The editor of an influential Catholic newspaper believes Monsignor Eamon Martin could be the man to draw a line under the church’s “toxic past.”
Michael Kelly, who edits “The Irish Catholic’, Ireland’s biggest and best-selling religious newspaper, says the Derry man - appointed by Pope Benedict to be the next leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland - has a “steep road ahead” of him.
But, according to Mr. Kelly, in Mgr. Martin, the church has found “a hard-working pastor with a keen understanding of the complex issues facing the church.”
‘The Irish Catholic’ editor says that, as coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh, Mgr. Martin will “ease the passage” of Cardinal Sean Brady into retirement - which, he suggests, that could happen before the end of the year.
“The appointment of a coadjutor is a classic Roman solution when a cardinal is mortally wounded,” says Mr. Kelly.
“Following the punishing revelations about Cardinal Desmond Connell in Mary Raftery’s ‘Cardinal Secrets’ documentary in 2003, Diarmuid Martin was dispatched from Rome as coadjutor in Dublin. Within months, Cardinal Connell had retired. And, so, the pattern will be repeated in Armagh.
“Ever since the Papal Nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown arrived in Ireland a year ago, the hunt has been on for a successor in Armagh. While, initially, Mgr. Martin’s role will be to shadow Cardinal Brady, the transition to power is expected to begin almost immediately.”
Turning to church relations with government administrations on both sides of the border, Michael Kelly says that if government officials think that they are dealing with a cowed church, Archbishop-elect Martin has already “thrown down the gauntlet”.
“In his opening remarks, delivered on the steps of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, he made it clear that he won’t restrict himself to the sacristy... and his remarks will have a particular resonance given the current debate in the Republic about abortion. By attending last month’s ‘Vigil for Life’ outside the Dail, Mgr. Martin pinned his colours to the mast. It’s a stance that will not have gone unnoticed in the Vatican and likely contributed to his elevation.
“He will continue to speak forcefully on the issue of abortion. But, if anyone’s expecting a belt of a crozier, they’ll have to look elsewhere.”
As Primate of All Ireland, says Michael Kelly, Mgr. Martin will also take over as president of the Irish Bishops’ Conference and will have a “job of work to do uniting the bishops around him.”
“One of his key tasks will be to rebalance the hierarchy and reassert the primacy of Armagh over his namesake Diarmuid Martin in Dublin.”