Remorseful Cardinal Recalls Sex Abuse Failures

June 15, 2010

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor

Retired archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor said he has felt "isolation and shame" over his handling of a case involvingan abusive priest in the 1990s, and wants make amends in his role as apostolic visitor to Ireland.

"The things I remember about my life as a priest are not the successes but rather the failures, and one particular and painful failure occurred 10 years ago when, owing to my grave mishandling of a priest who was an abuser, I was attacked and vilified for nearly two years," Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor is reported saying by the Catholic News Service.

"But I also began to understand in a new way, by talking with victims, the pain and grave damage done to them," he said. "I myself am not free from blame but have had to learn from mistakes to become, as someone described it, a wounded healer.

"From that experience I learned yet again to pray for perseverance, obedience to my vocation, and of suffering in a way which I did not expect and which, in the end, brought some positive benefit because of the national safeguarding policies, procedures and structures which are now in place and used in all our parishes and dioceses in England and Wales."

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor had appointed Father Michael Hill as chaplain to Gatwick Airport, near London, despite receiving credible allegations against him. Fr Hill went on to abuse again and one of his victims was a 14-year-old boy confined to a wheelchair because he had cerebral palsy, the report said.

Pope Benedict XVI has named the 77-year-old cardinal as one of nine apostolic visitors to Ireland over the abuse scandals in the Church there.

Separately, the National Catholic Reporter picked up a study by the Pew Research Centre that Pope Benedict XVI figured in more than half of all of the stories published in print or carried by broadcast news earlier this year regarding the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

Unlike the 2002 spate of coverage on clergy sex abuse, which had its epicenter in the Archdiocese of Boston, coverage in the six weeks during March and April examined by the study was greater in Europe.

Just 12 percent of those polled said Pope Benedict had done a good or excellent job in addressing the scandal, down from 39 percent in 2008, when the pope visited the United States and had an unscheduled meeting in Washington with victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Those who said the pope had done a poor or fair job went up from 48 percent in 2008 to 71 percent in 2010, said the "The Pope Meets the Press: Media Coverage of the Clergy Abuse Scandal" report.

The degree to which the pope was tied by the media to the scandal and the church's handling of it ranked sixth among all scandals tracked since 2007, behind golfer Tiger Woods' affairs, the arrest of film director Roman Polanski.


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