15 June 2010

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin's address to the Newman Society


Speaking Notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland

Newman Society, Oxford, 4th June 2010

The title that I have chosen for my reflections this evening – There are many young people who are struggling to find a reason to remain in the Church” – may seem slightly puzzling to some of you. Let me explain its origin. It is a line taken from the comment of the Parish Pastoral Council of one Dublin parish sent to me in the light of the publication of the Murphy Report into the sexual abuse of children by priests within the Archdiocese of Dublin.

The Murphy Report was a very significant examination of how allegations of sexual abuse by priests were managed by Church and State authorities in Ireland. The Report was the fruit of a Government instituted Commission which was established to examine a representative sample of how abuse cases were managed in the period of time between 1975 and 2004.

The findings of the Murphy Report were disastrous. Certainly much of what was dealt with took place in different times and in a different culture. Medical science and juridical reflection may have underestimated the damage done to children who were sexually abused. But what the Murphy Report narrated was nonetheless catastrophic. I have repeated on numerous occasions that for me the only honest reaction of the Church to that Report was to publicly admit that the manner in which that catastrophe was addressed was spectacularly wrong; spectacularly wrong “full stop”; not spectacularly wrong, “but…” You cannot sound-byte your way out of a catastrophe.

Visit of the Archbishop of Dublin

The Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, the Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin, visited the society earlier in the term.  He gave a lecture at the Catholic Chplaincy, which was followed by Ecumenical Evensong in Christ Church Cathedral and the society's termly black-tie dinner, which was also held in Christ Church.

Here is Patsy McGarry's report on the Archbishop's lecture, which appeared in the Irish Times (click here for original article):

Children 'rarely in equation over abuse'


CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said it was hard to understand why in the church’s dealing with the sexual abuse of children, “the children themselves were for many years rarely even taken into the equation”.

Speaking last night, he said: “Yes, in the culture of the day children were to be seen and not heard, but different from other professions church leaders should have been more aware of the Gospel imperative to avoid harm to children, whose innocence was indicated by the Lord as a sign of the kingdom of God.”

Archbishop Martin was addressing Oxford University’s Newman Society.

Last month the Catholic primate, Cardinal Seán Brady, withdrew from a lecture he had been invited to deliver to the same society at Oxford on May 12th when authorities there expressed concerns about his attendance.

It was feared his presence might provoke protests following recent revelations about the cardinal’s handling in 1975 of canonical investigations into allegations of child sex abuse by Fr Brendan Smyth.

The Newman Society at Oxford did not want negative incidents associated with Cardinal Newman as he is to be beatified by Pope Benedict during the papal visit to England and Scotland in September.

“The findings of the Murphy Report were disastrous,” Archbishop Martin continued last night. “The cultural situation was different; abuse takes place in many other sectors of society. This is all true. But it cannot be used as an excuse to downplay the gravity of what took place in the church of Christ.”

He said the church was a place where children should be the subject of special protection and care; and that the Gospel reserved “some of its most severe language for those who disregard or scandalise children in any way”.

He said he felt that the light at the end of the tunnel for the Catholic Church in Ireland was still a long way off.

He said the grief of the past could and should never be forgotten. “There is no simple way of wiping the slate of the past clean, just to ease our feelings.

“Yet the Catholic Church in Ireland cannot be imprisoned in its past. The work of evangelisation must if anything take on a totally new vibrancy,” he said.

There was no way “that we can underplay the effect that the abuse scandals have had on young people. But it must be said very clearly that the crisis of belief among young people has far deeper roots and roots which were there well before the abuse scandal.”

There were “structural and cultural factors which are unique to the Irish church which have contributed to this alienation of our young people”, he said.

“The particular religious history of Ireland led to great emphasis being placed on the school as the principal vehicle for religious education.” This “became a rather authoritarian school system, with Victorianism, Jansenism and older Irish penitential spirituality combining. Questioning was not encouraged. Questions of faith were to be accepted in obedience.”

He added: “In more recent years, due to the drop in the number of priests and the increase of their workload, the link between sacramental preparation and school deepened and the link between sacramental preparation and parish diminished. A form of religious education which is separated from the parish or some other non-school faith community will almost inevitably cave in the day that school ends.”