Faith Matters

Irish experience of abuse should inform worldwide Church

Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin will be taking part in next week's Vatican conference on the 'protection of minors'. Picture by Mark Marlow

WHEN the Irish News spoke to Archbishop Eamon Martin at Christmas about the clerical sexual abuse conference which takes place in Rome next week, he said he intended to draw on the Irish experience to "encourage others to come out of denial".

"Ireland will be able to bring our bitter, sad experience of what it has been like, how the story of abuse has destroyed lives, how it has damaged people’s faith and trust in the Church," he said, adding that clerical abuse "has even shattered people’s relationship with God in some cases".

The summit, which was announced in September, is the first global gathering of bishops to discuss the abuse scandal.

Pope Francis called the meeting following a request from the group of cardinals who advise him.

Dr Martin said he hoped the meeting would also bring "some clearer sense within the Church on issues of accountability".

"In Ireland, our fundamental accountability is to the law," he said.

"But even outside of that there is an accountability to the Christian community and to the Church community.

"I think the Church has still a way to go with that, in establishing clear procedures.

"Here in Ireland we have very robust procedures about accountability for clergy and Religious who are accused of abuse.

"We are less clear what to do, for example, if a bishop or religious superior is accused of abuse or if they are accused of not having followed procedures.

"We are accountable to the civil law, because it is mandatory to report, but whenever that is over there is an accountability in canon law.

"We know internationally that is not clear, and could be made clearer - and perhaps this convention will be the beginning of that."

Dr Martin said the Catholic Church "ought to be a model of best practice which other institutions and organisations might follow".

Candles 'of atonement' will be lit in churches tomorrow to mark the annual day of prayer for survivors and victims of sexual abuse.

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