Thursday the 25th of February

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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Keep fighting clergy abuse, say Irish Church leaders

Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin warned there was “a danger of complacency or inertia or of slippage into false confidence” in the Church’s fight against clerical abuse.

Addressing the annual National Child Safeguarding Conference in Kilkenny in late October, the Dublin archbishop told safeguarding delegates from dioceses, parishes and religious orders across Ireland that, with renewed focus on worldwide abuse this summer, people with whom the Church had been in contact years ago got back in touch.

“The wounds of the past had been reopened and they were asking for support, assistance and the reassurance that we still viewed their complaints with the same seriousness as we did when we first heard them,” Archbishop Martin said at the conference.

The archbishop paid tribute to abuse survivors, including Marie Collins, who resigned from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in March 2017 over curial resistance to reform. He said in internal Church culture, survivors often were looked on as being “difficult.”

“All I can say is: Thank God they were so,” he said.

Fr Joe McDonald, a Dublin parish priest abused as an eight-year-old altar server, also addressed the conference on the need for a compassionate Church. Fr McDonald was one of the survivors who met Pope Francis at the Vatican embassy in Dublin in August.

Speaking of the February meeting between Pope Francis and the presidents of bishops’ conferences from around the world to discuss clerical abuse, he urged the Vatican to invite every bishop to bring two guests with them “who could be male or female, ordained or nonordained” and even “a victim and a perpetrator.”

He stressed that the meeting in Rome “will be the poorer if it takes place without Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. He has walked a very specific journey and he has paid a high price for it – I think he has been heroic in that regard.”

Archbishop Martin is widely credited with pushing for sweeping changes in the area of safeguarding within the Irish Church and for giving victims of clerical abuse a supportive listening ear. He was prepared to make 80,000 files available to the Murphy Commission, which investigated the Archdiocese of Dublin’s mishandling of allegations of abuse. That almost resulted in a High Court action against him by his predecessor, Cardinal Desmond Connell.

The first chief executive of the Church’s National Board for Safeguarding Children, Ian Elliot, said in an Interview with The Irish Times in August that Archbishop Martin had the courage of his convictions.

“He was prepared to be unpopular, he was prepared to say ‘this is not right, it should not be happening’…I always felt he had the best interests of children and young people at heart,” Elliot said.

As the president of the Irish bishops’ conference, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, Northern Ireland, will represent the Irish Church at the Rome meeting. However, there have been calls for Archbishop Martin to be included.

Picture: Pope Francis talks with Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin as he visits St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Dublin on 25th August. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).