Archbishop 'surprised' at reaction to remarks

Catholic primate Cardinal Seán Brady (left) and Bishop John Fleming in conversation at Maynooth yesterday where both attended the bishops' conference.

Catholic primate Cardinal Seán Brady (left) and Bishop John Fleming in conversation at Maynooth yesterday where both attended the bishops' conference.

Sat, Jan 23, 2010, 00:00

The Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin last night expressed surprise at claims made last month by the Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan that he had attacked the latter’s integrity.

It followed a call by Archbishop Martin, following publication of the Murphy report on November 26th last, for all current and former Auxiliary Bishops of Dublin to be accountable for their actions on child protection issues.

He said that bishops mentioned in the report should either admit their mistakes over the handling of priests who abused and step down, or stand over their claim that theyd done nothing wrong.

Bishop Drennan had been an Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin for seven of the years investigated by the Murphy Commission.

In a radio interview, after the Archbishop made his comments, Bishop Drennan said last month: “I dont know if Archbishop Martin intended it or not but it has put a question mark over my integrity, yes, Now that Ive responded to him and given him the evidence he needs he might want to reflect on that and see what response he should make to it.

Speaking to the media in Maynooth last night, as a day-long extraordinary meeting of the Irish Episcopal Conference concluded and which was also attended by Bishop Drennan, Archbishop Martin said: “Im surprised that anybody would say that by asking people to be accountable, to stand up and explain themselves, that was an attack on anyones integrity.” He said he had received lots of correspondence supporting him for saying people should be accountable, which didnt mean heads should roll, he said.

In a statement after their meeting the bishops said they had been listening to the “widespread and justifiable anger and frustration from survivors, priests and laity across their dioceses” since publication of the Murphy report.

They have also said they recognise that “in the critical area of safeguarding children, people want accountability and transparency in terms of policy and procedures”.They said that since their winter meeting last month they had “asked the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church to explore with statutory authorities, North and South, ways of ensuring that the Church’s policies and practices in relation to the safeguarding of children represent best practice and that all allegations of abuse are being handled properly”. Such discussions were “ongoing.”

The welcomed the invitation from Pope Benedict to meet them in the Vatican on February 15th and 16th next. The pope’s request “was made in the context of the very serious situatuation that prevails in the Irish Church”, they said. They discussed preparations for the pope’s pastoral letter to the faithful of Ireland which he indicated he would prepare following his meeting at the Vatican on December 11th with the Catholic primate Cardinal Seán Brady and Archbishop Martin. The letter is expected to be addressed to Ireland’s Catholics during Lent, which begins this year on February 17th, Ash Wednesday.

The bishops said last night that this letter would be followed by a “listening and consultation process which will take place with the lay faithful, clergy and religious”. They encouraged support for the people of Haiti and offered their sympathy and prayerful support to the people of Ardagh and Clonmacnois following the fire which gutted St Mel’s Cathedral there on Christmas Day. The meeting was attended by 18 bishops from Ireland’s 26 dioceses.

Separately, the Bishop of Raphoe Philip Boyce described as “unfounded” claims made by Seán O’Conaill, of Voice of the Faithful Ireland, on RTE ’s Morning Irelandprogramme yesterday that there were concerns over abuse issues in his diocese.