James ( our Irish Roman Catholic correspondent) gives his views:)
Your estimable Archbishop Rowan Williams caused quite a stir over here- among the bishops anyway! He was quite right in what he said, though I can see how the 'good guys', who have been trying to fix up this mess, feel that they are all tarred with the same brush- but I think even the 'good guys' are being somewhat over sensitive. The Catholic church in Ireland has lost all credibility and I think that therein lies the hope of a new beginning. At this point the Irish bishops are actually better at facing the reality of the situation than the Vatican, which is being defensive and seems to be falling into the same trap (i.e. don't admit to mistakes as this will bankrupt the church if it has to pay damages.)People are also asking whether the Irish (and American, Dutch, German) bishops all act independently in covering up the scandals or was Rome involved? Seems unlikely that a church with such a strong centralised authority structure would have a large number of senior figures disregarding their instructions on matters as fundamental as these.
For individual Catholics the choices are fairly stark but for me anyway I see the Catholic church as my church, with a senior administrative layer who have lost their way morally, but I'm not leaving my church because those guys don't know right from wrong. Sometimes the lower down the hierarchy the better they are; we must acknowledge that there are so many priests and nuns who live saintly lives and serve their people so well. And the Irish hierarchy now, after the resignations , is in general not too bad! There are a good few still that just don't get it but even the primate (who has grave questions to answer) seems to have changed markedly in tone while he 'considers his position'. This more humiliated/humble church may be a much better church than we have had for generations.
I read on another blog recently an imagined scenario in which the Roman Catholic Church paid out in full to compensate the victims of abuse; far from destroying the church this dramatic action revitalised it as people began to meet in their homes, gave freely of their time and money and saw a revival of grassroots faith.
It would indeed be a positive thing if humility and repentance could transform the Church and win people to faith.