A few nights ago, I saw Aisling Walsh's heart-rending movie "Song for a Raggy Boy" for the first time. The film is based on the true story of a single teacher's courage to stand up against an untouchable prefect's sadistic disciplinary regime and other abuse in a Catholic Reformatory and Industrial School in 1939 Ireland. It is a sad and intensely moving documentary of troubled times in the Church. It is all the more depressing because it is true.
Today, I was heartened to read some brighter news.
The Vatican, in a report released today, told Irish bishops they had made excellent progress in enacting norms to protect children following decades of pedophile priest scandals. This seems to be the first time the Holy See has ever endorsed a local Church's efforts to fight priestly sex abuse.
A decade of work by Irish fact-finding commissions into the scandals produced four major reports documenting how bishops moved known pedophiles from one parish to another and to unwitting parishes abroad. Four high-ranking prelates chosen by the pope conducted the inquiry last year, including Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the archbishop of New York, who investigated Irish seminaries and religious institutions, and Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, who examined the Dublin Diocese.
The scandals have seriously eroded the faith in Ireland.
In the report, the Vatican said its investigators saw for themselves "how much the shortcomings of the past" had caused an inadequate reaction "not least on the part of various bishops and religious superiors."
The report includes further recommendations to improve the preparation of priests for a life of celibacy and to overcome a loss of trust by lay people in their priests. It also calls for better screening of priestly candidates and for audits of personnel files of religious orders.
The Vatican praises the work of the Irish National Board for Safeguarding Children, the Irish church's own investigatory arm, in auditing bishops' adherence to the church's sex abuse norms. The report urges bishops and religious superiors to continue to provide the church-funded board with sufficient personnel and resources.
At a news conference in Dublin on Tuesday, the top Catholic official in Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, welcomed the findings and repeated the church’s plea for forgiveness from victims.