Pope Francis expressed outrage at the “failure” of some church authorities to address the “repugnant crimes” of child sexual abuse during his visit to Ireland on Saturday, the first papal visit to the country in nearly four decades. But he gave no indication that he would implement harsher measures to punish those found to have turned a blind eye to abuse.
“The failure of ecclesiastical authorities—bishops, religious superiors, priests and others—adequately to address these repugnant crimes has rightly given rise to outrage and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community,” Pope Francis told a state reception at Dublin Castle.
Some abuse survivors who watched the pontiff’s speech saw it as an attempt to deflect blame, with no mention of the Vatican’s role in covering up abuse scandals. Colm O’Gorman, one of the abuse survivors, called the remarks “a shameful deflection of responsibility on the part of the Pope, and an insult to faithful Catholics who have no reason to feel shame because of the crimes of the Vatican and the institutional church.” On Twitter, O’Gorman called it a “huge insult” to hear Pope Francis talk up the Catholic Church’s many good deeds as if “some kind of grotesque balance sheet” cancels out decades of sexual abuse.
With the pontiff reportedly due to meet with abuse victims later on Saturday, that sentiment may hit home for many residents in County Donegal, one of the areas in Ireland hardest hit by clergy sex abuse. While Pope Francis on Saturday acknowledged the “grave scandal” in Ireland caused by “the abuse of young people by members of the church,” it was only a few months ago that he appointed a bishop accused of complicity to head a diocese near Donegal. Bishop Philip Boyce, who in the late 1990s refused to defrock Rev. Eugene Greene, one of the country’s most notorious pedophiles, was put in charge of the diocese in Dromore in March, despite being singled out in a 2011 report by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church. That report found that Boyce had opted not to defrock Greene because he was “keen to protect the family of the convicted priest from further trauma.” Greene later served nine years in prison for raping and molesting more than two dozen boys between 1965 and 1982.
Incidentally, Bishop was appointed in Dromore to replace another church figure under fire for allegedly going easy on pedophile priests. John McAreavey resigned from the post last spring after sparking outrage by officiating at the funeral of a priest he reportedly knew was a pedophile.