ARCHBISHOP Diarmuid Martin became so upset on reading stomach-churning descriptions of priests raping children in top secret documents hidden away in church archives that he "simply threw them on the floor".
Archbishop Martin describes how the state investigation into the archdiocese of Dublin has often caused him to "turn over at night and wonder whether I have done the right thing or made a mistake".
The archbishop will reveal his personal disgust at clerical child abuse tonight in a TV3 documentary, 'The Abuse of Trust: Sins of the Fathers'.
The documentary highlights the willingness of church authorities to move paedophile priests around the country from parish to parish in the full knowledge that complaints had been made against them.
The Dublin diocese provided 60,000 documents to the Commission of Investigation led by Justice Yvonne Murphy. It is due to publish what will be a devastating report within weeks.
"One weekend I decided to try and get through these documents," Archbishop Martin said. "I came to the stage when I simply threw them onto the ground. I couldn't keep reading. This is reality. It can't be hidden and it shouldn't be hidden."
The documents reveal more than 400 children were abused by at least 152 priests.
The investigation covers complaints made between 1975 and 2004 relating to abuse in any period after 1940.
The report is likely to be highly critical of a succession of Archbishops, particularly Cardinal Desmond Connell, who went to the High Court to try and block the release of certain documents.
But Cardinal Connell's three predecessors, Archbishops Kevin McNamara, Dermot Ryan and John Charles McQuaid, will also be severely censured long after their deaths.
Archbishop Martin, who has been widely praised for his handling of the investigation, said: "Like anybody else, I make mistakes. There are times when you turn over at night and wonder whether you've done the right thing or made a mistake."
The archbishop's comments came as a radical lay group issued a scathing attack on the "completely unconvincing" response of Irish Catholic bishops to the abuse crisis.
The Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) group accused the bishops of failing to accept responsibility for causing "a culture of cruelty" in which thousands of children were subjected to institutional abuse by rapist clergy.
In a strongly worded statement the group said that the failure of the Bishops' Conference to respond adequately to the Ryan report had left "a complete leadership vacuum in the Irish Catholic Church".
Sean O Conaill, the acting secretary of VOTF, claimed that the Irish bishops do not clearly accept that they and their predecessors had any responsibility for this prevalent culture of cruelty.
"As all of the indicted institutions lay under the diocesan oversight of Irish bishops -- who also clearly failed in their role as supreme guardians and teachers -- this is inexcusable," said Mr O Conaill.
"Nor do the bishops declare any intention to discover the origins and causes of that culture of cruelty -- as called for by Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor -- or to involve the whole people of God in a process of discernment and renewal," he added.