VICTIMS of paedophile clerics made their presence felt yesterday at a forgiveness service in Dublin's Pro-Cathedral where two senior Catholic Church clergymen washed the feet of eight victims.
Boston-based Cardinal Sean O'Malley and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin -- in "an act of humble service" -- washed the feet of "a representative group" of those affected by the sexual abuse of priests. The group included prominent victims Marie Collins and Christine Buckley.
On behalf of the Pope who asked him to conduct an external probe into the scandal-ridden Archdiocese of Dublin, Cardinal O'Malley asked for forgiveness for the horrendous abuse cases catalogued in the Murphy Report, and for the systematic cover-up by church authorities.
But the one hour-and-40-minute service was interrupted twice by two victims who walked on to the altar and spoke of their failure to receive justice.
Both men were allowed to have their say by Archbishop Martin, and their contributions were applauded by the congregation.
Robert Dempsey, who said he was speaking for all victims, spoke of how he was placed in a mental institution when he was only three, and later of how he was raped by a cleric in another institution when he was 15.
Claiming that a court case that he had taken to obtain justice had been stalled for 10 years, Mr Dempsey handed Archbishop Martin a file of legal documents and urged him to use his influence with the judiciary to have his case heard and settled.
The second intervention came from Christopher Heaphy, who spoke of receiving "the lash and the whip" when he was aged five as a resident of Greenmount, run by the Presentation Brothers in Co Cork.
Speaking later, Mr Heaphy said that victims, many now elderly, still wanted justice and compensation, which he claimed had not been given by the hierarchy and religious orders.
A third victim, Paddy Doyle, a disability activist, approached the precincts of the sanctuary, before directing his wheelchair out a side exit. Referring to the presence of two gardai, Mr Doyle said: "Cardinal O'Malley is the most protected man in the building."
But Ms Collins said she was pleased to have taken part in the service as one of those who selected and contributed to the prayers.
"It was a clear and definite expression of repentance by Archbishop Martin on behalf of the Dublin archdiocese," said Ms Collins.
In his address, Archbishop Martin said that the service was only the first step toward healing, and warned against an attitude of "now we can get back to normal".
"The archdiocese of Dublin will never be the same again," said Archbishop Martin.
Unnoticed among the congregation was Cardinal Desmond Connell, the former Archbishop of Dublin, whose 16-year reign from 1988 to 2004 was "devastated" by the abuse scandals.