Archbishop Diarmuid Martin in robust defence of Murphy Commission
Over 500 children may have been abused in Dublin where 98 Catholic priests face allegations
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin: “The children who were abused and their families and dear ones must be uppermost in our minds”.
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said children who were abused by priests must be remembered during any criticisms of the Murphy report.
He said every cleric of the Dublin Archdiocese “who engaged with the Murphy commission was offered legal assistance for preparation, during their engagement, or when verifying drafts submitted to the commission for factual accuracy”.
His statement was issued yesterday followed the publication in The Irish Times of details of a review of the Murphy report commissioned by the Association of Catholic Priests and presented at their agm in Athlone.
It was carried out by barrister Fergal Sweeney, who served as principal magistrate in Hong Kong and on the district court there before retirement in 2005 .
The review found that the practices and procedures of the Murphy commission “fell far short” of meeting the requirements of natural and constitutional justice where Catholic clergy called before it were concerned.
‘Veered off the rails’
It concluded that the commission “veered off the tight rails imposed by the 2004 Commissions of Investigation Act and wandered into an adversarial arena that concentrated, to an alarming degree, on ‘naming and shaming’ those clerics whom the Commission found wanting in child protection at that time”.
Archbishop Martin said that, to his knowledge, the commission had no objection to priests or diocesan officials being accompanied by their lawyers in their engagements with it. “Any person who had a difficulty with the fairness of procedure adopted by the commission had the right to challenge those procedures by way of a judicial review in the High Court. ”
Acknowledging the right of anyone to “examine or criticise the fairness of an act of legislation”, Dr Martin said “one should never overlook the context which gave rise to the establishment of the Murphy report – that a strikingly large number of children were sexually abused by priests within the church of Jesus Christ”.
He said “anyone who loves the church must be truly saddened by this fact. The children who were abused and their families and dear ones must be uppermost in our minds”.
He added that “the Murphy report concerned itself with a representative sample of abuse cases. To date, the Diocesan Child Safeguarding and Protection Service (CSPS), and the civil authorities, have allegations of abuse recorded against 98 priests. The CSPS has information that over 500 children may have been abused by priests in Dublin”.
He concluded: “As I said on the publication of the Murphy report in 2009, the fact that the abusers were priests constituted both an offence to God and an affront to the priesthood. The many good priests of the archdiocese share my sense of shame. This is and remains the case in 2013.”