The Irish Times – Saturday, January 30, 2010
SIMON CARSWELL in Davos, Switzerland
THE ARCHBISHOP of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, has said the Catholic clergy and others associated with the cover-up of clerical child sex abuse, as exposed in the Murphy report, must accept general responsibility for their failure to protect children.
Dr Martin was responding to criticism of him by the former Dublin auxiliary bishop, Dr Dermot O’Mahony, who claimed in letters published this week that the archbishop had failed to support priests in the Dublin diocese following the publication of the report.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Dr Martin said that Dr O’Mahony had, like many others, not accepted accountability for the failings outlined in the report and that he “perpetuates this mistake by misquoting the report” in his correspondence.
“All I would like to see is people accept accountability and say, ‘look this is what happened’. In that letter, there is a certain rejection of what happened – that this horrendous scandal and the cover- up never took place. This I don’t accept,” said Dr Martin.
Dr O’Mahony said suggestions that the clergy failed to take cognisance of the safety of children was “inaccurate and unjust”. He said that “the acceptance by the media and current diocese policy that a cover-up took place must be challenged” in letters circulated to the council of priests.
People didn’t want to admit that “we got it remarkably wrong”, said Dr Martin, but this conclusion was justified and wider accountability must be accepted.
“People can criticise me but I believe that, for me, the reaction to the Murphy report must be predominant – something horrendous happened on our watch and we got it spectacularly wrong.”
Dr O’Mahony criticised Dr Martin for being out of the Dublin diocese for 31 years and having “no idea” of the trauma of dealing with sex abuse allegations without protocols or guidelines.
“Nobody knows where they would have been,” said Dr Martin. “However, it is again a case of blame everybody else, saying: ‘Where were you, what would you have done?’ ”
Dr Martin said that it was “not easy” to determine where accountability lay, but it was wrong to deny general accountability and to blame “some impersonal systems failure”.
The pope’s decision to call the bishops to a meeting in Rome next month was “a sign of his concern” and “an unusual thing”, Dr Martin added. “I am glad it is taking place.”
Dr Martin, who attended Davos to participate in debates with academics and healthcare specialists, said that there were parallels between the crisis in the Church over the Murphy report and the global financial crisis, with a general lack of accountability common to both.
“We are identified by what we tolerated and our identity as an institution is measured by the things we allow happen, even if it happens in a way in which you cannot pin down specific responsibility,” he said.
“I would say the same in the banks – it isn’t necessarily that people were encouraging bankers to behave in an irresponsible way but it was tolerated and therefore that is part of the identity of the institution that does it.”
Dr Martin said there was a certain collective responsibility that existed in allowing mistakes to be made but that no one individual was responsible.
“Something terrible happened in the diocese of Dublin – at least 2,000 children, I believe, were abused.
“The lives of their parents, their spouses, their children have been irrevocably damaged and changed and [ it is sad] that nobody is responsible, that it is a systems failure,” he said.
“It doesn’t mean that everybody has to go up and say that I alone am responsible, but it is not enough to say that the system was wrong.”
Categories: Dublin Diocesan Report - Child Abuse.