Head of Church of Ireland 'regrets' Williams comments on clerical abuse

The Church of Ireland's Archbishop of Dublin says he regrets the comments made by the Archbishop of Canterbury about the clerical sex abuse scandal in Ireland.

Dr Rowan Williams has said that officials in Ireland have lost all credibility because of the child abuse scandal and described it as a "colossal trauma".

Church of Ireland's Archbishop Dr John Neill has extended his support to his catholic counterpart Archbishop Diarmuid Martin who says he is stunned by the comments.

Archbishop Neill said he listened to the remarks of Archbishop Williams with “deep regret”.

“As one who with so many of my colleagues in ministry shares with that Church in a joint proclamation of the Gospel, and who acknowledges the pain and deep suffering of the victims of abuse, I also feel for the countless priests and bishops who daily live out their Christian vocation,” he said.

He said he supported his Catholic counterpart in Dublin, Archbishop Martin, “as he works for the proclamation of the Gospel and the healing of hurt, including that of the faithful and their clergy whose ministry has been undermined by those guilty of the abuse of children”.

Archbishop Martin highlighted the good relationship he had with Archbishop Neill.

“Those working for renewal in the Catholic Church in Ireland did not need this comment on this Easter weekend and do not deserve it,” Archbishop Martin said.

“Only last Thursday I had spoken about the good ecumenical, pastoral and personal friendship that I share with the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, John Neill, and I repeat that statement today.”

The Catholic Church in Ireland has been rocked in recent months after revelations that paedophile priests got away with decades of horrific child sex abuse.

Pressure mounted this month on its leader, the Primate of All-Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady, after he admitted being at a meeting where children abused by notorious convicted sex offender Fr Brendan Smyth were forced to take a vow of silence.

The abuse scandal has also engulfed Pope Benedict, who faced claims he failed to properly investigate a serial abuser in a children’s home for the deaf in Wisconsin in the US in the late 1990s.

Yesterday the Vatican provoked more controversy after the Pope’s personal preacher likened the criticism of the Church over the sex abuse scandal to “collective violence” suffered by the Jews.

The Rev Raniero Cantalamessa said in a Good Friday homily with the Pope listening to him in St Peter’s Basilica that a Jewish friend wrote to him to say the accusations remind him of the “more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism”.

Earlier this week, Archbishop Martin told worshippers the Church’s response to paedophilia had been hopelessly inadequate.

He told a packed congregation at Holy Thursday Mass in St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Dublin: “Shameful abuse took place within the Church of Christ. The response was hopelessly inadequate.

“I do not wish to give the impression that I want to go on forever hammering home a message of grief about the past, that I am obsessed with the past.

“Some ask me: ’Can we not leave all that aside now, proclaim closure and move on’?.

“I cannot agree. There can be no overlooking the past.”

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