Many priests were ‘traumatised’ in wake of Murphy report, says Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop says not enough was done to help priests after the report’s publication
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin at home in Drumcondra: “My living quarters are smaller than [the pope’s].” Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
Not enough was done to help priests after the Murphy report into the handling of allegations of clerical child sex abuse was published in 2009, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said.
In an interview to mark 10 years since he became archbishop in April 2004, he said it was “a fair criticism” to say that not enough had been done to deal with “the trauma of priests” after the publication of the Murphy report, but add- ed that the atmosphere “became so difficult that it wouldn’t have been easy to do that”.
A lot of priests were “genuinely traumatised” and “a polarisation came out of that”.
Soon meetings “were not about the Murphy report”. Instead, much of the reaction “was about church personalities, not about the children”.
He noted that now there was “a certain revisionism of the Murphy report abroad”, which he rejected. “The pope himself has said that he wants to take/assume a responsibility within the church for what happened. There can be no denial of that and there can be no denial that the church in which that happened had got it severely wrong,” he said.
What upset Martin most after the publication of the Murphy report was “the sort of bland apologies. It just wasn’t, to me, the sort of reaction that should be coming from a situation within the church of Jesus Christ in which you had the sort of thing said to me, ‘I studied law and in all my course there was never mention of paedophilia’.”
But if paedophilia was not a crime, “the rape, the sexual abuse of children”, was a crime, he said. “In Archbishop [John Charles] McQuaid’s time canonical trials took place . . . We had a priest arrested in the 1950s for child sexual abuse. It was well known that child molesters were at high risk in prison because they were considered the lowest of the low, which means there was an awareness in legal circles that child molesting took place.”
The Murphy commission “couldn’t have worked if we hadn’t co-operated. Some say gardaí and the HSE got off light. We provided that information and I haven’t the slightest remorse about having done that. I believe it was absolutely important that it come out,” he said.
The most frightening thing for Martin was the discovery “that we had, at the same time, 10 serial paedophiles active in the archdiocese of Dublin [in the 1970s]. There’s no way you can say that was systems’ failure. That was a terrible thing. It’s very hard to explain it.”
The high point of his 10 years as Catholic Archbishop of Dublin has been “the way in which the people in our parishes rallied after the Murphy report”. It was “very impressive to see how people took responsibility to address a problem and a challenge which they didn’t cause. To me that was a clear sign of the fact that people love their church.”