New York Times - June 4, 2011
An Archbishop Burns While Rome Fiddles
By MAUREEN DOWD
THE archbishop of Dublin was beginning to sniffle.
He could not get through a story about “a really nasty man” — an Irish priest who sexually abused, physically tortured and emotionally threatened vulnerable boys — without pulling out his handkerchief and wiping his nose.
“He built a swimming pool in his own garden, to which only boys of a certain age, of a certain appearance were allowed into it,” Archbishop Diarmuid Martin told me recently. “There were eight other priests in that parish, and not one of them seemed to think there was something strange about it.”
Two years after learning the extent of the depraved and Dickensian treatment of children in the care of the Irish Catholic Church — a fifth circle of hell hidden for decades by church and police officials — the Irish are still angry and appalled.
The only church leader who escapes their disgust is the no-nonsense, multilingual Martin. He was sent home to Dublin in 2003 after 27 years in the Vatican bureaucracy and diplomatic corps and found the Irish church in crisis, reeling from a cover-up that spanned the tenures of four past Dublin archbishops.
I went to see him at his office in Drumcondra in north Dublin because he is that rarest of things in the church’s tragedy: a moral voice.
In February, Martin held an unprecedented “Liturgy of Lament and Repentance” at a Dublin cathedral, where he asked forgiveness from God and victims of abuse and praised the courage of those who had come forward.
Wearing a simple black cassock, he helped wash the feet of eight victims and conceded that the church “will always bear this wound within it.”
The frustrated Martin has criticized the Vatican’s glacial pace on reform and chided the church: “Denial will not generate confidence.”
He has mourned the lack of faith among young people in Ireland, where fewer than one in five Catholics go to Mass in Dublin on Sunday. (A victims’ support group is called One in Four, asserting that’s how many Irish have been affected by the sexual abuse scandal.)
In return for doing the right thing, he has been ostracized by fellow bishops in Ireland and snubbed by the Holy See.
Showing again that it prefers denial to remorse, the Vatican undermined Martin’s call for accountability. In 2009, after the Irish government’s 700-page Murphy report on sexual abuse came out, Pope Benedict XVI refused to accept the resignations of two Irish bishops who presided over dioceses where abuse cases were mishandled.
The following year, when Martin expected to be named cardinal, the pope passed him over.
“Martin is standing alone against the tide right now, but he’s on the right side of history,” said Jason Berry, who has written two books on the church scandal. “I think he is probably the single best hope for the church within the hierarchy.”
Yet Martin, famous protector of victims, is an outlier of the club, while Cardinal Bernard Law, notorious protector of pedophiles, has a cushy Vatican sanctuary. And Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who was in league with the notorious abuser of seminarians and inseminator of women, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, is the dean of the College of Cardinals in Rome.
Garry O’Sullivan, the managing editor of The Irish Catholic in Dublin, told me that Martin “has had a prophetic role in the church.”
“And all the prophets were stoned or murdered or ignored,” he said. “The big question is, why would the Vatican be indifferent to a guy who’s so brilliant at identifying with the victims? They should put him in charge of a protection office in the Vatican, a global watchdog against sexual abuse.”
Surrounded by many renditions of Madonna and Child in his elegant office, Martin, the 66-year-old “Lone Ranger,” as he’s called, is worried.
“The danger now is to think, well, that’s in the past and we can sit back and relax and say it can’t happen again,” he said. “It can happen again.”
He hopes the culture has changed: “I think parents are much more sensitive than they were. Children themselves are more aware.”
And he is more aware. “For me, any candidates for any ministry must be rounded personalities,” he said, “and I’ve become much more demanding about the human qualities of those training for the priesthood.”
The pedophiles, he said, “have an ability to take the young children into their grips and make it impossible for them to talk. They look for the vulnerable and make them worse. You see that a lot of these men were driven not by faith but by hormones.
“One of the things that annoys me is when I see a priest get convicted, the newspapers try to get the most devilish photographs of them. The trouble is that child sexual abusers don’t look like devils. They look like charmers. If pedophiles had horns on their noses, no one would go near them.”
In a church where officials still put more energy into protecting their arcane prerogatives than protecting children, Martin has become a hero merely by stating the obvious.
“In the case of serial pedophiles, what should have happened from the very beginning, people should have said, look, stop, these people are real dangers,” he said. “They have to be brought out, they have to be prosecuted and so on.”
I asked him how he felt when he read the Murphy report.
“I dedicated Friday afternoon till Sunday, and I can remember on Sunday, I just threw the whole thing on the ground,” he recalled. “I just couldn’t go any farther. You just couldn’t believe that these things had happened. For every child that was abused, how many lives were ruined? We don’t know how many people have committed suicide as a result of what happened.”
HE noted with mystification that the Murphy report quoted one preying priest telling a bishop that he “wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t a working-class parish. As though, somehow or other, working-class people are more robust.”
After hearing the story of a man who was raped as an 8-year-old, Archbishop Martin went to see a class of 8-year-olds, just to get a sense of it.
“I mean, the idea of raping an 8-year-old boy is so alien to me. It’s hard to believe it’s actually possible,” he said, shaking his head.
He has had wrenching sessions with many victims. “One lady, I’ll always remember her, she said: ‘I said to my son, go down and cut the priest’s lawn. He might give you a shilling.’ She said, ‘I handed my child over to him.’ She lives with that guilt for the rest of her life. And the last time I saw her, she was cleaning the church.”
Another man who had been abused asked how many victims of the predatory priest had already come forward. “He was something like number 19 on the list,” Martin said.
I asked why he decided to wash the feet of victims. He said the service was planned by victims with help from his staff. Three times, survivors of abuse interrupted to extemporaneously air their grievances, and the archbishop welcomed it. “It brought a real sense of reality,” he said.
Why did the church victimize victims by treating crimes as mere sins?
“I imagine that in the early stages, this was looked on as people looking for money,” he said. “Here, only a small percentage who come forward to us are looking for compensation. Maybe there was some feeling, this was a plot to attack the church. If that was the case, we gave them the plot on a silver platter and said, ‘Please come after us.’ ”
When he was growing up, his mother always told him “go serve your Mass but don’t hang around with the priest.”
Was he ever abused?
“One day when I was waiting on my mother,” he recalled, “I must have been about 12, this dirty old man came up and said the most horrendous things to me in the public street, and he had me sort of pinned against the wall and I could do very little about it. I was getting very upset, and I saw a policeman coming, and I called the policeman and the man ran away.”
In his brusque way, he rejects the appellation of hero.
“Nobody could have read what I have read and not did what I did,” he said as he walked me out into the windy spring day. “If I didn’t react to the stories I heard, there would be something wrong.”
Pope rejects resignations of two bishops from Dublin diocese where depraved child abuse occurred
Pope said to be "disturbed and distressed" over Irish clergy abuse, but no mention of Vatican's role in cover-up
Irish priest says cover-up of clergy abuse "goes right to the top in Rome"
Dublin Archbishop says church self-centred, arrogant, failed children and rarely empathised with their pain
Dublin Archbishop admits frustration over failed effort to promote major reforms in Catholic Church
Dublin Archbishop says Irish church not indoctrinating enough children, secular society advancing
Clergy abuse survivor groups troubled, dismayed, insulted by Pope's picks to investigate Irish church
Irish clergy abuse survivors outraged over Pope's refusal to fire bishops and take full responsibility for cover-up
Irish abuse survivors criticize Boston Cardinal for celebrating mass with two bishops named in report for enabling child abuse
Irish priest calls for Archbishops and investigators to pin blame on Vatican for central role in global clergy crimes crisis
Irish Bishop who reluctantly resigned over abuse scandal claimed he was inexperienced, but was professor of moral theology
Two years after Ryan report on systemic institutional abuse still no prosecutions Irish gov tells UN torture committee
Catholic bishops to hold conference in Bangkok to address serious problem of pedophilia in Asia
Italian priest in diocese of Cardinal assisting Pope on child protection reforms arrested on pedophilia and drug charges
Lawsuit against Kansas City diocese alleges Bishop neglected to protect children from priest who made child pornography
Philadelphia cardinal and bishops hid problem priests from clergy abuse review board, put church law before civil law
Credibility of US bishops' reformed child protection policies challenged by Philadelphia clergy abuse scandal
New Vatican rules rely on Bishops to deal with clergy crimes before reporting to police, still don't protect children
New rules on clergy sex abuse shows there is still no moral awakening in the Catholic church
Calgary Bishop rejects criticism of Vatican reforms, says child protection protocols will work in his diocese
Catholic theologian says secrecy, misogyny and resistance to reform in wake of clergy sex scandals will doom the church
Retired Archbishop blames protective church hierarchy for clergy abuse scandal
Australian Archbishop says church culture responsible for deep-rooted child abuse crimes and cover-ups
Former Benedictine monk says church has not yet addressed child abuse crisis, most bishops still mired in obfuscation and deceit
Is the Catholic church in state of denial over clergy abuse, or is it honest and transparent?
Hundreds of admitted or credibly accused pedophile priests who escaped justice are unsupervised by church or police
Bishops were warned of abusive priests as early as the mid-1950s
1963 letter by church expert on pedophile priests shows Pope Paul VI and Vatican officials ignored warnings to expel problem priests
Jesuit priest being considered for sainthood among order's leaders who protected "the Hannibal Lecter of the clerical world"
Jesuit leaders concealed 40 years of warnings about pedophile priest who became spiritual adviser to Mother Teresa
US bishop's report on clergy abuse puts focus on sociological factors instead of church leaders who covered up crimes
A selection of critical responses to the John Jay report on the causes of Catholic clergy sex crimes
Inquiry finds US Catholic hierarchy still endangering children and fighting justice for clergy abuse survivors
Leaked confidential letter reveals Vatican's intention to prevent reporting of abuse to criminal authorities