Martin's address welcomed by victims

 

ABUSE VICTIMS and representative groups have welcomed the forthright address by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin to the Knights of Columbanus on Monday night.

Archbishop Martin spoke of being “disheartened and discouraged” at “the still strong forces [in the church] which would prefer that the truth did not emerge” about child sex abuse and its cover-up in the church.

He also said there were “signs of subconscious denial” on the part of many about the extent of the abuse in the church and how it was covered up. He also spoke of “worrying signs” that regulations and norms on child protection were still not being followed with the rigour required.

Marie Collins, who was abused as a child when a patient in Crumlin children’s hospital, last night said: “I’m glad he spoke out. Archbishop Martin has been quiet for a while . . . But there has been nothing from Cardinal Brady and the rest [of the bishops] but silence. Since the pope’s letter [to Irish Catholics] they seem to have disappeared. We laity have been waiting for initiatives from the bishops since that letter,” she said.

She found it “beyond belief” that after all that has happened that “anyone in the church in Ireland would not be following the [child protection] norms to the letter. It is staggering”.

One in Four chief executive Maeve Lewis said Archbishop Martin had once again shown himself to be a man of courage who was not afraid to speak the truth. She said “survivors of clerical sex abuse have been deeply hurt by the response to the Ryan and Murphy reports by some people within the Catholic Church, right up to the pope, who have sought to minimise and deny the extent to which the protection of sex offenders was deliberate church policy”. She said abuse victims would be “encouraged in their recovery by the archbishop’s recognition of the forces which continue to deny their experiences”.

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre chief executive Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop, noting that Archbishop Martin’s observation that child protection norms were not being implemented with the rigour required, called for “real commitment for the implementation of child protection policies and procedures in church and State”.

She quoted from a letter sent to the centre by 19 practising Catholics in a north Co Dublin parish who apologised “for the failure of our church leaders to accept responsibility and act promptly to protect the victims when perpetrators were identified”.

They said they “were also conscious that, as members of our church, albeit lay members, we adopted a very passive approach over the years when we should have been more vigilant, more vocal and questioning of our church leaders and our church policies.”

Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan said she supported Archbishop Martin in his asking challenging and uncomfortable questions around child protection.

She also called for the church to be explicitly brought under the Government’s revised child protection guidelines.

Catholic Bishop of Killaloe Willie Walsh said he too supported Archbishop Martin’s remarks.

“I would agree, I think generally, with what the archbishop was saying that our handling of child sex abuse issue in the past was catastrophic and that there is still a good deal of denial,” he told RTÉ Radio.

No other Catholic bishop commented on the archbishop’s address yesterday.