The Irish John the Baptist tells it straight

On Sunday the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmiud Martin, made a profound apology to the former parish of a priest jailed last week for sexually abusing three boys (the priest had long since been laicised after serving a previous conviction for abusing six others). THe archbishop, who has waged an at times lonely campaign to put the Dublin church in sackloth and ashes, deplored the arrogance and self-centredness of a Church that stood so far apart from society that it couldn't hear the cry of victims.

The homily was especially moving because Archbishop Martin had once been a parishioner at Ballyfermot, at a time when "I was exactly at the age of many of the children who were abused by Tony Walsh and sadly by a number of other priests who worked in this parish over the years. I apologize unreservedly."


He said the Church needed to become more like John the Baptist, who "shunned the external amenities of a comfortable life because he wanted to show his absolute dependence on God".

The figure of John serves as a warning to us today, to all believers, to the Church and to Church organizations of every age of our need to draw our strength from Christ alone, rather than from identifying with the cultural patterns and fashions of the day, which in any case come and go.  The Church is there to proclaim and live out the message of Jesus.  It is not there in any way to be inward looking and self protecting. The Church is called to renewal, to tear itself away from conventional expectations, attitudes and superficialities.  The Church in every age must become like John the Baptist, an uncomfortable reminder of how we must repent and allow the truth of Jesus to break into and enlighten the darkness that can at any moment enter into our lives or the life of the Church.

Looking back, he saw clearly that "the catastrophic manner in which the abuse was dealt with was a symptom of a deeper malaise within the Irish Church."

In many respects, he went on, "the Church in Ireland had allowed itself to drift into a position where its role in society had grown beyond what is legitimate.   It acted as a world apart.  It had often become self-centred and arrogant.  It felt that it could be forgiving of abusers in a simplistic manner and rarely empathised with the hurt of children."

Archbishop Martin has made himself unpopular with many of the other members of the hierarchy, who have sometimes resented his often sweeping, searing statements about a past for which -- because he was in Rome, or acting as the Vatican's envoy to the UN -- he was not responsible.

But that's a prophet's lot, isn't it? To be told that they don't know what they're talking about, or that they've got no right to say it, or that they are too "extreme" and "sweeping". J the B would have been familar with that those criticisms.


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Cailin Gael
8 years 1 month ago
''Church in Ireland had allowed itself to drift into a position where its role in society had grown beyond what is legitimate. It acted as a world apart.''

I couldn't disagree more. As an Irish Catholic, it is quite clear that the world in which the Church was in at that time, was one of rampant child sexual abuse nationally. It was and is rampant in Irish homes. The culture of the time was one of secrecy, and making sure that the scandals were not made public knowledge. Many mothers did nothing about abuse because they were ashamed about what the neighbours would think! The father of one the children from Ballyfermot actually beat his child severely and told him not to say such a thing. The parents did not report it to the police. That was the culture of the time. The Church was no different. They did not want to bring scandal on the Church. Of course it was wrong but that is now in the past.

The Primate of All Ireland is a good man and is certainly not guilty of this crime. But we need to look a little closer at a few others who would love to see the Catholic Church be replaced by a Protestant style church where homosexually active priests and bishops are the norm, the people who want a new Church and where there are many secrets that have yet to be uncovered.

Those who shout the loudest....
Cailin Gael
8 years 1 month ago
Kay Satterfield
8 years 1 month ago
May God bless Archbishop Martin for doing what is right for the Irish Catholic Church and for setting an example of what leaders in our Church should do in this terrible situation.  The pride of the Church's reputation was put in front of the devastating sins committed against children.   Calling these sins into the light and begging forgiveness is the only way for healing.  It's sad that he has gotten heat from 'the hierarchy' for his actions.   The truth can hurt.
8 years 1 month ago
I second Kay Satterfield's remarks.  I applaud Ireland's Archbishop Martin for his outspoken stance.

Do we have any bishops in the United States the caliber of an Archbishop Martin willing to speak out so clearly without dissimilation? 

Let's see.  

There is Bishop Tom Gumbleton but he was given short shrift when he spoke out before the Ohio legislature.

Then there is Bishop Geoffrey Robinson.  Oh, that's right, he is an Australian bishop.

No, not one name comes immediately to mind.

Much to the contrary. 

Bishops and state Catholic Conferences are viciously opposing statute of limitation reform regarding the sexual abuse of children in every state where it has been or is now being proposed.

That is truly shameful.

National Catholic Reporter
December 10, 2010

Sister Maureen Paul Turlish
Victims' Advocate
New Castle, Delaware

Visit the website of the American Catholic council at:


Eugene Pagano
8 years 1 month ago
The most remarkable statement in this sermon is the statement that the Roman Catholic Church had assumed a role in Irish society larger than what was legitimate.  This sounds like a remarkably modest statement for a Roman Catholic bishop to make.  Could you imagine Archbishop Chaput saying such a thing?

(Disclosure: a former Roman Catholic, now an EPiscopalian) 
Stephen Murray
8 years 1 month ago
But now what after the bold assessment and fine words?  What now?
Anthony Ruff
8 years 1 month ago
I too appreciate the honest words of the Archbishop. However, language like ''drifted into...'' or ''had become...'' could suggest that something went wrong only the last couple decades or perhaps the last century or so. I don't know if that's what he means. I think, rather, that the problems are deeply rooted, and they go back centuries - clericalism, top-down hierarchy, theology of ministry, centralism, and many related problems. It's not just a matter of a change of attitude in a few areas - it is looking at the deep systemic problems.
8 years 1 month ago
You are correct.  The ''company men'' in the Vatican, not to be confused with authentic ''Churchmen'' like Archbishop Martin and Bishops Tom Gumbleton and Geoffrey Robinson, tried to paint this as an ''American problem'' in 2002 and after that a homosexual problem followed by Senator Rick Santorum inane comment that it was all caused by the promiscuous behavior of those New Englanders.

They refuse to addresses clericalism, the complicity of the bishops and the endemic and systemic causes.  Until they do it in some really meaningful way people will continue to walk away.
Carolyn Disco
8 years 1 month ago
The root cause of the scandal is indeed the clerical sense of exemption and privilege, along with the arrogance and secrecy of that world - which I believe is aided and abetted by the sense of superiority implied by celibacy.

Tom Doyle and Richard Sipe have been saying that for decades, to little effect in Vatican and episcopal circles. It is gratifying to see Fr. Ruff and Sr. Maureen agree.

Diarmiud Martin must indeed be exhausted. May this thread provide some comfort to him (somebody have his email address?). He is a beacon of hope, squashed by the willful blindness and mendacity around him.

The more Irish and other bishops mouth their loathsome platitudes about cluelessness, the more Martin's truth must penetrate their consciences on some level. Personal mea culpas are sorely needed. Bishops and their apologists also need to stop cloaking accountability in theological red herrings like blaming sin or secularism.

Martin stands high above that crowd, and his words are deeply appreciated. Bless him with fortitude and the support of many. May he continue to speak out, buoyed by his commitment to truthful communication.

Too bad he does not have the administrative power to implement his views by removing complicit bishops, and opening Vatican archives to Irish government investigations. That makes his words all the more necessary. Anyone able to start a website of international support for him, or some other means of letting him know, we know?

Meanwhile, Benedict leads the way, having aides aplenty like Gerhard Gruber to take the fall for him. The buck arrived at his desk long ago, but he leaves Martin isolated instead of publicly applauded.
david power
8 years 1 month ago
"Archbishop Martin has recently had exhaustive discussions on the sex abuse crisis with Pope Benedict, who remains in complete agreement with the manner in which Dr Martin has confronted the Irish church’s tortured and long-running trauma."

This is from an Irish newspaper.Also in the new book the Pope mentions Archbishop Martin in his analysis on the crisis and so I think that it is unfair to say that the  Pope has left him to hang. In Ireland we have about 26 bishops even though the nation has a population of about half of New York City.Can you imagine 52 Bishops in NY?The previous Pope selected Irish bishops on their ability not to rock the boat in anyway.And with that criteria in mind we can only say that he had an uncanny ability . They are men of very poor quality who cannot confront the problems in a non-clerical way. Beyond the sexual abuse crisis and the cover-up they are particularly useless at evangelisation. Cardinal Brady is a great example. Recently he spoke of "his" suffering.When you realize what kind of people they are you begin to feel less angry with them.You feel compassion just as you would for a person in an asylum who is threatening to kill you.You realize they are not capable of dealing with reality and so your heart goes out to them and the trauma they must have gone through in their youth and in their seminaries.     
david power
8 years 1 month ago
My meaning got lost somewhere over the Atlantic.Often does!
david power
8 years 1 month ago
I recently met the Archbishop and had a chat with him on a bus. He did not say it but I think he is exhausted from all of the non-sense he has to deal with. He reminds me of a guy with the clippers between the blue and red wire.Which is the right one to defuse the bomb?He and Bishop Wlllie Walsh are the only two who could not be defined as "company men". The drama in Ireland is still present as all of those bishops who were responsible for the cover-up are still hanging around and hoping it will just blow over. These are people of a pathological nature.They have been giving apologies for about 15 years now and then covering up even more.  The Apostolic visitation will fail if it rests on an analysis of the sexual abuse .It would be like thinking that the problem with Hitler was that he attacked Poland.    
Molly Roach
8 years 1 month ago
My heart is not going out to any members of the hierarchy (the overwhelming majority) who stood by while children were sexually assaulted and then, in retrospect report their own "suffering."   These men have responsibilities which they have grievously failed in.
Given that, they should resign because they are unable to fulfill the responsibilities of their position.  Because they don't resign, wouldn't dream of resigning, I can only conclude that their god is the privileges that go with the position.  I would not compare them to inmates from asylums.   They are dishonest and dishonorable.   Archbishop Martin is a refreshing contrast.  May God be with him.


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