lives, but no doubt he’ll say something about that in his next letter.

I am confident that this programme will lead to a rebirth of the Church in Ireland in the fullness of God’s own truth, for it is the truth that sets us free (cf. Jn 8:32).

The Pope goes on to announce an Apostolic Visitation of certain dioceses in Ireland, as well as seminaries and religious congregations.

He also proposes a nationwide Mission be held for all bishops, priests and religious.


It doesn’t matter that the Pope neglected to mention the Ryan report, the Murphy report, the primacy of Irish civil law over church rules, the role of the Vatican in all this abuse or the fact that some of his clergy are criminal rapists.

It doesn’t matter that the Pope fails to mention the active cover-up of crime by Irish bishops.

It doesn’t matter that the Pope thinks clerical child abuse in the 1940s was caused by the loosening of the church’s grip on people’s private relationships in the 1960s.

It doesn’t matter that the Pope thinks criminals will be caught by fasting, reading scripture and adoring the eucharist.

Our children are in safe hands.

By the way, I wonder why the Pope wrote only to the Catholics with his apology.  Do you think his letter to the non-Catholics is in the post?


Pastoral Letter

18 thoughts on “Pope’s Pastoral Letter to Irish Catholics

  1. Did we really expect anything different?, this is just a further exercise in covering their arse, they care not a jot for their ongoing criminal conspiracy and total disregard for the laws of he land.
    We need to cut diplomatic relations with the Vatican, recall our Ambassador and expel the Papal Nuncio, can you imagine Biffo and co. having the balls to do that?, particularly Dermot “Blasphemy” Aherne.

  2. Bock:

    He understands how hard it was for the bishops to understand child sexual abuse but now, he wants them to continue to cooperate with the civil authorities in their area of competence. I have no doubt he’ll explain later what he means by area of competence. I also have no doubt whatever that he’ll explain what he means by continue.

    Excellently put. My own opinion is that every religion is subversive vis-a-vis real, human, civil society when it pits “the world” against its version, whatever it is, of “the kingdom of heaven.” It’s no wonder the Roman emperors took steps to suppress the early Christians – they recognised a competing monarchy when they saw it. As a “worldly” person, and proud of it, I strongly object to any force in the land that considers itself above the laws of that land.

    The Pope clearly has no intention of relinquishing any power in what he considers to be his own “area of competence” – the one governed by so-called “canon law.” So, where do we get to vote on this “canon law” or its legislators?

  3. The strange thing is that the man they purport to follow said that the punishment for anyone scandalising children was to tie a millstone around their necks and fuck them into a lake full of shit..or words to that effect.
    Yet Joe never mentioned that. Or is that what he meant when he said they should do penance? He’d get a lot of takers to supply millstones.

  4. It’s no wonder the Roman emperors took steps to suppress the early Christians

    I don’t think that’s fair to early Christians. The film Quo Vadis actually does a good job of explaining what was going on in the early days of Christianity. Rome was a plutocracy with vast concentrations of wealth at the top, and the worship of Jupiter was very much a manifestation of state religion enforcing conformance. Early Christianity offered people with otherwise hopeless lives of toil and poverty an escape in the “next life.” It was effectively a form of early socialism. Romans had no problems with people experimenting with various cults (see e.g. cults of Isis and Mithras) but this Christianity thing was different.

    Still by the time Constantine suborned Christianity and made it the new state religion, the jig was up. Constantine knew when he was on to a good thing. By the time Theodosius outlawed the pagan religions in order to force the aristos to heel, the early ideals of Christianity seemed to be lost in the mists of time.

    Still Christianity and the Catholic Church had some good things left to do, such as helping to bring Europe back from the abyss of the Dark Ages.

    What is happening now is perfectly understandable to anyone that has had to deal with a bureaucracy. Circle the wagons, us vs them, …. I assume that the current Church’s future relevance will be in developing countries where there is still strong social conservatism (Nicaragua comes to mind). In the northern countries, the Church seems increasingly irrelevant, with its continued opposition to clerical marriage, reproduction control (the continued opposition to contraception just boggles the mind) and gay rights (ironic given rumors that our current papal father is gay, one wonders what kind of self-loathing is going on there)…..

    My 12 yo is a self-described agnostic, which is painful for me, but OTOH what does the Church offer her with its medieval attitudes and the kind of pablum quoted above?

  5. Taylor, I agree the situation in Rome was very complicated – and that the earthly power that was being protected was that of a totalitarian empire, not a properly constituted society of equals. Those early Christians were, no doubt, also killed to provide public scapegoats and distractions for ordinary Roman citizens who might otherwise protest the status quo. My comment was, perhaps, a bit cavalier.

    Nevertheless, my own upbringing within an evangelical, born-again Christian community, which attempts to re-create their vision of early communal christianity on earth, showed me just how difficult it is to get people to commit themselves to working for positive change on this earth, and for these humans we share it with, when they are totally focussed on the demands of their citizenship in the “next world.” In fact, working for change in this world can seem counter-productive to them, as the general sinfulness and awfulness of this world is bound to hasten Judgment Day.

    I believe the Catholic hierarchy views this somewhat differently to the leaders of my childhood faith, but nevertheless, as an organisation accustomed through the deep course of centuries to the acquisition of temporal wealth and the exercise of temporal power, their actions within the context of modern, secular societies are an affront to those societies inasmuch as they split people’s loyalties and divert them from the here and the now, and from the promotion of the common good we share with our fellow citizens.

    It is interesting that from the 6th century onwards, there were literate scholars both within the Christian and the Islamic traditions, engaged in rescuing the scientific, philosophical and historic classics of Greek and Roman civilisation and developing new scholarship in many areas – perhaps more scientifically oriented in the Islamic sphere and more philosophically oriented in the Christian sphere. Although these were not generally available to the illiterate majority, such work did create an intellectual bridge through the succeeding years in which both faiths began to exercise more and more control over their respective flocks, fighting “heresy” and contending with one another for control along the mediterranean where their spheres of influence overlapped.

    You may credit this intellectual salvage to Christianity if you wish, but the reality may be that such scholarship was created and maintained in the margins, by scholars carefully staying out of the firing line of their respective orthodoxies, which would have brooked no real independence of thought in their flocks.

  6. The great holy roman emperor has spoken yipee. Who gives a damm. He can shove his visitation up his own ass. the only visitation they should get is from the guards for all the cover up.

  7. I’m really unable to make any sensible comments at the moment … all the dishonest, unreal, insulting (above all to the victims but also to any decent thinking person) reactions from the Church authorities are just too nauseating …

  8. I never got past the words ‘ penal approaches ‘ until I’m taken seriously and either made Pope or there is a cull in the Catholic church everything will go on as usual.

    Bush Jnr would never own up to the real reason for going to war so I don’t expect any less from the Vatican. I just can’t believe there are still so many people out there that remain as practising Catholics just as I am amazed at weemen who blindly serve as second class citizens in other religions, oh a woman can’t be an elder but she can make the tea for when her husband becomes one.

    The Vatican hedges around blame and excuses, slaps the Irish Catholic church and tells them to create ways to generate income to fight the pedo cases, the Irish church taxes the people and gets government bail outs but people only really care about the bank bailouts because bankers are scum.

    Where is the fight in Ireland? did ya waste it on the Brits? I think its funny the Irish went uber Catholic to spite the Brits but like all revenge they dug two graves.

    Ach it could be worse, you only have corrupt politicans running yer cuntry, in Norlin Airlann there are corrupt paramilitaries running the cuntry.

  9. The truth will set you free, but lying will keep you out of jail.

    The whole thing is a farce. It’s just sad that Father Ted is not around to help us see through it clearly. The institution of religion is founded on a massive untruth in the first place, so everything that stems from that foundation is a lie compounded on another lie. We will never get Truth from the Pope, because his worldview is so fundamentally corrupted by the Big Lie that he is incapable of understanding the concept. All we can expect is for him to keep his own ass out of jail.

    He doesn’t give a Rat’s Zinger about the victims.

  10. “It is true, as many in your country have pointed out, that the problem of child abuse is peculiar neither to Ireland nor to the Church”
    I have heard a few priests use these words,it(sexual abuse) is not confined to the catholic church..but to read it here is unreal..we know it happens else were but that is not what this letter is meant to address.And it seems to be used as an excuse.
    I find the popes use of language entirely inappropriate.He does not make it personal to the victims at all.
    I’m not sure how or who the letter helped.
    I hope the abusers rot in hell.As they will evidently(mostly)not face a fair punishment in this life..

  11. I know a lot of criminals. Any one of them would have given the thumbs up to their legal team if the content of that letter was put in their defence.
    It is a fantastic piece of legal waffle and avoids wholly any mention of the crime. I have read many affidavits and I can see in the pope’s letter just how well and cleverly crafted it is; as an affidavit.
    We the people are wholly to blame.
    We caused the problem in the first place and we the people have to now provide the only solution possible and which the pope directs us.
    We must do penance, pray a lot more and we must go to church a lot more often.

    Proscribe the bastards.

  12. Read on and find out why the Popes Letter of Apology is Hypocrisy?

    The Pope has covered up Abuse “Himself” and communicated an Edict that Reporting Rape or Torture would result in Excommunication.

    The Pope also introduced a statute of limitation for Rape and Sexual abuse of 10 years after the victim reaches 18 and an Edict that these events where to be Kept secret until that time.



    read the links in this story, it will only compound the outrage you already feel

  13. I’ve taken a detailed look at the pastoral letter in its entirely, and analysed both the good and less good in it.

    The main problem is that the Pope seems to have taken careful aim at the wrong target.

    The issue is not that some paedophiles have been attracted to the priesthood. That’s going to happen to every organisation and profession involved in the care of children. Organisations have to recognise this fact and take action against it. That involves as far as possible measures to screen out known paedophiles before recruitment, detecting abuse early, and immediately permanently removing abusers from contact with children. Plenty of organisation shave robust procedures to achieve that.

    The scandal in the church is that its procedures could hardly have been better at maximising the duration of harm and the numbers of victims involved.

    There’s no point in the pope apologising for the fact that paedophiles abuse children – it’s what paedophiles do. What he should have been apologising for its the church’s institutional response to the abuse, and its complete failure to bring an end to the activities of known abusers. But he didn’t do that. He didn’t even describe the institutional failures, he merely alluded to them in the vaguest possible terms.

  14. So Ratzi describes islam as a bloodthirsty religion. Then every day of his life he goes swinging this goblet about, saying ‘This is the cup of my blood’ and skulls it.
    But to be perfectly fair, the catholic clergy may actually swallow far greater quantities of other body fluids.
    We need an apostolic visitation to investigate this. Or perhaps an inquisition. Will he lend us his pontifical ducking chair and a cannonical measuring jug?

  15. Why a cannonical measuring jug? Because, unlike your familiar kitchen model, these are not transparent, but opaque. They are marked with rings and numbers, but on the inside, for confidentiality. Although their unit of measurement is secret, it is known that the numbers fall from bottom to top, so that the deeper you get in, the less you say about it.
    We need a wall chart of catholic clerical thirsts, to see if their admitted daily goblet of blood is ever exceeded by other fluids. While it is clear that every cleric swallows an enormous quantity of mad dog’s poo simply to pass his exams in Maynooth, it is not clear whether this is always in liquid form.
    The main contender here has to be semen. Catholic semenaries are renowned for prodigious production, though a lot of it goes to waist because of the tradition of knotting the schlong until it oozes out the ears.
    As regards a comparison with islam, a photographic competition would decide. A particularly gory sacred heart could never be matched by a religion that doesn’t do pictures.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.