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Vatican report expresses regret for abuse

March 21, 2012 at 7:14 AM

VATICAN CITY, March 21 (UPI) -- While expressing shame about sexual abuse by clergy in Ireland, a report said the Catholic church has made progress in guarding children from abuse by priests.

A summary of a 2011 investigation into pedophilia by priests in Ireland, commissioned after reports revealed decades of abuse and cover-ups in Irish Catholic schools and in the Dublin diocese, was published Tuesday on the Vatican's Web site.

"The Holy See re-echoes the sense of dismay and betrayal which the Holy Father expressed in his [2010] letter to the Catholics of Ireland regarding the sinful and criminal acts that were at the root of this particular crisis," the summary said.

The report said it must acknowledge with "a great sense of pain and shame … that within the Christian community innocent young people were abused by clerics and religious to whose care they had been entrusted, while those who should have exercised vigilance often failed to do so effectively ... ."

The report sought forgiveness "from God and from the victims," while noting investigators could verify that, beginning in the 1990s, steps have been taken toward "a greater awareness of how serious is the problem of abuse, both in the church and society, and how necessary it is to find adequate measures in response."

A number of recommendations were in the report, including ones urging seminaries work to better prepare candidates for the priesthood for a celibate life and recommending that Irish church officials develop guidelines when priests accused of sexual abuse aren't prosecuted.

The report also recommended the institution of procedures to help priests falsely accused and then cleared of abuse and develop a plan where to securely place priests convicted of abuse.

Cardinal Sean Brady, the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, also expressed regret and sought forgiveness, CNN reported.

"In expressing true sorrow and regret, we make our own the heartfelt plea for forgiveness from the victims, and from God, for these terrible crimes and sins," Brady said Tuesday.

Activists for survivors told CNN the Vatican missed an opportunity.

"In a very, very small way in the summary they acknowledge the fact that damage has been done by what they call 'the problem' of the abuse of minors," said Jon McCourt of Survivors and Victims of Institutional Abuse. "The church could have used Ireland as a beacon of light and hope for victims of institutional and clerical abuse across the world. And it looks like the opportunity has been missed."

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