VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI has tapped four top U.S. and Canadian bishops to help lead a high-profile inquiry into child sex abuse in the Irish Catholic Church.
The announcement comes as the Vatican appears to be taking a tougher line on sexual abuse. At a special prayer service on Saturday (May 29), the Vatican’s chief abuse investigator, Monsignor Charles Scicluna, quoted from Pope Gregory the Great, saying abusive priests would suffer “more terrible damnation” in hell.

The “Apostolic Visitation,” which had been promised in the pope’s March letter to Irish Catholics, will assign separate archdioceses to separate investigators. All nine members of the investigatory team, including two nuns, are of Irish descent.
Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley will oversee a probe of Dublin; Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins will oversee the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly; Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast will oversee the Archdiocese of Tuam, and retired British Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor will oversee the Archdiocese of Armagh.
In addition, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan will oversee a probe of Irish seminaries.
Since December, three Irish bishops have resigned after being criticized for mishandling cases of pedophile priests. The country’s top prelate, Cardinal Sean Brady, has so far resisted calls for his resignation.
The pope said the inquiry was a response to “the tragic cases of abuse perpetrated by priests and religious upon minors,” and was aimed at contributing to the country’s “desired spiritual and moral renewal.”
In a statement, O’Malley stressed the importance of responding “to the concerns of the Catholic community and the survivors in the manner that will promote the process of healing.”
But Barbara Dorris, outreach director for the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said the church should have appointed outside investigators, and pointed to O’Malley and Dolan’s “troubling track records on abuse” in U.S. cases.
Meanwhile, Irish-born Archbishop Richard Burke of Benin City, Nigeria, became the latest prelate to resign after a Nova Scotia woman accused the 60-year-old prelate of a 20-year sexual relationship with her in Nigeria, starting when she was 14.
By Richard Allen
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