Williams in attempt to defuse row with Martin
Archbishop of Canterbury says he regrets his remarks over sex abuse
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, yesterday moved to defuse a furious inter-church row with the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, after the Anglican churchman said the Irish Catholic Church had lost credibility because of the child abuse scandals.
Dr Williams telephoned Dr Martin to express his "deep sorrow and regret" for difficulties which may have been created by remarks he made in a BBC interview.
A statement from Dr Martin said that Archbishop Williams, who is the highest ranking cleric in the Church of England, affirmed that nothing could have been farther from his intention than to offend or criticise the church here.
Dr Martin expressed his thanks to the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin and to the Church of Ireland Bishop of Meath for their supportive statements during the row. "These indicate the depth and the warmth of ecumenical relations in Ireland today," he said.
The row broke out yesterday after Dr Rowan Williams said that the Catholic Church in Ireland had lost credibility because of the child abuse scandal.
Dr Martin said he was "stunned" by the remarks by the most senior cleric in the Church of England. Dr Martin, who also described the remarks as "unfortunate", said that in all his years as Archbishop of Dublin in difficult times he had rarely felt personally so discouraged as when he awoke to hear Dr Williams' comments.
The spat between the two men drew support for Dr Martin from two Church of Ireland bishops, one of whom criticised Dr Williams' "careless and reckless use of language".
The row between the churchmen erupted after Dr Williams gave an interview to the BBC, which is to be broadcast tomorrow.
He told the BBC Radio 4 programme Start the Week that the scandal had been a "colossal trauma" for Ireland in particular.
He said: "I was speaking to an Irish friend recently who was saying that it's quite difficult in some parts of Ireland to go down the street wearing a clerical collar now.
"And an institution so deeply bound into the life of a society suddenly becoming, suddenly losing all credibility -- that's not a problem for the church, it's a problem for everybody in Ireland."
However, the remarks drew a swift response from Dr Martin in a statement which said he had been more than forthright in addressing the failures of the church.
"I still shudder when I think of the harm that was caused to abused children. I recognise that their church failed them. But I also journey with those -- especially parents and priests -- who work day-by-day to renew the Catholic Church in this diocese and who are committed to staying with their church and passing on the faith in wearying times.
"Archbishop Williams comments will be for them immensely disheartening and will challenge their faith even further. Those working for renewal in the Catholic Church in Ireland did not need this comment on this Easter weekend and do not deserve it," he said.
Dr Martin also popped up on the Marian Finucane Show on RTE an hour later to say he would be writing to Dr Williams about his comments, and would publish his reply.
Dr Martin got support from his friend the Church of Ireland archbishop of Dublin, John Neill, who said he had heard Dr Williams' remarks with deep regret.
"I extend to Archbishop Martin my support as he works for the proclamation of the Gospel and the healing of hurt, including that of the faithful and their clergy whose ministry has been undermined by those guilty of the abuse of children," he said.
The Church of Ireland Bishop of Meath and Kildare, Most Rev Richard Clarke, said whereas it was clearly true that the church was facing deep and serious challenges to its authority as a consequence of clerical abuse scandals, the "careless and reckless use of language by Archbishop Williams is extremely unfortunate".
He said it was "deeply hurtful" to Catholic clergy and laity that such a "thoughtless remark" should be made by the archbishop, who had no experience of Irish life or any direct ecclesiastical authority in Ireland.