Martin 'angered' at Church response


Great damage has been done to the credibility of the Church in Ireland as a result of the handling of child abuse allegations in the Diocese of Cloyne, the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said.

Speaking to Mass-goers at Dublin's Pro-Cathedral, Dr Martin said he was angered at the response, or non-response, by Church authorities to children whose lives were ruptured by abuse.

"Irish religious culture has radically changed and has changed irreversibly. There will be no true renewal in the Church until that fact is recognised. The Church cannot continue to be present in society as it was in the past,” he said.

"Those in Church and State who have acted wrongly or inadequately should assumer responsibility."

What was at stake here was “not just the past, but the future of our children and our young people and the need to foster a healthy environment across the board in which our upcoming generations are cherished and can grow to maturity,” he said.

Archbishop of Cashel and Emly Dermot Clifford also expressed remorse for the consistent failure to report abuse allegations, saying the people of the diocese were entitled to expect the complaints to be handled according to church guidelines.

“I also apologise again for the consistent failure to report allegations to the civil authorities and for the mistakes and omissions which were made over a number of years in the diocese,” the senior cleric overseeing the Diocese of Cloyne said in an open letter to parishioners.

“The people of Cloyne were entitled to expect that all such complaints would be handled according to the official church guidelines. This was not the case, and for this I am truly sorry.”

Dr Martin said his first thoughts on reading the Cloyne report, published last Wednesday, went back to the liturgy of lament and repentance at the Pro-Cathedral some months ago, “to those who organised it and took part in it.”

He continued: “I asked myself: what are they thinking today? Are they asking themselves if that entire liturgy was just an empty show? Were they being used just to boost the image of the Church? Were their renewed hopes just another illusion about a Church which seems unable to reform itself? Was their hurt just being further compounded?”

As he pondered this “the first emotion that came to me was one of anger," he said.

It was “anger at what had happened in the diocese of Cloyne and at response – or non-response - that was made to children whose lives had been ruptured by abuse; anger at the fact that children had been put at risk well after agreed guidelines were in place which were approved by all the Irish bishops.”

He felt angry “at how thousands of men and women in this diocese of Dublin must feel, who have invested time and training to ensure that the Church they love and hope can be different would truly be a safe place for children.”

He felt anger “at the fact that there were in Cloyne - and perhaps elsewhere - individuals who placed their own views above the safeguarding of children, and seemingly without any second thought placed themselves outside and above the regime of safeguarding to which their diocese and the Irish bishops had committed themselves.”

These people did so while “paradoxically, appealing somehow to their own interpretation of Canon Law they had put themselves even above and beyond the norms which the current Pope himself has promulgated for the entire Church.”

The Catholic Church in Ireland was “a much safer place today than it was even in the recent past. Much is being said, on the other hand, that despite words the Church has not learned the lessons. Both statements are true," he said.

All of us needed “to have in place systems of verification and review which help us to identify mistakes made or areas where more can be done or things can be done better. We need to continue to build a cooperative climate where all the institutions of the Church work in a constructive way together and with the institutions of the State, which bears the primary responsibility for child safeguarding in the country,” he said.

He thanked “the priests and lay persons in this diocese who have committed themselves to implementing our child safeguarding policies and I appeal to them not to be become frustrated or indifferent.”

Public recognition was due “to the mobilisation within the Church of so many volunteers who are in the front line in our parishes and organizations in child safeguarding,” he said.

He appealed that “those priests who have ministered untarnished and generously over years – indeed for an entire lifetime” should not be made “scapegoats and objects of hate.”

They should be recognised “for the good they do and they need the support of their people.”

He also appealed “to those priests who have become demoralised and half-hearted not to give in to cynicism but to heed the Lord’s call to renewal and conversion.”

Early results from the most recent census indicated “that there will be a significant growth in the numbers and the proportion of children and young people in our population in the coming years. This will inevitably require significant investment,” he said.