Accounts of abuse within the Catholic Church are not new. But the recent wave of scandal which has engulfed the Vatican is without precedent and has forced the Holy See to react.
In February, after the hard-hitting Murphy report on the decades of covered-up abuse of hundreds of children in Ireland, the Pope met the country’s bishops to pinpoint some of the mistakes made.
The Pope wrote an open letter to Irish congregations, condemning the events and expressing his shame and regret.
The Church’s reaction to confirmed cases of abuse has been to accept responsibility. From Ireland to Germany, via Austria and Holland, religious leaders have said they are sorry:
The Vatican has even created a special section on its website which outlines the Church’s response.
Even more revolutionary is that there is a page of instructions on what to do about abuse and which encourages the victims to report it.
It is the conspiracy of silence the Catholic Church has adopted for decades which really upsets victims. This is why many cases have been swept under the carpet to avoid public scandal. Victims’ lawyers claim the Church hierarchy at its highest level knew abuse was going on.
Confronted with the strength of recent complaints and revelations, the Catholic Church can no longer deny them or hush them up. The credibility of the Papacy and the Church itself is in question. In the end, it will be judged on its capacity to react..if its not already too late.