A year later, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin still 'gets it'

by Tom Roberts

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Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has consistently voiced opinions and insights about the sex abuse scandal in Ireland that are remarkably different from those we’ve heard from hierarchy in the United States. The expression that often captured Catholics’ exasperation with bishops’ seeming lack of understanding of the depth of the problem was “They don’t get it.”

Martin does.

A year after release of the Murphy Report, the results of the government investigation into clergy abuse in Dublin that was based in large part on documentation Martin gave over to investigators, the archbishop’s anguish is still evident.

In comments recently posted on the archdiocesan website, Martin wrote:

One year later, 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”.

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 canon law; it is and always was grievously sinful”.

He said the church's handling of the crisis was "a symptom of a deeper malaise within the Irish Church" which had become "self centered" and had acted "as a world apart."

He urged a new evangelization of the Irish church, saying the new safeguards for children will "only work in the context of a renewed church."

He concluded:

Certainly the Church is 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.

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.

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