Trust in the Catholic Church has been “grievously damaged” by the shocking scale of clerical sex abuse and it will take a long time to re-build it, one of the Derry Diocese’s most senior priests has acknowledged.
Monsignor Eamon Martin, Vicar General for the Diocese of Derry, told Massgoers in Pennyburn at the weekend that he could “only hang my head in shame and sorrow” at ongoing revelations of clergy abusing children and church leaders covering up the abuse.
Mons. Martin said the findings of the recently published Cloyne Report - which showed how allegations of sex abuse by priests in Cork had been covered up - had been “deeply disturbing”.
He asked: “If we find it hard to listen or talk about the findings of the Cloyne Report, what must it be like for victims?”
Mons. Martin said the past few years had been particularly traumatic for survivors of abuse who, he said, had their “trust betrayed and their dignity violated.“
“It is clear that many of those who were courageous enough to come forward and speak of the terrible things that happened to them were treated dismally. What must have been the consequences for their lives? For their faith in God? For their confidence in the Church? As a priest, I can only hang my head in shame and sorrow at it all.”
The main lesson from Cloyne, said Mons. Martin, was that “words on a page do not protect children”.
“Guidelines and procedures are only as good as those who are entrusted with putting them in place,” he said.
Turning to Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s damning response to the Cloyne Report - in which he accused the church of putting its reputation ahead of child rape victims - Mons. Martin said part of him “wanted to object, to find fault and criticise him for being unfair.
“But to do so would have been like closing my ears and avoiding the uncomfortable truth. Trust in us has been grievously damaged. It will take a long time to rebuild it.”