No words of apology will ever be sufficient, says archbishop

Fri, Nov 27, 2009, 00:00

CHURCH REACTION:NO WORDS of apology will ever be sufficient for the suffering and trauma visited on those who were abused by members of the clergy, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said.

Speaking after the publication of the Dublin diocesan report, an often emotional Dr Martin acknowledged it highlighted “devastating failings” on the part of the church.

“Today, it must be unequivocally recalled that the Archdiocese of Dublin failed to recognise the theft of childhood which survivors endured and the diocese failed in its responses to them when they had the courage to come forward, compounding the damage done to their innocence. For that no words of apology will ever be sufficient,” he said.

“The sexual abuse of a child is and always was a crime in civil law. It is and always was a crime in canon law. It is and always was grievously sinful.” Dr Martin said the failings outlined in the report should be a call on all within the church to “scrupulously apply” existing guidelines and norms. “There is no room for revisionism regarding the norms and procedures in place,” he added.

The archbishop spoke of how church leaders had made decisions that had resulted in more children being abused.

“How did those with responsibility dramatically misread the risk that a priest who had hurt one of those whom Jesus calls ‘the little ones’ might go on to abuse another child if decisive action was not taken?

“Efforts made to ‘protect the church’ and to ‘avoid scandal’ have had the ironic result of bringing this horrendous scandal on the church today.”

Dr Martin said one of the most heartbreaking aspects of the report was that while church leaders failed, parents who reported abuse “clearly understood the awfulness” of what had occurred.

“Their motivation was not about money or revenge, it was, quite simply, about that most basic human sense of right and wrong and that basic Christian motivation of concern for others,” he said. “The survivors of abuse who courageously remained determined to have the full truth heard by all deserve our recognition and admiration.”

Dr Martin spoke of how his sense of shame was shared by his colleagues in the archdiocese. “The fact that the abusers were priests constituted both and offence to God and affront to the priesthood,” he added.

Asked if individuals named in the report should step down, Dr Martin said: “I have always expressed the position that every bishop should evaluate their ministry in terms of commitments they make in reality to the protection of children.”

He later added: “I would appeal to each of those people who are named by the commission as having acted in a way which put people in peril to assess their behaviour in the past and their behaviour today – are they witnessing effectively to the desire of the church to safeguard children?”

Dr Martin said he was very concerned about references made in the report to the inadequacy of the legislative framework surrounding the protection of children. “I was disappointed that the only way the Minister for Children addressed that was to say that further advice is being taken by the Attorney General,” he said. “If the legislative framework is inadequate then all of us, and every child in Ireland, has something to worry about.”

The archbishop acknowledged the full story of clerical abuse may never be told because many victims are too traumatised to divulge what happened, but he admitted the true number of those abused is likely to be much higher than outlined in the report.