Forgiveness sought for 'sins' of clergy


THE CATHOLIC Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin and the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston Seán O’Malley yesterday washed the feet of a representative number of victims of clerical child sex abuse in “an act of humble service” at Dublin’s Pro-Cathedral.

At the beginning of a moving 90-minute liturgy “of lament and repentance”, prepared in the main by abuse victims themselves, Archbishop Martin and Cardinal O’Malley both prostrated themselves in silent prayer before the altar which was dominated by a large, bare, wooden cross, symbolising the cross of Jesus Christ.

Most of the readings, which included excerpts from the Ryan and Murphy reports, were by victims or relatives of abuse victims. A woman victim read from Matthew’s gospel about Jesus and children, and his words that “anyone who is the downfall of one of these little ones . . . would be better drowned in the depths of the sea.”

Among the eight people who had their feet washed were Marie Collins, abused as a child by Fr Paul McGenis, Darren McGavin whose abuse led to former priest Fr Tony Walsh being sentenced to 16 years imprisonment last December, and Christine Buckley who was abused in Dublin’s Goldenbridge orphanage.

Archbishop Martin asked God’s forgiveness “for the sins of bishops and religious superiors, when they failed to respond as good shepherds to victims of abuse by priests and religious.”

He sought forgiveness too “for indifference in the face of human suffering, for putting the institutional Church before the safety of children, for covering up crimes of abuse, and by so doing actually causing the sexual abuse of more children.” He asked God’s forgiveness “for the deaf ear, the blind eye and the hard of heart.”

Cardinal O’Malley, who is leading the apostolic visitation to Dublin sent by Pope Benedict,said “we confess that we are guilty and our sins fill us with dismay.” He also said “on behalf of the Holy Father, I ask forgiveness for the sexual abuse of children perpetrated by priests and the past failures of the Churchs hierarchy, here and in Rome . . . to respond appropriately to the problem of sexual abuse”.

Archbishop Martin said “no one, no one who shared any responsibility for what happened in . . . this archdiocese can ask forgiveness of these who were abused without first recognising the injustice done and their own failure for what took place.”

He said “I, as Archbishop of Dublin . . . ask forgiveness of God and I ask from each of you for the first steps of forgiveness from the victims of abuse.”

He expressed “immense gratitude” to those men and women who, “despite the hurt it cost them . . . had the courage to speak out, to speak out, to speak out and to speak out again and again, courageously and with determination even in the face of unbelief and rejection.” All victims were indebted to them, he said, as was “the Church in Dublin and worldwide and everyone here today.”

He apologised “in my own name” for “the insensitivity and even hurtful and nasty reactions that you have encountered. I appeal to you to continue to speak out. There is still a long path to journey in honesty before we can truly merit forgiveness.”

At the end of the liturgy a “Candle of Protection” was blessed by Archbishop Martin and lit from the Paschal Candle before it was carried in procession to nearby St Joseph’s altar.

Two victims made unplanned contributions at the service. Interrupting the liturgy, Robert Dempsey presented Archbishop Martin with documents alleging continued abuse by civil authorities while, doing likewise, Christopher Heaphy spoke of his savage treatment in an institution as a five-year-old.