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Thursday 21 August 2014

Archbishop: Remember the victims

Published 29/10/2013 | 17:01

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Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

The Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said children who were abused by priests must be remembered during any criticisms of the Murphy report.

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A review of the inquiry has claimed individual priests and bishops would not have been "under investigation" and named and shamed if the Murphy Commission had stayed true to its terms of reference.

The new study, commissioned by the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP), also accused the inquiry's practices and procedures of falling short of the requirements of natural and constitutional justice.

However Archbishop Martin said one should never overlook the context which gave rise to the establishment of the Murphy Report, which rocked the Catholic Church in 2009 when it revealed decades of abuse were ignored because clerics were effectively granted police immunity.

"A strikingly large number of children were sexually abused by priests within the Church in Jesus Christ," he said.

"Anyone who loves the Church must be truly saddened by this fact.

"The children who were abused and their families and dear ones must be uppermost in our minds."

The ACP said some priests of Dublin Archdiocese requested a study of Judge Yvonne Murphy's Investigation of Clerical Child Abuse in the Archdiocese about 18 months ago.

The 42-page review by barrister Fergal Sweeney was presented to ACP members at their AGM in Athlone today.

ACP spokesman, outspoken cleric Fr Tony Flannery, said priests discussed the report and would not justifying any abuse that took place, but believe the procedures used were legally flawed.

"They were faulty in particular under the terms of reference in naming and shaming individual priests and bishops," he said.

"These individuals were not given the basic human right that every citizen is entitled to - to defend their good name."

Fr Flannery said that under the terms of reference Judge Murphy was investigation institutions and not individuals.

Mr Sweeney said the State was entirely justified in deciding to investigate historical child abuse, but found the report dismissed out of hand any reasons, explanations or mitigating circumstances put forward by those clerics whom it 'names and shames'.

"Individual clerics of the Dublin Archdiocese should not have been 'under investigation' if the Murphy Commission had stayed true to its terms of reference," he said.

"But for reasons best known to itself the Commission veered off the tight rails imposed by the 2004 Commissions of Investigation Act and wandered into an adversarial arena that concentrated, to an alarming degree, on 'naming and shaming' those clerics whom the Commission found wanting in child protection at that time."

Archbishop Martin said any association or person has the right to examine or criticise the fairness an Act of Legislation, but he stressed every bishop or priest who engaged with the Murphy Commission was offered legal assistance.

He said the commission had no objection to priests or diocesan officials being accompanied by lawyers, adding that any person who had a difficulty with the fairness of procedure also had the right to challenge them in the High Court.

"As I said it on the publication of the Murphy Report in 2009, the fact that the abusers were priests constituted both an offence to God and affront to the priesthood," he added.

"The many good priests of the archdiocese share my sense of shame.

"This is and remains the case in 2013."

Press Association

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