With less than a week to go to the papal visit, one of the leaders of the Catholic Church in Ireland has defended the Pope’s record of dealing with clerical child abuse, saying Francis is up against the might of the Vatican.
However, Diarmuid Martin, Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, said he expects Pope Francis will “speak quite strongly” in relation to clerical sex abuse when he arrives in Ireland next Saturday for the World Meeting of Families.
Saying sorry was not enough, he said in a homily delivered at St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Dublin, adding that the “structures that permit or facilitate abuse must be broken down and broken down forever”.
Asked by reporters afterwards if he was disappointed that the Pope had not done enough to root out clerical sex abuse, Dr Martin said he “needs a stronger team of people around him to carry out this business”.
He said the Vatican Commission for the Protection of Minors, set up by the Pope in 2014, was “too small and maybe not getting its teeth into where it should be”.
He said the Vatican was a complex machine, but that the Pope has to be strong in saying what he wants and seeing it is implemented.
Dr Martin said the scandals of abuse in the Church had produced a deep-seated resentment among believers particularly over children, unmarried mothers, and vulnerable women.
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed also referred to the Church’s poor treatment of the vulnerable in his oration at Béal na Bláth for the annual Michael Collins commemoration.
While he was “deeply uncomfortable with the ‘Official Church’ and its response to various scandals”, he was taking his lead from women such as former president Mary McAleese for her tackling head on of the Vatican.
“It is in the context of this discomfort that I believe that we should extend a ‘céad míle fáilte’ to Pope Francis,” he said.
The Catholic Church’s efforts to use the papal visit as a rehabilitation exercise following years of damning revelations over clerical sex abuse and cover-ups has hit a series of snags, not least the cancellation of an appearance at the event by keynote speaker cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington.
Cardinal Wuerl was criticised in a grand jury report published last week over his handling of abuse allegations in Pennsylvania.
His withdrawal came three days after Boston’s Cardinal Seán O’Malley announced he was pulling out due to problems at his own seminary.
Ending Clergy Abuse, a global organisation of survivors and human rights activists, wrote to Dr Martin calling for three cardinals to be removed from prominent speaking roles at the World Meeting of Families, claiming they faced serious questions about protecting bishops who had committed sex abuse. Cardinal Wuerl was one of them.
The other two are cardinal Oscar Maradiaga of Honduras and Dublin-born cardinal Kevin Farrell, the Vatican official responsible for co-ordinating efforts around the World Meeting of Families.
Cardinal Farrell was vicar general to archbishop of Washington Theodore E McCarrick who is caught up in an abuse scandal.
Dr Martin said the Pope had tried to find a way to sanction bishops but “it doesn’t seem to have worked and now we have to find another way”.
Meanwhile, a research group behind the website BishopAccountability.org, will today launch the first online database of Irish clergy who have been convicted of sexually abusing children or whose wrongdoing has been documented by State inquiries.
The database gives summaries and sources about allegations against more than 70 Irish priests and religious brothers.
BishopAccountability.org co-director Anne Barrett Doyle said more than 1,300 accused Irish clergy known to the Church remain unconvicted, according to audit figures.
Meanwhile, National Women’s Council director Orla O’Connor has said she was invited to attend the State’s official event with the Pope in Dublin Castle, but did not accept the offer.
She said there were many reasons, including “the misogyny of the Catholic Church, their obstruction of women’s rights in Ireland, their denial of women’s reproductive health around the world, their teachings on the family, which relegate lone parent and LGBT families to second class, the historic abuse of women in Magdalene laundries, in Mother and Baby Homes, the ongoing cover up and the present-day refusal to hand over much-desired records to the women”.