Catholic leaders' Easter sermons sound penitent note over abuse 'crimes'

By staff writers
April 4, 2010

Churches across Britain and Ireland - and especially Catholic leaders - have used Easter Sunday sermons to address the Catholic Church's handling of its global child abuse scandal.

The president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference in England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, said forthrightly that "serious sins" had been committed and that the Church was called upon to admit and rectify its failings.

The Irish Catholic Church's leading figure, Cardinal Sean Brady, who has defied repeated resignation calls, declared that there was no longer a "hiding place for abusers in the church".

Meanwhile, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, apologised for the way his previous remarks had been made and received.

Dr Williams, who is spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, which claims 77 million adherents, had said in a BBC Radio interview due to be broadcast on Monday 5, April that Ireland's Catholic Church was losing "all credibility" over its response to past child abuse in its ranks.

He said in a subsequent BBC interview that he felt “deep sorrow" for adding to the difficulties being faced by Irish bishops. He also telephoned Archbishop Martin to insist he meant no offence.

A Lambeth Palace spokesperson for Dr Williams said that “The Archbishop had no intention of criticising or attacking the Catholic Church as a whole”, and was in fact expressing regret - as Ekklesia, almost alone among news outlets, reported on 3 April (

Respondents from Ireland on Beliefnet and other religious news sites questioned whether the apology was appropriate or necessary.

Dr Williams did not tackle the child abuse issue in his own sermon - but instead lamented the misguided and misplaced "inflated language" used by some British Christians to claim that they are being "discriminated against".

At St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference in Scotland, apologised to abuse victims.

He said: "Crimes against children have indeed been committed, and any Catholics who were aware of such crimes and did not act to report them brings shame on us all."

O'Brien added that "no comfort" could come from the fact that only a small percentage of priests were guilty of paedophilia.

Meanwhile, at St Peter's in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI made no direct mention of the cover-up accusations which have engulfed the Church in his message that Easter signalled the promise of pardon, goodness and truth.


Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.