Northern Ireland news

Archbishop tells faithful abuse scandals have damaged trust in Church's teaching

Archbishop Eamon Martin giving his keynote speech during the World Meeting of Families at the RDS in Dublin. Picture by Brian Lawless, Press Association
Press Association Reporters

CLERICAL sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church have led some to feel they can no longer trust its message, Archbishop Eamon Martin has said.

Dr Martin said the Church faced a challenge in finding new ways of communicating "sincerely held perspectives" about the family.

The Archbishop of Armagh was speaking at the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) in Dublin yesterday.

He had replaced US cardinal Donald Wuerl as keynote speaker on the first day of the five-day congress, who pulled out following criticism for his handling of child sexual abuse allegations in Pennsylvania.

Mr Martin said: "In the aftermath of child abuse scandals and other shameful episodes of the past, there are those who feel they can no longer trust our message, perhaps because they have been directly hurt and betrayed in their families by their experience of Church, or because the revelations of such heinous crimes have shocked them to the core."

The Primate of All-Ireland told several hundred Catholics who had gathered for his speech that Pope Benedict XVI had alerted the institution in 2010 to the fact that the sins and crimes of sexual abuse in the Church have not only had tragic consequences in the lives of victims and their families.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin and President of the World Meeting of Families 2018. Picture by Brian Lawless, Press Association

Dr Martin also told the gathering that the state must be encouraged to "support the family, and especially the uniqueness of the faithful and exclusive union between a married man and a woman as a cherished space for the bearing and upbringing of children".

"In doing this, the state is not only caring for its citizens, but it is also strengthening and nurturing the foundations of society itself."

The archbishop said the Church was not suggesting that it wanted the state to overly intrude into, or replace, the important autonomy of the family.

But he said it believed that if the institution of the family was harmed, then all of society suffered.

A man in a World Meeting of Families shirt arrives for the keynote speech at the RDS in Dublin. Picture by Brian Lawless, Press Association

His address came after Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said the number of children abused by priests in Ireland is "immense" and called for an easier judicial system for victims giving evidence in court.

He also said the number of prosecutions of clerical abuse is "very low".

Pope Francis earlier this week condemned the "atrocities" of child sex abuse and cover-ups by the clergy in an open letter to Catholics worldwide.

The pontiff arrives in Ireland on Saturday as part of the WMOF event and will meet victims of clerical sex abuse.

Speaking at the WMOF pastoral congress at Dublin's RDS, Diamruid Martin defended efforts by the Irish Catholic Church and his archdiocese in particular to tackle abuse by clergy, saying he has done more than just say sorry.

Merchandise on sale during the World Meeting of Families at the RDS in Dublin. Picture by Brian Lawless, Press Association

He said Irish authorities had "made extraordinary progress" with the introduction of mandatory reporting of allegations and that the Church had developed "good relationships of trust" with police and health authorities.

But he said the "numbers of those abused is immense and the numbers that have come forward is only proportionate of that and there are many people holding in their hearts the sadness of abuse".

"The number of prosecutions is also very low and because of the system in our courts, it's not an easy thing for someone to appear and tell their story in court," he said.

"There may be ways in which the judicial system could make it easier for people in court."

The WMOF is expected to attract more than 37,000 people and families from 116 different countries.

Hundreds of thousands more will attend celebrations that will be led by Pope Francis this weekend in Dublin and Knock, which will culminate with a closing Mass in the Phoenix Park on Sunday.

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