Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Cardinal should be remembered as having done some good, says Archbishop

Cardinal Desmond Connell did not have a happy later life but should be remembered as having done some good, his successor Diarmuid Martin has said. 

The former Archbishop of Dublin suffered over his mistakes during his time leading the church through a devastating clerical child sex abuse scandal, Dr Martin said.

"I think he suffered, there was a struggle in the man," he said.

But Dr Martin added that his predecessor was "courageous" in being the first Archbishop of Dublin to properly tackle the full extent of paedophile priests in the archdiocese, albeit slowly.

Speaking in the library of the Archbishop's Palace in Drumcondra, Dr Martin said it was in the same room that Cardinal Connell "almost had to drag information out from some of his own collaborators" when he set about determining the full scale of the abuse.

"Knowing his personality, to discover the real extent of that problem must have been a horrendous personal thing for him," he said.

"He talked about evil, and I think he really believed that."

Dr Martin said Cardinal Connell was a man "who struggled, struggled with himself, struggled with wanting to do the right thing, realised he had made mistakes, apologised for his mistakes and kept going."

There had been messages from clerical child abuse victims and survivors "saying nice things about him, recognising his kindness and struggle", he said.

Dr Martin said he was grateful to the late cardinal for having first set up the church's child protection service in the wake of the disclosures.

Depicting him as essentially a shy, academic man from another generation "with politeness and courteousness in him", he said the former archbishop found it difficult to live in a world of fast decisions.
"That may have led him into some errors of judgment," he added.

"But he was a man who apologised for his judgment and even in his latter days was asking himself what he could have done better."

He also remembered Cardinal Connell's earlier work on unemployment, travellers, and the plight of refugees, which he said was courageous and ahead of his time.

On the cardinal's controversial decision to launch - and later drop - a High Court challenge over the Murphy Inquiry getting access to 5,500 files on priests and abuse allegations, Dr Martin said his predecessor "was not very well at that time".

"I think he took advice that probably wasn't the wisest but he did withdraw that case," he said.

"The church is not there to hide crime. You can't use internal church norms. He tried his best, I think we should give him recognition of that and I'm not in any way hiding any of the things that happened."
 
Dr Martin added: "We've all had old aunts and uncles who were a bit like that: charming and at times upsetting. All in all, I'd say the man didn't have a happy second part of his life. But he did a lot of good as well. "

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