The comments from Martin, a veteran Vatican diplomat, were the harshest yet by a Roman Catholic leader following last week's report detailing widespread abuse in scores of church-run industrial schools from the 1930s to 1990s.
If the Catholic church is to survive into the 21st century with any sort of credibility, it will need to clean up its dirty act and stop enabling and protecting predators. Archbishop Martin's stance is a welcome break from the filthy lie of the few bad apples defense and the subsequent cover ups and intimidation that have been tacit policy. Even in the wake of a nine year study and 2,600 page report, the church is denying culpability, hiding their pet felons and shifting the burden for reparations and compensation to the civil government. The lucky taxpayers get to pay for the crimes of the deviant clergy.
Martin said the nuns and Catholic brothers who ran the workhouses must drop their refusal to renegotiate an intensely criticized 2002 agreement with the Irish government over compensation for victims. The orders offered to pay only euro128 million (US$175 million) to the government to be protected from victims' civil lawsuits, while taxpayers are picking up a much larger bill to compensate over 14,000 victims of physical, sexual and mental abuse.
These supposed persons of faith fought tooth and nail to minimize exposure. They wrangled a deal to limit their share of compensation to a fraction of the total, shifting the greater burden to the taxpayers and still manage to conceal the identities of the child abusers and rapists in their midst. None of the perpetrators will see the insides of a cell and none of their victims will see justice done. Somehow within the church and its many orders it is better to protect those who commit physical, sexual and emotional violence against children than it is to protect children or accept responsibility for sins against them. So much for the cleansing and redemptive power of confession and contrition. The hypocrisy is almost enough to make one gag. Thanks goodness that there is at least one leader like Archbishop Martin speaking out from within, an unenviable task to be sure.
"In many ways, it is your last chance to render honor to charismatic founders and to so many good members of your congregations who feel tarnished," he said.
The Conference of Religious in Ireland, the umbrella body for the church's semiautonomous orders of Catholic brothers and nuns, declined to respond to Martin's comments. Last week it said none of its members intended to make any additional financial contributions -- provoking a furious response from victims and some politicians, but not from the government.
No comment, no responsibility, no help for the victims... and folks wonder why the church is increasingly viewed with contempt. Sadly, the story does not end here because this is not a story of bad apples and isolated instances. There exists within the church a culture of deviance that allows for these crimes to take place on a widespread basis over generations and around the world. The bitter stories of child abuse in the Irish church are far from over.
Martin last month warned Dublin's Catholic faithful they will be shocked and outraged when the next investigation into clerical sex abuse -- in Martin's own archdiocese -- is published this summer.
That Justice Department-commissioned probe seeks to detail how hundreds of priests molested and raped children in Dublin from the 1940s onward while church and state agencies failed to report, punish and stop the abuse.
Hundreds of priests, thousands of victims and yet another in the long, disgusting list of church crimes against children. The complicity of government in quieting and covering up these crimes is no less disturbing and speaks to the power and influence that the church has within the secular arena. If I had a prayer in my heart it would be for Archbishop Martin in his battle on behalf of the innocents and victims of corruption in the Catholic church. It is heartening to see at least one church official with the courage and moral fortitude to speak and work against the culture of perversion that nests within the church, protected from exposure and justice.