'The Church has to change' - Archbishop Diarmuid Martin says Mother and Baby Homes report left him with 'profound distress'
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has said the Interim Report published on Wednesday by the Commission of Investigation on Mother and Baby Homes has left him with “profound distress, even indignation”.
In his homily for the annual Chrism Mass, which gathers together priests, bishops and laity from Ireland’s largest diocese, Dr Martin said he found it “hard to believe that evidence has simply vanished and that no one can remember”.
In hard-hitting words, he questioned, “What went wrong to give rise to a situation in which children within the Church of Jesus Christ were not cared for with scrupulous dignity, whether in life or in death?”
He reminded the congregation gathered at the Pro Cathedral in Dublin, “The Catholic Church in Ireland has to look constantly at the negative effects of the way it exercised a dominant role in Irish society in the past, while at the same time not renouncing its prophetic role in society today.”
He also recalled Pope Francis’ address to the Irish Bishops during his visit to Dublin last August when the Pontiff said, “Do not repeat the attitudes of aloofness and clericalism that at times in your history have given the real image of an authoritarian, harsh and autocratic Church.”
Elsewhere in his homily, the Archbishop of Dublin noted that this was his fifteenth year celebrating the Chrism Mass, which prepares the sacred oils that will be used in parishes at liturgies during the year. Much, he acknowledged, had happened over that fifteen-year period. There have been major actions, positive and negative.
“We have experienced the dramatic effects of the crisis of sexual abuse”. Moving forward did not mean “whitewashing the past” but recognising how our parish communities have responded with great dedication putting into place and supporting child protection structures of which they could be proud.
The diocese of Dublin challenges included an overall growth in population which in some areas was “spectacular”.
Five parishes in the diocese have over 15,000 Catholics. Patterns of ministry, Dr Martin said, have to adapt to changing situations. This includes parishes are working together.
He said that while there is strong faith, the culture is changing; 48pc of those in the age group 24 to 29 living in the diocese registered as no religion in the last census.
Only a few of the parishes within the two canals have a majority Catholic population.
“Our ministry and outreach has to take place within that changing reality. We have to identify and recognise that reality. Young people are growing up in a very pluralist culture and have to be supported and accompanied in finding a strong personalised faith.”
Dr Martin also stressed that the Catholic community in the future will likely become smaller within wider Irish society.