Rome Visit

Clerical child abuse is on agenda for bishops’ meeting with Pope Francis

Archbishop Cushley, Pope Francis, Archbishop Tartaglia and Bishop Toal.

Scotland’s Catholic Bishops flew out to Rome today to visit Pope Francis – just as the child abuse issue reared its ugly head yet again in mainstream and social media.

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia the President of the Bishops’ Conference said:  “I will assure the Holy Father that Catholics in Scotland have always shown fidelity and loyalty to the Holy See, and love to the person of the Holy Father.”

He added: “I hope to advise the Pope on how the Bishops’ Conference has confronted the issue of abuse over the last five years; how it has been a significant matter for the Conference during that time, and how the scandal of abuse had affected the morale of Catholics.

“I will point out that we are determined to get it right and to help survivors of abuse and create a safe environment for all within the church.”

The Ad Limina visit required by church law, obliges the Bishops of each country to travel to Rome, meet the Pope and in acknowledging his universal jurisdiction, make a report to him of the state of each diocese in Scotland.

The Scottish delegation will be: Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland and Archbishop of Glasgow; Archbishop Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh; Bishop John Keenan, Bishop of Paisley; Bishop Joseph Toal, Bishop of Motherwell, Bishop Stephen Robson, Bishop of Dunkeld; Bishop Brian McGee, Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, and Bishop Hugh Gilbert, Bishop of Aberdeen. Monsignor Hugh Bradley, General Secretary, Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, will also be present on the visit which will last until October 4.

Meanwhile, on social media, veteran journalist, Bill Greig, was asking questions about the abuse scandal which is now worldwide.

He said: “The Catholic priests’ child abuse scandal keeps growing. This time Germany. But why did it happen. What allowed this terrible plague to grow and spread? I have yet to see an explanation.”

Tam Hunter said: “Secrecy did not help keep it under control.”

Greig responded: “We know [that], but what was the reason for so many of the clergy to become involved in this.  How did it spread?”

He added: “The problem is that the scale goes beyond a few warped individuals and it is international with many countries reporting the same patterns of abuse.

“The Church really has to open all its files on this. Researchers have to get inside and find out why this happened.”

Another respected retired journalist, William Russell, formerly of the Herald, commented: “I suppose that churches offer somewhere they can hide – priests are father figures in a sense, work with young people, and belong to institutions which inherently protect the institutions and react by a cover up rather than exposure.

“It is not just the Catholic church but other churches also seem to have become places of refuge for people who might in other jobs be found out although Jimmy Saville got away with it for years, but he had star power protecting him.

“Is it something new, or has it always been there and without the mass media of today there was no way of one knowing what was going on outside one’s own world. But you are right, files need to be opened – and new rules put in place.”

Bill Greig asked: “I understand Saville and others, but they are individuals and relatively small in number. The scale of abuse by priests is vast and beyond what you would expect within the same numbers of the public. This is what is really concerning. Why did the Church suddenly find itself with thousands of abusers? Why was there this enormous gap between caring and abuse? What was the corruption?”

William Russell replied: “Why the Church is one thing – I think a priesthood offers a refuge, a hiding place for those without the power to do what they like as witnessed by Saville and all the other exposed stars or celebrities or politicians.

“So, if it is a refuge the numbers would be different in the Church from whatever you could discover in a social grouping like a town. But it is a difficult one and what does one know?”

A woman, Fiona Work, commented: “Churches are not in isolation, but individuals who run football clubs, youth clubs, etc. I don’t think we know the extent of the abuse due to effective ‘grooming’.”

Garry Coutts observed: “In a community where there is strict hierarchy, deference to authority, a desire not to damage the whole, limited communication and over confidence in the goodness or correctness of leaders, it makes it easy.”

On his visit to Ireland earlier this month, Pope Francis admitted publicly that he had not been told about some of the major scandals in regard to child abuse and the subjugation of women and young men in places such the now notorious Magdalene Laundries and industrial schools.

Roderick Greig said: “When you have an organisation that is opaque in its internal investigation, and has for as long as can be remembered had a ‘hidden’ abuse problem, it becomes clear that it did, in fact, become a haven for abusers.

“There is an unfortunate question that no-ones seems willing to ask – ‘Did the Pope know?’ Thanks to the Churches own structure, this question poses significant danger.”

William Russell replied: “He wasn’t pope all his life so he probably did.”

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