An Archbishop speaks - Martin must name the ‘dark forces’

ARCHBISHOP Diarmuid Martin should name the “strong forces” in the Catholic Church who want the truth about child sexual abuse to remain hidden. He should say if they are Irish or international – or both.

He should also name the Irish dioceses where, as he claimed on Monday night in Dublin, child protection policies are not being observed as they should.

His quiet anger that he should still, despite all the trauma fine talk of recent years, have to say these things is understandable, but one thing the decades-long revelation of child abuse has taught us is that nothing other than the whole, unvarnished truth will ease any of the agonies woven through this terrible tapestry of betrayal.

Archbishop Martin, who has been almost a lone voice amongst the hierarchy in recognising the Catholic Church’s position, may have been firing a shot across recalcitrant bows, but the time for warning shots has long passed. These charges would not have been lightly made, nor would they have been supported by Bishop Willie Walsh, unless there was deep substance to them.

It is almost unbelievable, so long after the publication of the Ferns, Murphy and Ryan reports, that there are churchmen who imagine they exist in a parallel universe where laws don’t apply, but that is the direct implication of Archbishop Martin’s cri de coeur.

The Archbishop said on Monday night that he had never felt so disheartened since assuming his position six years ago. He explained a second source of his despair was that people did not have a true sense of the crisis of faith in Ireland.

This is a core issue, a core issue for far more than Irish Catholicism. The floundering, disintegrating relationship between the Catholic Church and its faithful, non-Catholics and the State, are indicative of a complete breakdown in trust and respect. So many churchmen and politicians tacitly oppose reform. They are not prepared for the change reform would bring to their lives and to the power they enjoy.

This is true of far more than Catholicism in Ireland; it perfectly describes the relationship between huge numbers of Irish people and their Government and their dysfunctional, discredited political system in general.

As has been so convincingly argued in RTÉ’s excellent Aftershock series the best way to mark the centenary of 1916 might be a complete change in the way we manage our affairs. A change that will make real the aspirations to independence, justice, equity and national dignity that were such a driving force century ago. It cannot be a coincidence that both our Government and Irish Catholicism are increasingly out of touch with the world they purport to serve and honour. This cultural stasis has nearly destroyed this country and the faith of so many good Irish Catholics.

Surely we cannot allow it define the ambitions of the tens of thousands of children who will take the first Communion or make their Confirmation this month? Surely we will not mark the 1916 centenary by a flood of emigration and unemployment?

Archbishop Martin has shown the way – speak out and confront the institutions that fail us. Demand they look to the future rather than perpetuate a failed past.

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