Do whatever it takes to stop sex abuse, Benedict says

Denouncing cases of clerical sex abuse as "egregious crimes", Pope Benedict has told Irish bishops that they must find out the truth, seek justice and do whatever is necessary to prevent abuse from occurring again.

Meeting with Irish bishops on an ad limina visit to Rome, Pope Benedict said the crimes had caused deep wounds, ABC News reports.

Bishops must find out the truth, seek justice and do whatever was necessary to prevent abuse happening again, he said.

"In the exercise of your pastoral ministry, you have had to respond in recent years to many heart-rending cases of sexual abuse of minors," the Pope told bishops at the weekend.

"These are all the more tragic when the abuser is a cleric.

"The wounds caused by such acts run deep, and it is an urgent task to rebuild confidence and trust where these have been damaged. In your continuing efforts to deal effectively with this problem, it is important to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure the principles of justice are fully respected, and above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes."

However, Benedict XVI said the "transgressions" of some clergy should not obscure the "fine work and selfless dedication" of the great majority of priests.

"I am certain the people understand this, and continue to regard their clergy with affection and esteem," he said.

The Irish Church is reeling from more than 100 allegations of child sexual abuse by 26 priests in the western Fern diocese between 1962 and 2002. More than 5,000 complaints have been registered and more than $330 million has been payed out in compensation, an AFP report added.

In Australia, the Church has dealt with 1000 abuse allegations since setting up its Towards Healing process for dealing with such claims a decade ago.

In 2002, the St John of God order paid $3.6 million in compensation to 24 intellectually disabled males who were abused in residential care units in Melbourne.

In August, Ballarat County Court judge Bill White criticised the Church for its lack of action in dealing with complaints against priest Gerald Francis Ridsdale, who was jailed for indecently assaulting boys at a wedding, a funeral and during confessions in Victoria's western districts over a 17-year period.

In 2001, the Melbourne archdiocese paid $33,000 to a man for the repeated sexual and physical abuse he suffered as a child at the hands of a priest. The victim also claimed to have seen the priest murder three people during Satanic rituals.

Purge sex abuse, Pope tells bishops (ABC News, 30/10/06)
Pope wants truth on abuse from Irish priests (News.com.au, 29/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Address of Pope Benedict to Irish Bishops (Catholic Communications Office, Ireland, 28/10/06)
Towards healing (Pastoral Letter, Irish Catholic Bishops Conference, 2005)

Irish author's abuse story "fiction", says her family (CathNews, 20/9/06)
Irish clergy abuse to be probed by lay experts (CathNews, 21/12/05)
Irish probe finds abuse cover-up in Catholic Church (CathNews, 26/10/05)

30 Oct 2006