Cardinal Connell 'made mistakes and struggled with the consequences'

The late Cardinal Desmond Connell has been remembered as a man who made mistakes but as the one who finally began to realise the extent of clerical abuse in Ireland.

At his funeral at St Mary's Pro-Cathedral in Dublin, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said his predecessor had to drag information on paedophilia scandals from those who were reluctant to share.

Cardinal Connell died on Tuesday after an illness.

Although he said he was appalled at the scale of abuse when he took office, he appeared slow to address the issue, opting for secret internal church tribunals to defrock abusive priests rather than potentially explosive public prosecutions.

In his homily, Archbishop Martin acknowledged some failures but also paid tribute to the Cardinal, who he said led the church in Ireland at a difficult time.

"He made mistakes in his decisions and he struggled with the consequences," the senior cleric told mourners.

Archbishop Martin celebrated the Cardinal's funeral Mass with Papal Nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland Eamon Martin and other members of the Irish Bishop's Conference, priests, clergy and lay people.

Cardinal Connell was born in Dublin in 1926.

He was appointed Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland in 1988, although he is widely regarded as not having sought high office.

Three years later, he was elevated again on being made the first Dublin-based Cardinal in 120 years by Pope John Paul II.

He remained Archbishop until 2004.

Considered a shy and academic man who found it difficult to live in a world of fast decisions, he caused outrage in 2008 and narrowly avoided a damaging public row with his successor when he mounted a High Court challenge to try to block a judge-led inquiry into clerical sex abuse having access to 5,500 files on priests and abuse allegations.

He claimed legal privilege and secured a temporary injunction before withdrawing the legal action two weeks later.

Archbishop Martin told mourners: "Many comments in these days noted that he was slow to recognise the extent of the problem of child sexual abuse by priests.

"It must be said that he found himself surrounded by a culture and at times by advisers who were slow and perhaps even unwilling to recognise both the extent of the problem and the enormous hurt that had been done to children, a hurt they still carry with them.

"That hurt has still to be fully recognised; that wound cannot be consigned to past history. For victims, it still remains."

Cardinal Connell was credited with handing over the names of 17 suspected abusers to gardaí, although some of his actions in dealing with the abuse scandals were criticised by the state inquiry.

Archbishop Martin identified hundreds of complaints.

The Cardinal later asked for forgiveness from child sex abuse victims who suffered at the hands of paedophile priests under his control.

Archbishop Martin credited the late Cardinal with his attempts to deal with the issue of clerical abuse, including the establishment of child protection service in the Dublin archdiocese.

"It is also true that it was Cardinal Connell who was the one who finally began to realise the extent of the abuse and the extent of the damage done to children and with difficulty began to drag out information which some were still reluctant to share," he said.

Archbishop Martin also spoke about the Cardinal deep faith and actions on social justice.

"He did not just talk about justice: he felt the needs and responded to the needs of the poor, of travellers, of refugees, of the homeless and of victims of addiction and of HIV and Aids," he said.

"He felt those needs not just in an abstract way. He was not a politician or a vote-seeker. He may have been at times insensitive in things he said, but not out of malice. He was criticised for being at times less than diplomatic, just as I am criticised by being over-diplomatic."

Cardinal Connell was laid to rest in the Crypt of St Mary's Pro Cathedral.

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