Dr Williams says sorry for saying the obvious

News in the UK has been dominated this weekend by the religious equivalent of a diplomatic row. In comments to be broadcast tomorrow on a BBC radio programme, the Archbishop of Canterbury said the Church in Ireland had "lost all credibility" over its handling of sex abuse.  The comment provoked an angry response from the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, who said he was "stunned" and "discouraged" by the remarks, which in turn provoked an apology from Dr Williams.

But he didn't retract his comments -- and rightly, because they were true. He told BBC's Start the Week:


"I was speaking to an Irish friend recently who was saying that it's quite difficult in some parts of Ireland to go down the street wearing a clerical collar now. And an institution so deeply bound into the life of a society suddenly becoming, suddenly losing all credibility - that's not just a problem for the church, it is a problem for everybody in Ireland."

I went on television news yesterday twice to say that these comments were not only accurate, they were issued in sympathy - -to which the interviewers objected that it wasn't just what was being said, but who was saying it. One even suggested to me that this was "payback" for the Pope's attempt to "poach" Anglicans through the ordinariate scheme. Anyone who knows the Archbishop of Canterbury knows how absurd that idea is.

Easter homilies by church leaders in Britain and Ireland made mention of the crisis -- in contrast to Rome, where the Pope made no allusions to sex abuse. Cardinal Sodano told Benedict XVI before the Easter Sunday Mass: "Holy Father, on your side are the people of God, who do not allow themselves to be influenced by the petty gossip of the moment, by the trials which sometimes buffet the community of believers."

The Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, spoke of "the serious sins committed in the Catholic community", and said he had been "reflecting on them deeply". There was a need, he said, to acknowledge "our guilt and our need for forgiveness."

"Crimes against children have indeed been committed and any Catholics who were aware of such crimes and did not report them brings shame on us all", said Cardinal O'Brien in Scotland.

"There is no hiding place for abusers in the Church", Cardinal Brady told his congregation.

In Austria, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn apologised for the abuse at an emotional pre-Easter mass. "For some of us, the Church's immaculate appearance was more important than anything else," Schönborn said. "We confess our guilt to the many whom we have wronged as the church, and whom some of us have wronged very directly."



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James Lindsay
8 years 8 months ago
What Cardinal Sodano said could produce a schism if people notice it for too long, especially in the American Church. I predict that with even greater frequency, people besides me will start talking about breaking with Rome and unifying with Constantinople (unless, of course, his Holiness, begins to make some efforts to shut up his household).
Anne Danielson
8 years 8 months ago
How exactly does The Church into which Jesus was Baptized and promised to remain within, His Church, lose credibility because of the scandal that some have brought to the Church? How does this scandal change the credibility of The Word? How ironic that the Archbishop of Canterbury, who denies God's intention for Marriage and the complementary nature of Sexual Love, questions the credibility of Christ's Church when he has denied The Truth. Perhaps he is not familiar with Genesis, Christ's illumination of the sin of adultery and lust, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, The Sacrament of Marriage...

mike moorhead
8 years 8 months ago
The archbishop of Canterbury should tend to his own house first. There's many reasons so many have left the Anglican/Episcopalian church to become Catholic (I did). As far as a 'split' in the Catholic church goes, the Anglicans would love to have those who want to have the laity decide everything (along with all the other gimmicks that Protestantism has created). They are about as Catholic as the Dalai Lama.
Dale Rodrigue
8 years 8 months ago
The archbishop was simply telling the truth. I didn't think it would take long for some to dig up problems w/ the Anglican church. He didn't say that the Church in Ireland has lost credibility because the Anglicans are so good. He simply stated a factual observance. You can't argue w/ facts. Fifty one percent of the Irish feel Benedict should resign. Probably a higher percentage thought so but didn't dare believe they could admit to it. The Anglicans didn't do this to us, our own clerics did with their secrecy and clericalism.
Jim McCrea
8 years 8 months ago
Instead of unifying with Constantinople, why not the Old Catholic Church?  The liturgies and structure are similar.
I understand that in the OCC Mass the non-presiding clergy (including any bishop present) does not receive the Eucharist until AFTER the laity!  A small but noticeable sign of the way the laity are viewed by the OCC clergy.
Jim McCrea
8 years 8 months ago
Mike:  you dangerously conflate Catholic with Roman Catholic!
Nicholas Clifford
8 years 8 months ago
Perhaps Archbishop Williams was too polite to refer to the Church in Ireland as an "ecclesial community?"


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