29 Oct 2010

Archbishop of Westminster attacked by Dublin Archbishop for abuse comments

Times Online - UK May 23, 2009

by Ruth Gledhill | Times Religion Correspondent

The new Archbishop of Westminster today faced an unprecedented attack from a fellow Roman Catholic prelate over comments he made over the Irish child abuse scandal.

The criticism from Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, came just hours after the two-hour installation ceremony of Vincent Nichols, replete with pomp and ceremony in front a congregation of 2,000 at Westminster Cathedral in London.

Dr Martin said that it was “unhelpful” of Archbishop Nichols to praise the “courage” of Irish priests who abused children and then confessed.

Dr Martin told the Irish Independent: “His comments, as reported, have not been helpful. My thoughts and anger are entirely on the side of victims.

“They are the real heroes of this story by finding the courage to come forward.”

A report into child abuse in his own archdiocese will be released next month. Dr Martin has warned clergy and laity that this further report “will shock us all” and that the last has not been heard of these “horrific stories”.

This week’s 2,000-page report of the Ryan Commission found that abuse was “endemic” in institutions run by the Roman Catholic Church and listed an extraordinary litany of rapes, beatings and systemic abuse of children at homes in Ireland run by religious orders, mainly the Sisters of Mercy and the Christian Brothers.

There will be no criminal prosecutions because the religious orders secured a government deal protecting the identity of the abusers, alive and dead. The Irish Independent also reported that the Government will not be seeking a renegotiation of a deal that will allow the Catholic Church to escape 90 per cent of the cost of compensating victims, leaving the taxpayer to foot most of the bill. The total cost to the taxpayer could come in at more than € 1 billion (£881 million).

In an interview with News at Ten on ITV Archbishop Nichols condemned the abuse but appeared also to show understanding for the perpetrators. He said: “I think of those in religious orders and some of the clergy in Dublin who have to face these facts from their past which instinctively and quite naturally they’d rather not look at. That takes courage, and also we shouldn’t forget that this account today will also overshadow all of the good that they also did.”

He added: “Those that abused the trust that was placed in them should be brought to public account.”

In a further interview on BBC Radio Five Live, he said: “It is a tough road to take, to face up to our own weaknesses. That is certainly true of anyone who’s deceived themselves that all they’ve been doing is taking a bit of comfort from children.”

A spokesman for the Westminster archdiocese said that Archbishop Nichols, who is expected to be named a cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI, “unequivocally condemned all abuse, and his heart goes out to all those who have been abused”.

The spokesman added that Archbishop Nichols believed that “the perpetrators of abuse should be held to account, and where the offences demand such action the perpetrator should face legal and police processes”.

Archbishop Nichols’s comments were also condemned by the support group Survivors of Child Abuse (SOCA).

“Rubbish is too kind a word for what the archbishop has said. It is the verbiage of unreason, and it leaves me cold,” said SOCA’s English spokesman Patrick Walsh.

John Kelly, SOCA’s Dublin co-ordinator, said that preparations were being made to take the case of the Irish abuse victims to Rome by direct appeal to Pope Benedict for his personal intervention on their behalf.

“We call upon Pope Benedict XVI to convene a special consistory court to fully investigate the activities of the Catholic religious orders in Ireland,” Mr Kelly said.

The Holy See has as yet failed to comment.

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