Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Church's dealing with abuse was 'catastrophic'

A YEAR after publication of the Murphy report, the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, has said the church in Ireland had become self-centred and had let itself reach a position “beyond what is legitimate”.

“I see more clearly that the catastrophic manner in which the abuse was dealt with was a symptom of a deeper malaise within the Irish church,” Dr Martin said.

“The church in Ireland had allowed itself to drift into a position where its role in society had grown beyond what is legitimate. It acted as a world apart. It became self-centred. It felt that it could be forgiving of abusers in a simplistic manner and rarely empathised with the hurt of children.”

He made the comments in a lengthy statement posted on the Dublin archdiocesan website, dublindiocese.ie, to mark the first anniversary of the Murphy report, published on November 26th, 2009.

He said the church had “also deluded itself about the faith of Irish people. It failed to recognise what radical evangelisation of its structures and of its people actually meant. It spoke of renewal but really did not change. It failed adequately to recognise that renewal demands conversion.”

Looking to the future, he said “we need to sustain our robust child safeguarding norms and practices. They will, however, only work in the context of a renewed church.”

That church was “not just an elite of the perfect. Many people with little education have a deeper insight into the message of Jesus Christ than some learned theologians or bishops,” he said.

One year on, he said: “I unequivocally repeat what I said on publication of the report: ‘the Archdiocese of Dublin failed to recognise the theft of childhood which survivors endured and the diocese failed in its responses to [survivors] when they had the courage to come forward, compounding the damage done to their innocence. For that no words of apology will ever be sufficient’.”

He added: “The diocese failed not just in its responses to victims and their families. It failed itself and it failed society by trying to keep the evidence within its own structures.

“I repeat again what I said one year ago: ‘The sexual abuse of a child is and always was a crime in civil law; it is and always was a crime in canon law; it is and always was grievously sinful. The investigation of crime within society is the competence of An Garda Síochána’.”

He noted that “many survivors hoped the publication of the Murphy report would bring them finally to some sort of closure regarding their horrific experience. For many this has sadly not been so.

“The hurt done to a child through sexual abuse can last a lifetime. That hurt can very quickly erupt again as further stories of abuse emerge or through insensitive comments or actions by church authorities.”

For his own part, he said that “in my encounters with survivors I have encountered insight into faith which leaves me humbled. But perhaps humility is not the worst starting point for renewal of the church and recognition of past wrongs.”