Abuse victims praise Martin speech

Tue, May 11, 2010, 01:00

Survivors of clerical abuse have praised Archbishop Diarmuid Martin for his courage in speaking out against elements within the Catholic Church that would prefer scandals about paedophile priests kept secret.

Survivors said Dr Martin had found his voice again as he revealed he had been disheartened and discouraged by the level of willingness in the church towards renewal.

In an address on the future of the Catholic Church in Ireland to the Knights of Columbanus in Dublin last night, the Archbishop said the damming Murphy report on abuse in his diocese was catastrophic and warned against any slippage in the protection of children.

Abuse survivor Marie Collins said he had been courageous to tell the truth. “It’s good that we have one man in the hierarchy who is willing to speak out and be courageous in this way,” said Ms Collins.

“It’s a shame other Bishops around the country have nothing to day. The Cardinal (Sean Brady) has even said nothing at all, but promises he will give a decision about resigning on Pentecost Sunday.

“The main thing is change cannot be left to the Archbishop of Dublin. He is only one man and can only do so much.

“He can raise awareness but after that the rest of the hierarchy has to show some initiative.” Ms Collins said after a papal letter from Rome was sent to Irish Catholics at Easter survivors expected a major change in the church, towards a new church with lay people becoming more involved.

“All we are getting is a deafening silence,” she added.

In his address, Archbishop Martin he was discouraged by the drip-by-drip never-ending revelations about child sexual abuse and the disastrous way they were handled.

He warned of “strong forces” in the Catholic Church in Ireland “which would prefer that the truth did not emerge” about clerical child sex abuse, and said there were “signs of subconscious denial on the part of many about the extent of the abuse which occurred . . .”

Archbishop Martin said he was “surprised at the manner in which church academics and church publicists can today calmly act as pundits on the roots of the sexual abuse scandals in the church as if they were totally extraneous to the scandal. Where did responsibility lie for a culture of seminary institutions which produced both those who abused and those who mismanaged the abuse? Where were the pundit-publicists while a church culture failed to recognise what was happening?”

Archbishop Martin said he did not believe “that people have a true sense of the crisis of faith that exists in Ireland”.

“There are other signs of rejection of a sense of responsibility for what had happened. There are worrying signs that despite solid regulations and norms these are not being followed with the rigour required,” he added.

Maeve Lewis, of support group One in Four, said Archbishop Martin has shown himself to be a man of courage.

“I always had great time for him, but we felt after the Bishops went to Rome that he was muted. He was like a different man.” said Ms Lewis.

“But it is like he found his voice again. He really is a strong advocate for survivors and they deserve no less than that.” Ms Lewis said survivors have been deeply hurt by the response to the Ryan and Murphy reports by some people within the Catholic Church, right up to the Pope.

The Catholic Communications Office said it would not comment on the Archbishop’s remarks.

Bishop of Killaloe Willie Walsh said he was not surprised by the Archbishop’s remarks but supported them.

“I would agree I think generally with what the Archbishop was saying that our handling of child sex abuse issue in the past was catastrophic and that there is still a good deal of denial,” the Bishop told RTÉ radio this morning.

“There is I believe a crisis of faith in Ireland and I think we are not fully facing up to it. I think in many ways there is denial in relation to the issue of child sex abuse and there’s denial in relation to the crisis of faith.

“Largely I would agree. I think it was a very powerful and courageous talk by the Archbishop and largely I would agree.” Bishop Walsh said he had also been discouraged with the response of the church hierarchy following the child abuse inquiries.

He also suggested that if he had been a Bishop in 1970s he would have made a catastrophic mess of handling child abuse allegations.