Diarmuid Martin accused of ‘abdicating his responsibility’ as a moral leader

Renua candidate signals that it is unclear what the legacy of the archbishop would be

Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has been accused of “abdicating his responsibility” as a moral leader in the run-up to the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment by a Renua candidate running in this year’s European elections.

Michael O’Dowd, who is hoping to become an MEP for in the North-West Midlands constituency, has suggested it was unclear what the legacy of the archbishop would be.

“In the dying hours of his time as Archbishop of Dublin, it would be helpful to understand what his legacy will be. I believe he has abdicated his responsibility as a leader of the Catholic Church and silenced a potentially powerful voice for the most defenceless of all – the unborn child,” he said.

Mr O’Dowd demanded that the archbishop clarify how he voted in the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment – even though the archbishop had publicly advocated a No vote on numerous occasions.


‘Basic human rights’

“I feel it is essential that the archbishop states how he voted, or whether he voted at all, as many believe he is more interested in the opinions of Dublin broadsheet newspapers than in giving moral leadership on a basic human rights issue,’’ Mr O’Dowd said.

He expressed the view that if “the church took a stance, especially in our capital city, and actively campaigned against the extreme abortion regime which has been introduced then the outcome would have been different”.


Archbishop Martin made his position clear on the May 25th poll in a number of statements including one in which he said it was clear that he viewed it as "incongruous" that "just as medical science allows us to understand much more about the evolution of the baby in the womb and his or her originality and unique identity that we should simply throw out all constitutional protection of the unborn child. For that reason I will be voting No."

As Archbishop Martin approaches retirement, he has also attracted criticism from priests in Dublin with some believing he had "sold out" on the issue of clerical sex abuse, Redemptorist priest Fr Tony Flannery has said.

In a post on his website “Assessing Diarmaid [stet] Martin, and thinking of his successor”, the priest, a co-founder of the Association of Catholic Priests, said the Archbishop “spoke a good line on reform, but his actions never quite measured up to his words. He never put his head above the parapet and took a public line on the great need for new thinking around priesthood, women in the church, teaching on LGBT, and other contentious matters.

"I always took it that he was careful not to be seen to in any way publicly challenge the official positions of the Vatican, and as a consequence the decline of the church continued apace during his years in charge."

To be successful, a bishop needed "to have a good relationship with his priests. As far as I am aware Martin never achieved this with the majority of the priests of Dublin diocese," Fr Flannery said.

‘Very critical’

“Some of the more impressive priests I know in Dublin are very critical of him. They would suggest that he was more concerned with having a good relationship with the media than with his priests. Some of this would have to do with his handling of the Murphy report, believing that he sold out on his priests and his auxiliary bishops in order to appear good in the public domain.”

However, Fr Flannery said he believed “by and large, he [the archbishop] has done well” on the issue of abuse. Fr Flannery noted he had never met Archbishop Martin “so my comments are given in that context”.

Fr Flannery was suspended from public ministry by the Vatican in 2012 for expressing support for women priests and for holding more liberal views on human sexuality.

The Murphy report, published in 2009, was highly critical of how clerical child-sex-abuse allegations had been handled in Dublin’s Catholic archdiocese between 1975 and 2004 .

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast