ACP calls for repudiation of Dolan report on the Irish College, Rome
The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) protests in the strongest possible terms against the methodology and conclusions of Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s Report on the Irish College in Rome, as reported in the Irish Times (June 15, 2012). This report was carried out on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI as part of the Apostolic Visitation of the Irish Church.
The report has effectively destroyed the reputations of priests, who have given lifelong service to the Irish Catholic Church, without giving them a right of reply to the allegations made against them.
It is unacceptable that a report to the Pope, on a sensitive issue, should be conducted in such an incompetent fashion. No court of law would treat people in such a way. Is it too much to expect even minimal rights in law for priests in the Roman Catholic Church? The Irish College staff, as clerics, are entitled under Canon Law to their good name. Canon 220 states that; “No-one may unlawfully harm the good reputation which a person enjoys….”
Civil law also protects a person’s good name through the laws of libel. It is ironic that it was precisely the failure of Church superiors’ to follow either Canon or Civil law in abuse cases which led to the Apostolic Visitation in the first place.
Cardinal Dolan’s report not only undermines the reputation of priests who have not been given a right of reply, it also undermines the credibility of the whole Visitation process. It would appear that, in undertaking this particular visitation, conclusions were effectively drawn beforehand and then evidence to support them was actively sought. If this is the case, it undermines the authority of the Church, confidence in its leaders and not least the whole Visitation process.
It is disturbing, indeed frightening, that what a draft response from the four Irish archbishops called ‘a deep prejudice’ appears to have ’coloured the visitation’ from the outset and ‘led to the hostile tone and content of the report’. The judgment of the four Archbishops seems to be vindicated in the clear efforts made by Cardinal Dolan’s team to find evidence to support the college’s ‘gay-friendly’ reputation. While the report failed to find such evidence, it still persisted in giving a detailed account of specific allegations and then goes on to state that it did not find any evidence to support same. This begs the question as to why such detail is included in the report.
The report’s conclusion that ‘the overwhelming majority of the seminarians are committed to a faithful, chaste lifestyle’ does not justify the detailed, even prurient reporting and naming of individuals and accusations. If the accusations were not substantiated, why not just say so? Is this just incompetence or perhaps homophobia? A charge of the latter could easily be justified as a result of the ‘coloured’ thinking that produced this report.
The ACP calls on the four Irish Archbishops who are the college’s trustees, and on the bishops of the priests concerned, to publicly repudiate this report in the strongest possible terms and to support the priests involved in seeking to restore their reputations.
It is very disappointing, on a number of levels, to have to conclude (as the evidence of this report suggests) that the Apostolic Visitation had very little to do with child protection but was effectively part of an ongoing process of re-making the Church in accordance with current Vatican thinking.
The ACP concludes that the injustice perpetrated on four Irish priests is completely unacceptable; that the incompetent approach of those entrusted by the Pope with such a delicate task is disquieting. It further concludes that there is a strong possibility that the findings of this report were decided before the evidence was gathered.