Friday November 27 2009
THE Catholic Church last night admitted it stole the childhood of hundreds and failed them again when they had the courage to come forward.
The Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, issued an unequivocal apology to victims of clerical child sex abuse for the systematic cover-up of hundreds of child sex abuse cases.
“The damage done to children abused by priests can never be undone,” he said. “As Archbishop of Dublin and as Diarmuid Martin, I offer to each and every survivor my apology, my sorrow and my shame for what happened to them. I am aware, however, that no words of apology will ever be sufficient.”
Dr Martin led the Church’s act of contrition after the full extent of decades of abuse by priests and the subsequent cover-up by his four predecessors in the Dublin archdiocese was laid bare in the damning 700-page report of the Commission of Investigation.
The report uncovered a systematic calculated perversion of power and trust that was inflicted on innocent children in the archdiocese over 29 years. It confirmed that the Church and State colluded in a conspiracy against the defenceless in their care and covered up generations of abuse by clerics.
The Vatican was also strongly criticised for not cooperating with the commission.
Cardinal Desmond Connell, who was one of four former archbishops criticised in the report, last night apologised for his failure to protect children.
“The abuse of children is an unspeakable crime. I apologise again now from my heart and ask the forgiveness of those who have been so shamefully harmed,” he said in a statement.
The Bishop of Limerick, Dr Donal Murray, a former auxiliary bishop of Dublin who also came in for criticism, also expressed his “deepest regret”.
For many survivors of clerical sex abuse, the Church’s act of contrition was not enough.
Victims accused the Church of “denial, arrogance and cover-up” and called for an investigation into child sex abuse in every diocese in the country.
“Not one single person has been convicted of recklessly endangering children,” One in Four chief executive Maeve Lewis said. “We are calling on the DPP to immediately instigate criminal investigations into all those who colluded and conspired to protect the Catholic Church and allowed children to be sexually abused.”
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern yesterday vowed that clerical abusers would not get away with their crimes. “The bottom line is this: a collar will protect no criminal,” he said.
The report unmasked a litany of failings by gardai in dealing with clerical abuse cases.
A former garda commissioner was criticised for handing over a case to the Dublin Archdiocese rather than having the force carry out an investigation.
Gardai involved in another investigation in the 1980s were found to have connived to ensure a serial sex abuser was not brought to justice.
Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy last night said he was “deeply sorry” for previous garda failures.
He said recent improvements in investigative techniques had brought the force into line with best international practice.
The commission investigated sex abuse allegations from 1975 to May 2004. Since that cut-off point, 131 new child sex abuse complaints have been made.
Children’s Minister Barry Andrews admitted successive governments had failed to protect children under state care.
“The Government will take the necessary steps to put in place the appropriate legislation framework,” he said.