Photograph by: Wayne Cuddington, The Ottawa Citizen
OTTAWA — Pope Benedict has appointed the Roman Catholic archbishops of Ottawa and Toronto as senior clerics to examine abuse scandals in Ireland.
This fall, Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast will visit the ancient archdiocese of Tuam in County Galway on Ireland’s west coast.
The pontiff also appointed Toronto’s archbishop, Thomas Christopher Collins, who will visit Cashel and Emly.
Westminster Archbishop Cormac Murphy O’Connor will go to Armagh, and Boston Archbishop Sean Patrick O’Malley is slated for Dublin. O’Malley was brought in to Boston after a priest sex abuse furor erupted there in 2002, prompting Cardinal Bernard Law to resign.
Prendergast was not available to comment on his exact role, but the Vatican said in a statement the team will “explore more deeply questions concerning the handling of cases of abuse and the assistance owed to the victims.” They are to report back to Rome with findings about preventive procedures and how they could be improved. It will begin in the four archdioceses, and then extend to other dioceses, the Vatican said. It will also look at seminaries and religious houses.
Ireland was once a foundation of Catholicism, but many of the faithful left the church after reports about members of the clergy who viciously abused children for decades, confident their bishops would never turn them over to civil authorities. The abuse was widespread, long-standing and entrenched. When reports first started to surface, victims were scoffed at. But an Irish government collapsed in 1994 when a pedophile priest was not extradited to Northern Ireland.
In eight years, a government-organized compensation board has paid out almost $1 billion to 13,000 people abused in Ireland’s church-run residential institutions for children.
Last year, the Murphy report found 2,000 victims of abuse in the archdiocese of Dublin. Another report uncovered horrors in the industrial school controlled by Catholic religious orders.
In response, Pope Benedict in March wrote a landmark letter to the Irish Church, promising the probe.
Tuam, where Prendergast will visit, dates from the sixth century when St. Jarlath founded a monastery. But a 2007 report found children with intellectual disabilities were subjected to physical and sexual abuse at two schools run by the Brothers of Charity. Some, as young as eight, were raped and flogged. Others were punched and beaten, or forced into a boxing ring with much larger boys. Investigators said the experience left many survivors suicidal, depressed, and unable to form relationships.