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The Deacon's Bench

Two high-profile prelates of Irish descent will be part of the team looking into the scandal that’s devastated Ireland:

In one of his most concrete actions since a sexual abuse scandal began sweeping the Roman Catholic Church in Europe, Pope Benedict XVI on Monday appointed a high-profile team of prelates, including the archbishop of New York, to investigate Irish dioceses and seminaries.

The pope had announced that he would open the investigation in a strong letter to Irish Catholics in March. In the letter he expressed “shame and remorse” for “sinful and criminal” acts committed by members of the clergy, following two scathing Irish government reports documenting widespread abuse in church-run schools and the Dublin archdiocese.

Although the pope has spoken out against abuse in recent weeks and accepted the resignation of five Irish bishops for their failure to address child sexual abuse, Monday’s announcement seemed aimed at showing that the Vatican is committed to combating the crisis with actions as well as words. The pope’s March letter had been criticized by some as calling more for spiritual renewal than offering direct action against abusers and the bishops on whose watch abuse happened.

Also on Monday, the pope accepted the resignation of Richard Burke, an Irish-born archbishop in Benin City, Nigeria, who had been suspended after he acknowledged having a 20-year relationship with a woman. In a statement, the bishop apologized and denied accusations of child abuse. He said the sexual relationship began when the woman was 21. The woman has said it began when she was 14.

In its announcement, the Vatican said the investigation, called an Apostolic Visitation, would begin this fall with the examination of four dioceses: Dublin, Armagh, Cashel and Emly, and Tuam, as well as seminaries and religious orders. It will then be extended to other dioceses.

For the visitation, the pope appointed some leading Anglophone bishops. He appointed Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, a former archbishop of Westminster, to investigate the Archdiocese of Armagh, which is the seat of the All-Ireland primate Cardinal Sean Brady.

Cardinal Brady said last month that he would remain in his position, despite calls for his resignation, because of his involvement in secret meetings with abuse victims in a notorious case in 1975.

The archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, will investigate the Archdiocese of Dublin, and the archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, a former rector of the North American College in Rome, will oversee an investigation into Irish seminaries, including the Pontifical Irish College in Rome. Ireland’s seminaries, like those in many countries, have experienced a significant decrease in enrollments.

The other two are Archbishop Thomas Christopher Collins of Toronto, who will oversee investigation into the Diocese of Cashel and Emly, and Ottawa’s archbishop, the Rev. Terrence Thomas Prendergast, who will be responsible for Tuam.

There’s much more at the link.

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