Thursday 17 October 2019

'I fear that others are still at risk'

Archbishop admits to ongoing concern for children, elderly

Breda Heffernan

THE Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, yesterday admitted losing sleep over fears that children could still be abused by clerics even after the lid has been lifted on past horrors.

Dr Martin said that while the Church has serious questions to ask itself following the publication of the Ryan report into institutional abuse, so too does society at large.

"We have in our diocese very rigid norms with regard to child protection, but I can't say that I sleep calmly every night because you're as strong as the weakest link in those structures and inevitably there are aspects that haven't been looked at," he said.

He said that society should also be concerned about abuse being perpetrated, in the present day, against other vulnerable groups. Among these are the elderly, who count institutional survivors among their numbers, he added.

"It would be a terrible tragedy if some of these victims and survivors ended their lives in poor quality care for the elderly and back in institutions again. It would be an awful tragedy if something like that were to happen," he said.

Dr Martin, who was speaking to reporters at a book launch in Veritas House in Dublin last night, said he had been in contact with a number of victims' groups during the past week.

"We have to try and find out why this happened and obviously we're here at a conference which is about 'God is love' and the most damning account of these institutions was their failure to recognise that."

He said that the Church had to ask itself how this could have been allowed to happen and if it was part of a wider culture in Ireland which had "drifted into the idea of a very punitive God".

Question

"I think Irish society itself will probably have to ask the question, how did it happen that so many children could have been just put away, out of sight, and to ask ourselves are there other people in society today, either young or old, who could be in a similar situation."

Referring to the Irish Bishops' Conference in Maynooth earlier this week, Dr Martin said the bishops were "very correct" not to make any concrete proposals about how to tackle the Ryan Report fall-out.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Martin and the rest of the Church will be bracing themselves for more shocking revelations with the publication next month of the report of another commission of inquiry into alleged abuse of children in the Dublin Archdiocese.

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