Dolan, O’Malley to draw on Irish roots

The  Roman Catholic Church in America was founded and built by Irish priests and nuns and brothers and laypeople.

It was long identified as an Irish church of sorts — until it started transforming into an Hispanic church in many parts of the country.

So it seems somehow fitting that Archbishop Dolan and Boston’s Cardinal O’Malley will play key roles in the Vatican’s response to the debilitating sex-abuse crisis in Ireland.

They are among nine prelates who will investigate what went wrong and seek ways to prevent future scandals.

Dolan will lead a study of Irish seminaries and the broader issue of priestly formation in Ireland. He is a former rector of the North American College, the elite seminary in Rome for American priests-to-be.

O’Malley will investigate the troubled Archdiocese of Dublin.

Both archbishops have experience at trying to unravel and deal with sex-abuse scandals.

O’Malley, in particular, is as well-versed as anyone. As a bishop, he had to face terrible scandals in Fall River, Mass., and Palm Beach, Fla., before taking over for disgraced Cardinal Law in the eye of the storm, Boston.

Dolan had to clean up a mess in Milwaukee before he came to NY.

Dolan released this short statement over the weekend:

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I am happy to accept the Holy See’s invitation to serve as a member of the upcoming apostolic visitation to the Church in Ireland, with special attention to their historic seminaries.

My love for the faith of Ireland, and my own background in priestly formation, make me grateful for this assignment, and I look forward to close cooperation with my brother bishops, priests, religious, and the faithful of Ireland.  I await further information and instruction from the Holy See on the specifics and timing of the visitation.

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John Allen looks at Ratzinger/Benedict’s response to abuse

The growing numbers of news reports about Catholic Church sex-abuse scandals in Germany and Ireland will draw every possible reaction from observers.

Some will say that it’s about time that the media are focusing on decades of abuse.

Others will say that the abuse cases in question date back to the 60s, 70s and sometimes 80, and that it is irresponsible for the media to cover these things as if they happened yesterday.

The fact that Pope Benedict XVI has been tied indirectly to one notorious case will ensure that emotions on all sides are hotter than ever.

JohnLAllenI have to recommend that people who want to get a handle on things read John Allen’s outstanding analysis in NCR. He focuses on Cardinal Ratzinger’s response to sex-abuse allegations and how he, as the pope, has evolved.

I see it as a detailed, comprehensive, pretty balanced and ultimately educational look at a big story. Of course, others will see it quite differently.

In fact, if you read it, go on and read the dozens of comments afterward. They cover the gamut.

He’s getting killed by critics of the church, like this one:

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I realize, John, that for your access to your sources at the Vatican, you cannot be too blunt. But talk about who has been drinking the Kool-Aid, you must be on a sugar-high! This is the Pope we are talking about who is able to demote and/or remove anyone in the hierarchy!!!! Not ONE bishop from the United States has been removed by this Pope; not ONE!!!!!!

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And he’s taking it from defenders of the church, like this one:

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Benedict is one of the greatest Popes in the History of the Church! There is so much more to all of this then know, we should becareful with what we say! He is the Pope, God had chosen him to lead his people in a World full of hate for the Church and our Lord.

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Many readers are arguing that John bends over backwards to present the pope in the best possible light.

The comments make for good reading. But read John first.

The Irish report: 2,600 pages of madness

In case you’re interested, you can read online the entire report detailing decades of physical and sexual abuse at residential schools in Ireland run by the country’s Catholic religious orders.

The massive report — as in 2,600 pages — is the result of a 9-year investigation of abuse that occurred between the 1930s and 1990s. The abuse took place at 52 “workhouse-style” reform schools and 216 other church institutions for children.

I’ve skimmed parts of the report. It is shocking in its detail.

A section on physical abuse of boys includes:

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Witnesses described a daily existence that involved the possibility of being hit by a staff member at any time, for any reason or for no reason. Witnesses also reported being physically abused by co-residents. It is notable that witnesses at times described daily, casual and random physical abuse as normal and wished to report only the times when the frequency and severity of the abuse was such that they were injured or in fear for their lives. Three hundred and forty six (346) of the 403 witnesses reported that they were subjected to frequent physical violence; they described a climate of pervasive fear in the Schools and provided consistent reports of generally not knowing why they were being beaten.

The forms of physical abuse reported by witnesses to the Committee included punching, flogging, assault and bodily attacks, hitting with the hand, kicking, ear pulling, hair pulling, head shaving, beating on the soles of the feet, burning, scalding, stabbing, severe beatings with or without clothes, being made to kneel and stand in fixed positions for lengthy periods, made to sleep outside overnight, being forced into cold or excessively hot baths and showers, hosed down with cold water before being beaten, beaten while hanging from hooks on the wall, being set upon by dogs, being restrained in order to be beaten, physical assaults by more than one person, and having objects thrown at them.

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I hesitate to include anything about sexual abuse because it’s too graphic.

The whole thing can only leave one wondering how on earth this could happen (in Ireland, the U.S., anywhere).

There is extensive coverage in the Irish Times. Victims of abuse were not happy over being barred from a press conference for the release of the report.

An editorial in the Irish Independent is headlined: “Our Sinister Legacy of Abuse.”

It includes this:

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Among the thousands of accounts are shameful details of boys and girls being raped, flogged, beaten up, burned, scalded, left hungry and cold and tortured in ways that only perverted sadists could invent.

The numbers of abused and the nature of abuses are so vast that trying to grasp the magnitude of the inhumanity is like trying to visualise the length of a light year, or the depth of the Atlantic ocean.

The extent of the cruelty involved can only be grasped when we hear personal accounts of individual incidents and multiply them a thousand fold.