Judicial system could make it easier for child abuse victims, Archbishop says

Archbishop Martin defends Irish Catholic Church’s efforts to tackle abuse

The judicial system could make it easier for victims of child sex abuse by priests and other clergy to come forward, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said.

Speaking at the World Meeting of Families pastoral congress at the RDS in Dublin, Dr Martin defended efforts by the Irish Catholic Church and his archdiocese in particular to tackle abuse by clergy, saying he has done more than just say sorry.

He said it was “sad” that he had to say repeatedly that factors that protected clerical abusers had to be addressed everywhere definitively.

The Irish authorities had “made extraordinary progress” with the introduction of mandatory reporting of allegations and that the church had developed “good relationships of trust” with police and health authorities.


“The numbers of those abused is immense and the numbers that have come forward is only a proportion of that and there are many people who are holding still in their own hearts the sadness of abuse,” the archbishop said during a press conference.

Dr Martin raised concerns about difficulty around the low number of people who have come forward to speak out about abuse and how measures could be introduced to help them.

“Because of the system in our courts, it is not an easy thing for somebody to have to go and appear and tell their story in court or, even worse, to hear their story told by others,” he said. “There may be ways in which also the judicial system could make it easier for people to come forward.”


Dr Martin, is president of the Vatican-backed World Meeting of Families, which Pope Francis will attend on Saturday and Sunday. The congress has been overshadowed by criticism of the Vatican’s handling of clerical sex abuse following a recent grand jury report in the US that found more than 300 priests abused more than 1,000 children.

Teresa Kettelkamp, a former US police officer and a member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, said she felt she had “failed” in light of the latest revelations of abuse.

“All of us — church leaders and probably all of us Catholics feel deep disappointment in what our church leaders and what they have failed to do. I do feel I am under judgment, maybe not on trial,” she said.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, who holds the Vatican role of prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, defended his decision not to attend the first ever women's symposium at the World Meeting of Families, saying that it clashed with his attendance at the event with the pope after his arrival on Saturday.

The Dubliner, who refused to allow former president Mary McAleese, a vocal critic of the church, speak at a Vatican conference earlier this year to mark International Women’s Day, was asked about the absence of Ms McAleese and other prominent Irish Catholics from the World Meeting of Families.

‘Changing culture’

“I have always said to all groups of women: yes I am always open to dialogue and always open to enter into respective dialogue with everybody,” he said. “We don’t all have to agree with each other every time. We don’t all see the world and we don’t all see the future of the world or the changing culture of the world in the same way.”

In his keynote address, Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin acknowledged that the clerical sex abuse scandals had left some Catholics unable to trust the church’s message.

The Catholic Primate of All-Ireland stood in for US Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington, who withdrew from the event over his handling of the clerical sex abuse allegations in Pennsylvania.

He urged all people to work together to “encourage the State to support the family and especially the uniqueness of the faithful and exclusive union between a married man and a woman as a cherished space for the bearing and upbringing of children.”

He bemoaned how young people had to make sense of “all the contradictory messages presented to them by the secular world” and were “surrounded by a contraceptive, anti-birth mentality with its increasing indifference to abortion.”

He added that when they then later want children, they “struggle with a technocratic, commodification of child-bearing which, if necessary, can be accessed independently of any sexual relationship.”

“In this complicated ‘topsy turvy’ word we have the joy and challenge of communicating a clear and positive vision of family and marriage.”

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times