Cardinal Sean Brady said while a deal should be revisited, it would not be right for the church to enter talks between Government and 18 religious organisations whose members physically and sexually assaulted thousands of children in their care.
Cardinal Brady invited survivors to engage with the Church to see how they can be helped, adding society must reflect to ensure noting similar happens today or in the future.
“We are ashamed, humbled and repentant that our people strayed so far from their Christian ideals,” said Cardinal Brady.
“Our first reaction is heavy sadness at the suffering of so many for so long.
“We wish to respond as pastors despite the inadequacies at times of our previous pastoral responses.”
Cardinal Brady and Archbishop of Dublin, Dairmuid Martin, defended their decision not to face thousands of angry victims of abuse at a protest march in Dublin instead of attending the meeting.
“We wanted our moral voice to be heard this evening here, through the good offices of yourselves who are very powerful communicators,” Cardinal Brady told a press conference following a meeting of Bishops in Maynooth to discuss the Ryan report.
“We did follow the events of today and we recognise the need to show solidarity with all that are seeking justice to be done to them.
“We want to support them in any way, which is why we gave a lot of time to these responses.”
The senior cleric said that if survivors wanted to meet them, they would chart a way forward.
He said Bishops had tried to set in context how the institutional abuse happened.
“That’s a task not just for the congregations, but for the whole Church and maybe for society to see how this situation came about,” he added.
“Our children were sent to institutions either for poverty, or for petty larceny, or for simply absence for schools.”
The country’s Bishops said the Ryan Report represented the most recent disturbing indictment of a culture that was prevalent in the Catholic Church for far too long.
“Heinous crimes were perpetrated against the most innocent and vulnerable, and vile acts with life-lasting effects were carried out under the guise of the mission of Jesus Chris,” they said in a statement after the summer general meeting of the Irish Bishop’ Conference in Maynooth.
“This abuse represents a serious betrayal of the trust which was placed in the Church.”
Archbishop Brady said many questions about Irish society had to be asked.
“What was Irish society like then?” said Archbishop Brady.
“How is it that we treated huge numbers of children who had no other fault than perhaps being born out of wedlock. How did we do that and where were the investigative journalists of day.”