The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, has said that the Pope needs to do more than apologise for the role of the Church "in compounding the suffering of so many" who were sexually abused by clergy while in its care.
It comes ahead of the upcoming World Meeting of Families in Ireland which will see Pope Francis visit the country next weekend.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl became the second high-profile member of the Catholic Church to pull out of the event.
It comes three days after Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley confirmed that he would not be attending.
Archbishop Martin today started his homily at the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin by saying: "In just one week, we will be well into the short but intense visit to Ireland of Pope Francis.
"A short yet intense visit but also one with widespread expectation and joy and enthusiasm, while on the other hand, a visit marked by many anxieties about our Catholic Church in Ireland and wider afield and about the future of the Church.
He then went on to hit out at the reaction of the Church to the abuse scandals that have surfaced over the years.
He said: "It is not enough just to say sorry. Structures that permit or facilitate abuse must be broken down and broken down forever.
"Why does this not happen? Why must such a simple affirmation have to be repeated so often? Structures that permit or facilitate abuse must be broken down and broken down forever everywhere.
"As we await the visit of Pope Francis, we look at a complex horizon of our Irish Church. The scandals of abuse in the Church have produced a deep-seated resentment among believers.
"It is not just anger over the horror of abuse, but an anger at the role of Church leadership in compounding the suffering of so many in institutions for children, for unmarried mothers and for vulnerable women. These were people who found themselves placed in the care of the Church to be loved and respected but who so often encountered extraordinary harshness.
"What is worse, they were in the main poor and vulnerable people, those who should above all have been the privileged recipients of what the love and care of Jesus Christ mean.
I keep asking myself what it was in Irish Catholicism that led to such a level of harshness." - Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin
The archbishop acknowledged that the number of victims of clerical sexual abuse in Ireland "was immense".
He said: "We still only know the identity of some.
"It is not something that belongs to the past but a hurt that survivors and those close to them carry in their hearts every day of their lives.
"The anger is not just about abuse but also about a Church that was authoritarian harsh, autocratic and self-protecting." - Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin
"Rather than bringing the liberating message of the love of God, it imposed a world of rules to such an extent that it lacked respect for the personal lives of many and especially of women.
"We experienced a Church that felt that it knew all the answers. We experienced a Church that failed to form mature consciences and help men and women grow in discerning a mature faith.
The archbishop continued by acknowledging the good work of Church members.
He said: "There were and are so many examples of how the love of God is witnessed in the lives of good priests and men and women in religious life who never sought publicity or anything for themselves.
"The light and goodness and the humility of their lives shone out and inspired and they are remembered with affection. They too suffered through the abuse of others.
"We also have great families whose generosity and fidelity, very often unrecognised, enrich society. Families live and transmit the faith and the love of Jesus.
"The World Meeting of Families must be an occasion to encourage and support families in their role in the home, in the Church and in society."
"Families need support. Young people need support to prepare for future family life.
Archbishop Martin then asked what Pope Francis can say or do during his visit to these shores "that will last little more than 36 hours".
He said: "Pope Francis is a kind man, someone who inspires and touches hearts. I know that Irish people will extend a kind welcome to him.
"People of differing voices are interested in him as a person and in what he stands for.
"He is not going to be able to provide all the answers to the questions that people ask."
"My hope is that he will speak kindly but also speak frankly."
Describing the recent history of the Church in Ireland as one of real darkness, he outlined what he hoped the Church here would do.
He said: "We need a Church of light, a light that exposes darkness for what it is, and a light that is such that the mechanisms of cover-up and self-justification cannot extinguish or tone down.
"My hope is that Pope Francis will challenge the Church in Ireland to be different, to be more authentically the Church of Jesus Christ in a culture that is different.
"Jesus speaks to the Church in many ways and through many voices, voices that include not just the harmony of nice choirs but unpleasant voices that spoil the parties of the complacent, challenging voices that upset established wisdoms. I hope that we will all listen to what Pope Francis says, discuss it, but avoid poisonous murmuring which can only undermine what we all wish to attain.
"The Pope has to speak frankly about our past but also about our future. "