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There is always tension between the possibilities we aspire to and our wounded memories and past mistakes.
Unprecedented financial pressures, and an ever-increasingly aggressive public culture, along with social, moral and spiritual fragmentation, are leading to lives being overwhelmed by stress, intolerable interior isolation and even quiet despair.
Ireland and its people have much to be proud of. Yet every land and its people have moments of shame. Dealing with the failures of our past, as a country, as a Church, or as an individual is never easy. Our struggle to heal the wounds of decades of violence, injury and painful memory in Northern Ireland are more than ample evidence of this.
In 1975, no State or Church guidelines existed in the Republic of Ireland to assist those responding to an allegation of abuse against a minor. No training was given to priests, teachers, police officers or others who worked regularly with children about how to respond appropriately should such allegations be made.
There is no more important value than upholding the right to life in all circumstances.
We live in a twilight sort of world where, unfortunately, the perception of the seriousness of abortion - has grown progressively obscured in the minds of many of our contemporaries.
May God forgive us for the times when we as individuals and as a Church failed to seek out and care for those little ones who were frightened, alone and in pain because someone was abusing them. That we did not always respond to your cries with the concern of the Good Shepherd is a matter of deep shame.
The inviolability of the seal of confession is so fundamental to the very nature of the sacrament that any proposal which undermines that inviolability is a challenge to the rights of every Catholic to freedom of religion and conscience.
Looking back, I am ashamed that I have not always upheld the values that I profess and believe in.
The only people who had authority within the Church to stop Brendan Smyth from having contact with children were his Abbot in the Monastery in Kilnacrott and his Religious Superiors in the Norbertine Order.
With others, I feel betrayed that those who had the authority in the Church to stop Brendan Smyth failed to act on the evidence I gave them. However, I also accept that I was part of an unhelpful culture of deference and silence in society and the Church, which thankfully is now a thing of the past.
I deeply regret that those with the authority and responsibility to deal appropriately with Brendan Smyth failed to do so, with tragic and painful consequences for those children he so cruelly abused.
I hope that everyone who believes that the right to life is fundamental will make their voice heard in a reasonable, but forthright, way to their representatives, reminding them that the right to life is conferred on human beings not by the powerful ones of this world but by the Creator.
Today, Church policy in Ireland is to report allegations of abuse to the civil authorities. It recognises the Gardai and H.S.E. as those with responsibility for investigating such allegations and that any Church investigation should not take place until the investigation by the civil authorities has been completed.
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Norman Vincent Peale
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Henry Ward Beecher
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