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Pope apologizes for Catholic Church ‘crimes’ in Ireland

An aide adjusts Pope Francis' cape as he speaks at the Knock Shrine, in Knock, Ireland, on Aug. 26, 2018. Francis is on a two-day visit to Ireland. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

KNOCK, Ireland (AP) — Pope Francis issued a sweeping apology Sunday (Aug. 26) for the “crimes” of the Catholic Church in Ireland, saying church officials regularly didn’t respond with compassion to the many abuses children and women suffered over the years and vowing to work for justice.

Francis was interrupted by applause as he read the apology out loud at the start of Mass in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.

Hundreds of miles away, somber protesters marched through the Irish town of Tuam and recited the names of an estimated 800 babies and young children who died at a Catholic Church-run orphanage there, most during the 1950s.

“Elizabeth Murphy, 4 months. Annie Tyne, 3 months. John Joseph Murphy, 10 months,” the protesters said in memory of the children who were buried in an unmarked mass grave whose discovery was confirmed only last year.

People hold up names of children as they gather Aug. 26, 2018, to protest at the site of the former Tuam home for unmarried mothers in County Galway, during the visit to Ireland by Pope Francis. Survivors of one of Ireland’s wretched mother and baby homes were to hold their own demonstration Sunday. The location is Tuam, site of a mass grave of hundreds of babies who died at a church-run home. (Niall Carson/PA via AP)

Francis, who is on a weekend visit to Ireland, told the hundreds of thousands of people who turned out for Mass that he met Saturday with victims of all sorts of abuses: sexual and labor, as well as children wrenched from their unwed mothers and forcibly put up for adoption.

Responding to a plea from the adoptees, the pope assured their aging biological mothers that it wasn’t a sin to go looking for the children they had lost. The women had been told for decades that it was.

“May the Lord keep this state of shame and compunction and give us strength so this never happens again, and that there is justice,” he said.

Ireland has thousands of now-adult adoptees who were taken at birth from their mothers, who had been forced to live and work in laundries and other workhouses for “fallen women.”

One forced adoptee, Clodagh Malone, said Francis was “shocked” at what the group that met with the pope told him, and “he listened to each and every one of us with respect and compassion.”

The survivors asked Francis to speak out Sunday to let all the mothers know that they did nothing wrong and that it wasn’t a sin — as church officials had told them — to try to find their children later in life.

They said the Argentine pope understood well their plight, given Argentina’s own history of forced adoptions of children born to purported leftists during its 1970s military dictatorship.

“That is a big step forward for a lot of elderly women, particularly in the countryside in Ireland, who have lived 30, 40, 50, 60 years in fear,” another adoptee, Paul Redmond, told The Associated Press. “That would mean a lot to them.”

Pope Francis arrives to attend the closing Mass at the World Meeting of Families at Phoenix Park in Dublin, as part of his visit to Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday, August 26, 2018. See PA story IRISH Pope. Photo credit should read: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Francis’ first day in Ireland was dominated by the abuse scandal and Ireland’s fraught history of atrocities committed in the name of purifying the Catholic faith. He received a lukewarm reception on the streets, but tens of thousands of people thronged Dublin’s Croke Park Stadium on Saturday night for a family rally featuring Ireland’s famous Riverdance performers and tenor Andrea Boccelli.

The abuse scandal has devastated the church’s reputation in Ireland since the 1990s and has exploded anew in the United States.

The American church’s scandal took a new twist Sunday, when two conservative Catholic news outlets, the National Catholic Register and LifeSiteNews, published a letter attributed to a former Vatican ambassador to the U.S.

The letter attributed to Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò accused Vatican officials of knowing about the sexual escapades of ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick since 2000, but making him a cardinal anyway. Francis accepted McCarrick’s resignation as cardinal last month after a U.S. church investigation determined an accusation he molested a minor was “credible.”

In the letter, Viganò said that McCarrick initially was sanctioned by the Vatican in 2009 or 2010 but that Francis rehabilitated him in 2013 despite being informed of McCarrick’s penchant to invite young seminarians into his bed.

The Vatican didn’t immediately comment on the letter.

In Tuam, meanwhile, survivors of the Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home lit candles and placed hundreds of pairs of tiny shoes around a tiny white coffin at the site near a sewage area on the home’s former grounds where the babies and children were buried.

Irish government-appointed investigators reported last year that DNA analysis of selected remains confirmed the ages of the dead ranged from 35 weeks to 3 years old and the remains were buried chiefly in the 1950s. The Tuam home closed in 1961.

An amateur Irish historian, Catherine Corless, led to the discovery of the grave after she tracked down death certificates for nearly 800 children who had died as residents of the facility, but could find a burial record for only one child.

Corless and Tuam survivors are seeking an apology from the pope, as well as a decision to exhume the children’s remains to give them a proper church burial.

(Alves contributed from Dublin.)

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Nicole Winfield

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Helena Alves

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  • Pope Francis’ words in Ireland seemed sincere and were no doubt well received by the Irish faithful, but until his words are backed up with clear, decisive action of the sort that has so far eluded him for five years now, his words will have been in vain. The time to talk the talk has long since past. It’s time for Francis to walk the walk.

  • Based on what has been happening over the last five years, it seems very possible that Francis is psychologically disposed to believe that talk is walk, that good intentions are an adequate substitute for good outcomes. Perhaps through no fault of his own, he has a mindset that makes him the wrong person at the wrong place at the wrong time.

  • More apologies, more sincere speeches. But “Nothing New,” as Marie Collins correctly said.

    And now the Pope’s Ireland tour is all done, and he’s a-flying outta there, (along with his usual suspects Martin and Cupich). Mr. Archbishop Vigano tried to shake things up a little, but Mr. Francis’s “Will Not Respond” ditty today — a clear directive to the media to downplay or ignore Vigano regardless of the truth — essentially ends the matter.

    So there’s NO cleaning house, NO action plan to get the root causes of this mess, NO risk-taking, NO uprooting and dissolving the homosexual networks & culture that are still active and hungry within the Catholic Church. The End.

  • From its inception good and evil have mingled in the church. Judas Iscariot was one of the Twelve. Peter denied Christ thrice.

    During the late 15th century certain abuses became widespread – not ubiquitous but sufficiently widespread to scandalize the church.

    When the reaction began in earnest – 1517 being the date usually recognized as the start – many of the problems were still in power.

    The Pontiff when it began in many ways made things worse.

    It took nearly three decades for a coherent response to begin.

    History often repeats itself.

  • I posted this in another comment stream, but I think it’s relevant here as well:

    The Italian press, including papers generally favorable to Francis and others not so much, are suspicious of Viganò’s letter, treating it as the work of a resentful conspiracy theorist with more than one ax to grind. In La Repubblica this morning, Alberto Melloni, professor and an expert on things Roman, writes that “Qualcuno ha fatto di un pollo il Corvo. E nasconde un disegno: saldare i tradizionalisti con la destra religiosa.” (My translation: “Someone is making a crow out of a chicken (mountain out of a mole hill), and concealing his true motive: to forge an alliance between Traditionalists and the religious right.)
    His essay begins “Che un vecchio prelato, furibondo per non avere fatto carriera, covi risentimento verso il Papa è l’abc del cattolicesimo romano.” (That an elderly prelate, enraged at not having been promoted to higher positions, harbors resentment against a pope, these are the ABCs of Catholicism, Roman style.)

    Mariolina Lossa writes in today’s Corriere della Sera: “Viganò ha sempre avuto modalità di denuncia e di «politica» vaticana tutt’altro che «tradizionaliste». Non ci sono colpi segreti, mani che agiscono nell’ombra. Viganò è abituato, alla maniera americana, a diffondere sui mezzi di comunicazione di massa, le sue lettere e i suoi documenti accusatori, con nomi, date e circostanze di riferimento. Punta il dito contro arcivescovi e cardinali a suo dire corrotti ed ha anche partecipato ad incontri pubblici di ultrà cattolici contrari alle aperture di Papa Francesco. Lo fa apertamente, in nome di una «purificazione» della Chiesa ma sembrerebbe che la vera partita in gioco sia tuttavia quella di una sua ascesa all’interno delle gerarchie ecclesiastiche romane.” In brief, she’s treating Viganò as a bitter man because he’s not been promoted and Francis has taken other advice on important issues.

    I’d still like to see an investigation. Too many reports have been dismissed by people who thought they knew better.

  • The Italian press is the National Enquirer writ large.

    Anyone who tried to blow the whistle over the last half century and is still alive is going to be, and should be, damned upset.

    The clucking and tsk-tsking of the pundits is unseemly.

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