Colm O'Gorman: Honesty and justice would be better than a meeting

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The Independent Online

Given all we now know about the cover-up of clerical sexual abuse by Rome it's difficult to see what is significant about the Pope's meeting with a small number of victims in Malta. I appreciate that it may have been meaningful to those who chose to meet the Pope, but it hardly represents a major breakthrough in addressing the global scandals engulfing the Roman Catholic church.

One might have expected that such meetings, as part of a meaningful engagement with victims, would have been an essential component of an appropriate response to abuse by priests. They are at odds with the ongoing denial of the Vatican of its responsibility for the cover-up of crimes against children and its use of sovereign immunity to block efforts to hold it to account before civil courts.

The perversity of blaming everyone else, including at times the victims themselves for the crimes and cover-ups of the church in a ridiculous attempt to dodge accountability, whilst expressing concern for victims seems lost on the Vatican.

But there was a much more significant event this weekend. Speaking at a Catholic University, Cardinal Dario Hoyos revealed that a letter he wrote praising French bishop Pierre Pican for not passing information about a rapist priest to the French police was sent to every Catholic bishop in the world in 2001 with the approval of Pope John Paul II. Pican had been convicted of failing to report abuse by a Catholic abbot sentenced to 18 years in prison for paedophilia.

In his letter Cardinal Hoyos wrote: "I congratulate you for not denouncing a priest to the civil administration ... I am pleased to have a colleague in the episcopate who, in the eyes of history and of all other bishops in the world, preferred prison to denouncing his son and priest."

Hoyos was at the time one of the most senior figures in the Catholic Church. So there it is, proof that the Vatican actively supported the cover-up of clerical sexual abuse.

Also exposed is the ongoing deceit of the Vatican's protestations that the church has not covered up abuse. Only last week, the Pope's second-in-command, Cardinal Bertone, said the church had never impeded investigations of abuse by priests. Meetings are all very well, but surely honesty and a commitment to justice would be much more meaningful?

Colm O'Gorman is himself a victim of abuse by a Roman Catholic priest and the author of the memoir 'Beyond Belief'.