Dr Martin insisted his non-attendance at a press briefing by senior clergy following their historic meeting with Pope Benedict to discuss the fallout of the Murphy report was solely due to the fact that he had booked an early flight back to Dublin to attend Ash Wednesday ceremonies.
“My travel plans were made well before any press conference was talked about,” said Dr Martin.
The archbishop stressed that the Pope’s response to the meeting with the Irish hierarchy was only part of a process which will include a pastoral letter to be issued to all dioceses in Ireland over the Lenten period.
Dr Martin said there had been “no turning back” on the Murphy report and no denial about its findings. He claimed Pope Benedict had been both angry and distressed about clerical sex abuse in Ireland, particularly the Archdiocese of Dublin.
The archbishop said messages from survivor groups were presented to the Pope and the question of a future meeting between them and the Pontiff had not been excluded. He pointed out that Pope Benedict has previously met privately with victims of clerical abuse from other countries in a manner which ensured the meeting had not become a media event.
However, he said victims were entitled to feel dismayed at the Vatican’s response to the meeting with the Irish bishops “if they feel what they wanted to be done wasn’t addressed”. But Dr Martin encouraged survivors not to lose heart as he admitted his own impatience with the need for reform.
Dr Martin is due to meet victims, Andrew Madden and Marie Collins as well as the One in Four group tomorrow to discuss the Rome meeting.
Asked why there had been no explicit apology from the Vatican, Dr Martin replied that the tone and calling of the meeting had clearly stressed that it was “a moment of great concern”. “There comes a time when just repeating the word ‘apology’ may even be empty,” he said.
Speaking to reporters after a Mass to celebrate Ash Wednesday at the UCD chapel in Belfield, Dr Martin said it had been agreed in advance that the issue of resignations by bishops would not be discussed at the meeting with the Pope.
“Standing down and resigning is a personal decision — a decision which involves people assuming accountability and responsibility. Otherwise, it is not resignation,” said the archbishop. However, he declined to comment on the position of the Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan, who has resisted calls to stand down over his former role as Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin.
Dr Martin defended the controversial refusal of the Papal Nuncio, Giuseppe Leanza, to appear before an Oireachtas Committee to discuss the Vatican’s non-cooperation with the Murphy report. He claimed Dr Leanza was “well prepared” to talk about such issues through the normal diplomatic channels. He incorrectly claimed the details of any such meeting with officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs would be available to the media through FoI legislation. Documentation on diplomatic relations cannot be accessed through FoI legislation.
Asked if he had ever considered resigning as a result of the Church’s response to the Murphy report, the archbishop said: “I’ve never shrunk in the face of tasks in the past. If there is a disagreement, I’m not afraid to say it.”
Referring to the abuse at a Mass for students, Dr Martin said: “It is a sad part of Irish church history. It is my hope and my commitment to move forward and deal with the problems of the past and to create a different type of future. But I need your generation to help. The Church needs young people and wants young people.”