Sunday 25 February 2018

Bishop calls for Martin to clarify 'strong forces' claim

John Cooney, Edel Kennedy and Patricia McDonagh

A senior bishop has called on Archbishop Diarmuid Martin to explain what he meant when he claimed "strong forces" inside the Catholic Church want the truth about clerical sex abuse scandals to remain hidden.

Bishop of Kerry Bill Murphy said yesterday he was in substantial agreement with the views expressed by Dr Martin in an address on Monday to the Knights of Columbanus.

"In fact, I have advised the priests of the diocese to read and study it," said Dr Murphy in a statement to the Irish Independent. "However, I would like clarification on the expression 'strong forces'."

And in the Dail last night Justice Minister Dermot Ahern last night also called on Dr Martin to reveal any information he had about clerical child sex abuse. Mr Ahern said he had taken Dr Martin's claims "very seriously". But he insisted the church had a responsibility in the fight to bring perpetrators to justice, pointing out they knew the identities and location of the people involved.

Dr Murphy is only the second senior churchman to comment on the speech after Bishop of Killaloe Willie Walsh voiced his support on Tuesday for the thrust of Archbishop Martin's analysis. The Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, has so far refused to comment on Dr Martin's views.

In his controversial speech on the future of the Catholic church in Ireland, Dr Martin revealed he had never felt "so disheartened and dejected" since taking over from Cardinal Desmond Connell six years ago.

Speaking six months after the publication of the shocking Murphy Report into top-level cover-ups of paedophile priests, Dr Martin spoke of a crisis of denial over the extent of the scale of child abuse.

The Archbishop of Dublin explained that a second and deeper root of his discouragement was that Catholics did not have a true sense of the crisis of faith that existed in Ireland. His address was widely interpreted as a broadside at the Vatican and the Irish hierarchy.

There has also been speculation that Dr Martin was indirectly criticising Cardinal Brady, who has asked for forgiveness after it was finally revealed two months ago that in 1975 he swore two child victims of infamous paedophile monk Brendan Smyth to secrecy about their ordeals.

A spokesman for Dr Martin has described the controversial speech as "a full, frank and comprehensive" assessment of the Irish church's future. The archbishop, however, was not available for further comment.


Dr Murphy also told the Irish Independent that he did not know what Dr Martin meant by "strong forces" or where they are located.

The bishop said his diocesan Safeguarding Children committee had recently completed an audit in all parishes on the implementation of safeguarding children policies and procedures, and a high level of compliance was found.

He also revealed that, like Dr Martin, he also felt "disheartened and discouraged" whenever new abuse revelations came to light.

"However, I am not disillusioned and neither, I believe, is Archbishop Martin," Dr Murphy said.

On the issue of a weakening of faith in Ireland, Dr Murphy said he personally believed that this has been going on for the past 40 years due to the rapid and radical changes in Irish society. But he added: "I would not say there is a massive crisis of faith in Ireland. What we are experiencing now is a crisis of confidence in the church."

Irish Independent

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