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LONDON (RNS) The leader of the global Anglican Communion has been forced to apologize for claiming the Catholic Church in Ireland had lost “all credibility” over the clerical child abuse scandal.
The Easter weekend dust-up was triggered when Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams claimed on BBC radio that recent sexual abuse revelations had been a “colossal trauma” for Ireland’s Catholic community.
The Irish government has issued several reports in the past year detailing a long-standing and wide-ranging cover-up of abuse of children in Catholic-run institutions.
With the Irish Catholic Church “suddenly losing all credibility,” said Williams, “that’s not just a problem for the Church, but for everybody in Ireland.”
The Times newspaper in London labeled Williams’ declaration “a rare breach of ecumenical protocol,” as Catholic fury exploded, forcing the archbishop to telephone Irish Catholic leaders to express his “deep sorrow and regret” over his remarks.
Williams’ office at Lambeth Palace in London insisted “the archbishop had no intention of criticizing or offending the Roman Catholic Church as a whole.”
However, there were growing fears that the revelations of abusive Catholic priests — referenced in Williams’ remarks — could become a major issue ahead of a four-day visit to Britain by Pope Benedict XVI, now scheduled for September.
Williams recalled that “an Irish friend (said) recently (that) it’s a quite difficult in some parts of Ireland to go down the streets wearing a clerical collar now.”

— Al Webb
Copyright 2010 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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