At the request of Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Marc Ouellet visited Ireland’s traditional penitential pilgrimage site of Lough Derg to seek God’s forgiveness for priests who sexually abused children in Ireland and everywhere in the Church.
“We have learned over the last decades how much harm and despair such abuse has caused to thousands of victims,” the cardinal said in his June 12 homily during Mass at St. Patrick’s Basilica at Lough Derg in County Donegal.
“In the name of the Church, I apologize once again to the victims, some of whom I have met here in Lough Derg,” he said. “I come here with the specific intention of seeking forgiveness, from God and from the victims, for the grave sin of sexual abuse of children by clerics.”
He said the Church “learned too late” that some of her leaders responded to the crimes of abuse in a way that was “often inadequate” in stopping the crimes.
Cardinal Ouellet is Pope Benedict’s legate to the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, which is running from June 10-17.
Before Mass, he held a two-hour meeting with survivors of institutional and clerical abuse from different parts of Ireland. He listened to each survivor discuss his or her abuse experience and its effects on their lives.
He said he was deeply moved by the meeting and would report on it to the Pope.
“The tragedy of the sexual abuse of minors perpetrated by Christians, especially when done so by members of the clergy, is a source of great shame and enormous scandal,” the cardinal said in his homily. “It is a sin against which Jesus himself lashed out.”
He drew on Pope Benedict’s March 2010 pastoral letter to the Catholics of Ireland, which discussed the difficulties abuse victims have in forgiving. The Pope expressed the “shame and remorse” of the Church and asked victims not to lose hope.
Cardinal Ouellet reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s commitment to creating a “safe environment” for children.
He also said that “true conversion” can only happen through restoring a “deep personal relationship with Christ.”
Intercessory prayers at the June 12 Mass included prayers for abuse victims, forgiveness for physical and sexual abuse, and for the inadequate response of Church leaders.
Bishop Liam MacDaid of Clogher welcomed Cardinal Ouellet and papal nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown to Lough Derg.
Bishop MacDaid told the cardinal “we join our hearts with yours in reaching out to all victims of abuse.”
“We will cooperate with you and with His Holiness in every way we can to prevent this happening again.”