DURING THE POPE’S visit to Ireland, I was staying with a friend from a missionary order at its house in Dublin. It was rather brilliant to have the community’s take on the trip, which reflected that of much of the country – they were friendly towards and supportive of Francis rather than wildly enthusiastic. They also had their own perspective on the issue that dogged his trip, the corrosive issue of clerical abuse and the response of those in authority.
First off, like so many clerics formed as priests in the 1960s and 1970s, my friend hadn’t registered that the exploitation of minors was an issue. Paedophilia wasn’t mentioned at seminary. So, one of the ways in which clerical authority could be abused, and patently was abused, didn’t even appear on the radar. But the community came to know it all too well; a few years ago, one priest who had joined them from America turned out, unbeknown to them, to have been on the run from justice in the US for the abuse of minors.