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Archbishop Criticised On Handling Of Abuse Issue

Added to on March 30, 2010

 Irish Times, Mar 30, 2010 by Patsy McGarry Religious Affairs Correspondent

ARCHBISHOP DIARMUID Martin has been strongly criticised by a former spokesman for his predecessor as Archbishop of Dublin, Cardinal Desmond Connell, over his handling of the clerical sex abuse issue.

The criticism by Eddie Shaw, who was spokesman for Cardinal Connell from September 2002 to October 2003, is contained in a book, The Dublin/Murphy Report: A Watershed for Irish Catholicism?, launched yesterday.

In the book Mr Shaw criticises what he claims is Archbishop Martin's failure to support the auxiliary bishops of his diocese in the fall-out from the Murphy report.

The report, into how cases of sex abuse of children by priests were handled by the Dublin archdiocese, was published in November.

In Chapter 13 of the book Mr Shaw asks Archbishop Martin: "Are you aware of a perception you have created that in attempting to separate yourself and your career so comprehensively from the abominable behaviour of some priests of the past and the catastrophic consequences of that behaviour in this archdiocese, that you may have added a further injustice to this appalling story?"

Mr Shaw, a director of public relations at Carr Communications, continues "do you have any awareness that in your efforts to put right the abominable injustice of clerical child sexual abuse you have added a further injustice in your treatment of your auxiliary bishops whom you have failed to support and in whom you have, in reality, expressed no confidence"?

He is particularly critical of Archbishop Martin's appearance on RTÉ One's Prime Time programme on December 1st last.

The archbishop said he was writing to all auxiliary bishops who served in Dublin and were named in the Murphy report as he was "not satisfied" with some of their responses so far. He pointed out that those bishops named in the report, but no longer serving in Dublin, could not tailor their responses to people in their current dioceses.

"My view is they should publicly come forward and answer the questions to the people where these abuses took place," he said.

Mr Shaw asks the archbishop whether he believed using Prime Time was "an appropriate way to communicate this message for the first time to the survivors/victims of clerical child sexual abuse, to five past and present auxiliary bishops, to your priests and to your people?"

He also criticises "the comprehensive failure of the communications offices of the Dublin archdiocese and the Irish Bishops' Conference" for not having in place "a robust crisis communications procedure, including rebuttal, clarification and correction" which, he claimed, "adds one injustice to another". It also allowed for serious "errors of fact and misrepresentation" in the media, he said. As an example he referred to a view "that there was widespread cover-up among all priests - this was never adequately corrected and clarified".

Another erroneous view was "that there was 'collective responsibility' and consequently 'guilt by association' and 'general responsibility' among auxiliary bishops (and others), all concepts introduced by Archbishop Martin."

And there was the view "that there was no learning curve, individually or collectively for the archdiocese, in relation to clerical child sexual abuse and the issue of paedophile priests".

Mr Shaw was "firm" in his view that "a grave injustice has been done in the last three months to the lay faithful, good women, good men, good priests and good bishops. I have worked with Bishop Walsh and Bishop Field [former auxiliary bishops of Dublin] and so I single them out for that reason . . . This is a grave matter of injustice and to remain silent is to concur."

A Dublin archdiocese spokeswoman said neither Archbishop Martin nor she had any comments to make on Mr Shaw's criticisms.

Edited by Fr John Littleton and Eamon Maher, The Dublin/ Murphy Report: A Watershed for Irish Catholicism? is published by Columba Press. Contributors include Andrew Madden, Marie Collins, Fr Paddy McCafferty, Fr Enda McDonagh, Bishop Richard Clarke, Fr Eamonn Conway, Breda O'Brien, Garry O'Sullivan and Louise Fuller.