Martin criticised for lack of support


A former Dublin auxiliary bishop has strongly criticised Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, claiming he failed to support priests in the Dublin diocese following publication of the Murphy report into clerical child sex abuse.

Bishop Dermot O’Mahony, auxiliary bishop emeritus, has also called on priests to challenge the acceptance by media and current diocese policy that the church engaged in a “cover-up” of child sex abuse over several decades.

“The archbishop did nothing to counteract the statement of the Murphy report, widely circulated in the media, that the majority of clergy knew and did nothing. Indeed, I feel he made matters worse by giving an example of a parish that could be clearly identifiable to the priests of the diocese,” wrote Dr O’Mahony in letters sent to Dr Martin and the Council of Priests in recent weeks.

In the letters, published in the Irish Catholic, Dr O’Mahony admits there were shortcomings in how the diocese responded to allegations of child sex abuse. But he also defends certain aspects of the church’s past response to allegations of child sex abuse by priests in the diocese and emphasises the difficulty in dealing with the issue.

“To suggest our approach failed to take cognisance of the safety of children is inaccurate and unjust. The acceptance by media and current diocese policy that a cover-up took place must be challenged,” wrote Dr O’Mahony, who took the unusual step of circulating his own correspondence with Dr Martin to the Council of Priests.

He criticises Dr Martin for his public comment that “the management of cases was inexcusable”.

“I said that your criticism was unfair. You were out of the diocese for 31 years and had no idea how traumatic it was for those of us who had to deal with allegations without protocols or guidelines in the matter of child sex abuse,” wrote Dr O’Mahony, who was criticised personally by the Murphy report for his “particularly bad” handling of complaints and suspicions of sexual abuse.

The report said he was aware of complaints involving 13 of the priests in the representative sample looked at by the report.

In a letter to Dr Martin on December 30th, Dr O’Mahony wrote that he had been shocked at the tone of a previous letter he had received from Dr Martin, which had addressed the Murphy report.

“I regret that I must add that the letter was the harshest communication I have ever received from anyone during my 34 years as a bishop and almost 50 years as a priest,” he wrote.

A spokeswoman for the archbishop told The Irish Times this letter to Dr O’Mahony, which was dated December 2nd, 2009, was sent following detailed conversation between the men. It was sent three days after a meeting of the diocesan council which discussed the Murphy report into sex abuse.

“Your comments at Monday’s meeting of the Diocesan Council left me extremely concerned in your criticism and even rejection of the findings and of many of the underlying presuppositions of the commission of investigation into the Sexual abuse of children by priests in the archdiocese of Dublin,” wrote Dr Martin, who criticised Dr O’Mahony for not showing public remorse following publication of the Murphy report.

In the letter Dr Martin asked Dr O’Mahony to refrain from publicly administering Confirmation and to cease his association with a charity bringing disabled children to Lourdes. He also withdrew his invitation to Dr O’Mahony to sit at meetings of the Diocesan Council.

“I regret – and I know that this regret is shared by many believing people in the parishes in which you served – that your commitment as auxiliary bishop to the priests and people of the diocese now appears tarnished by the findings of the report and your refusal to recognise that fact,” he wrote.

Dr O’Mahony said he sent a statement of apology to the archbishop’s press office for publication, which was never published. A spokeswoman for the archbishop said a press statement was sent in but the communications office was never asked to publish it.