Bishop Eamonn Walsh paid tribute to Cardinal Desmond Connell’s “passion and courage” in thumping the table when he challenged Vatican officials over clerical abuse protocols at a meeting at Rosses Point in 1997.
In his homily at the reception of remains of the former Archbishop of
Dublin, Bishop Walsh recalled an incident which emerged in an RTÉ
documentary in 2011 which revealed that the Vatican’s Congregation for
the Clergy in 1997 directed the Irish bishops not to enforce their new
policy calling for mandatory reporting of priests who sexually abused
At a meeting in 1998, the then prefect of the Congregation for the
Clergy, Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, met representatives of the
Irish bishops in Rosses Point to discuss safeguarding guidelines and,
according to the RTÉ programme, ‘Unspeakable Crimes’, the Colombian
prelate’s stance caused Desmond Connell to pound the table in
Addressing mourners in St Mary’s Pro Cathedral, Dr Walsh said, “There
were occasions when he did not speak in philosophical or theological
language like when he spoke up with passion and courage thumping the
table at the well publicised meeting at Rosses Point.”
He also recalled how in his earlier years as Archbishop, Dr Connell
“daringly launched a billboard advertising campaign on the Eucharist as
‘The Bread of Life’,” which he said was trying to heighten awareness of
God’s love for us, expressed in Jesus giving his all for us.
Appealing for God’s mercy and welcome home to Cardinal Desmond
Connell, he described the former UCD academic as “a man of deep faith,
integrity of character, deep love for his people and priests, and all
too conscious of his weaknesses and inadequacies”.
Acknowledging that it was not the time to re-cap on all the tributes
and critiques of the past few days since Cardinal Connell’s passing on
Tuesday morning, Bishop Walsh singled out one moment.
“While watching for the first time the screening of ‘Cardinal
Secrets’ – his countenance visibly changed; contorted in shock and
horror at the unspeakable depraved, degrading abuse unfolding before his
eyes. It was a watershed moment that came too late for many. He
asked, and would want me to do so again today, to express without
reservation his bitter regret and ‘ask for forgiveness from those so
When Cardinal Connell became archbishop, the Archdiocese of Dublin
was deeply in debt, which with the guidance of Monsignor Wilson and the
team in the Finance Secretariat, he succeeded in clearing.
Bishop Walsh said the Cardinal was so appreciative of the generosity of the people and the Religious who gave without fanfare.
“The Cardinal would want the contribution of the Religious in
ministry, service and generosity to the archdiocese acknowledged on an
occasion such as this,” he said.
Elsewhere in his tribute, Bishop Walsh said that “Alongside his
deep, deep faith, were his gifts as a philosopher, historian and lover
of classical music; Malebranche, Mahler, the French Revolution. His use
of language was spoken with laser precision.
The exactness of his words
did not gift him to deal with modern communications: mixed with the
complexities of scrupulosity, he was not equipped for the world of
sound-bytes, door-stepping, and media deadlines. He preferred the pause
button to the fast-forward.
“Being thrust from the world of academia into being the front person
for the largest diocese in the country had him stepping on the
occasional landmine,” Dr Walsh acknowledged.
He added, “This did not deter him from living up to his
responsibility to teach and preach. It often would have left him in a
lonely place, were it not for his deep faith and belief that God was
beside him. He could identify with the Gospel just read.”
Separately, in a message addressed to Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid
Martin, Pope Francis has expressed his condolences on the death of
Cardinal Connell and recalled his many contributions to the Church in
Ireland, especially in the area of philosophical studies.
In his message, the Pope states that “In the sure hope of the
Resurrection, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing upon all who
mourn the late Cardinal, as a pledge of consolation and peace in the
Cardinal Connell was born on 24 March 1926 in Phibsboro, Ireland. He
was ordained for the Archdiocese of Dublin on 19 May 1951 and held a
doctorate in philosophy from the Catholic University of Louvain.
In 1953 he started teaching in the Department of Metaphysics at
University College Dublin where he was appointed professor of general
metaphysics in 1972 and elected dean of the Faculty of Philosophy and
Sociology in 1983.
He wrote on philosophical and theological subjects and for his
published work was awarded the degree D.Litt. by the National University
of Ireland in 1981.
He also served as chaplain to the Poor Clares in Donnybrook, the Carmelites in Drumcondra and the Carmelites in Blackrock.
He was appointed Archbishop of Dublin on 21 January 1988, a position he held until April 2004.
Cardinal Connell was created a Cardinal by Pope St John Paul II in
the Consistory of 21 February 2001 with the Titular church of St
Sylvester in Capite.