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Archbishop Washes Feet of "Victims" (including Christine Buckley)

Forgiveness Sought For 'Sins' of Clergy

Irish Times 21 February 2011 by Patsy McGarry, Religious Affairs Correspondent

Archbishop Martin washes feet

A service of lament and repentance with those who were sexually abused by priests and religious took place at St Mary's Pro-Cathedral in Dublin yesterday. Photograph: John Mc Elroy

THE CATHOLIC Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin and the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston Seán O’Malley yesterday washed the feet of a representative number of victims of clerical child sex abuse in “an act of humble service” at Dublin’s Pro-Cathedral.

At the beginning of a moving 90-minute liturgy “of lament and repentance”, prepared in the main by abuse victims themselves, Archbishop Martin and Cardinal O’Malley both prostrated themselves in silent prayer before the altar which was dominated by a large, bare, wooden cross, symbolising the cross of Jesus Christ.

Most of the readings, which included excerpts from the Ryan and Murphy reports, were by victims or relatives of abuse victims. A woman victim read from Matthew’s gospel about Jesus and children, and his words that “anyone who is the downfall of one of these little ones . . . would be better drowned in the depths of the sea.”

Among the eight people who had their feet washed were Marie Collins, abused as a child by Fr Paul McGenis, Darren McGavin whose abuse led to former priest Fr Tony Walsh being sentenced to 16 years imprisonment last December, and Christine Buckley who was abused in Dublin’s Goldenbridge orphanage.

Archbishop Martin asked God’s forgiveness “for the sins of bishops and religious superiors, when they failed to respond as good shepherds to victims of abuse by priests and religious.”

He sought forgiveness too “for indifference in the face of human suffering, for putting the institutional Church before the safety of children, for covering up crimes of abuse, and by so doing actually causing the sexual abuse of more children.” He asked God’s forgiveness “for the deaf ear, the blind eye and the hard of heart.”

Cardinal O’Malley, who is leading the apostolic visitation to Dublin sent by Pope Benedict,said “we confess that we are guilty and our sins fill us with dismay.” He also said “on behalf of the Holy Father, I ask forgiveness for the sexual abuse of children perpetrated by priests and the past failures of the Churchs hierarchy, here and in Rome . . . to respond appropriately to the problem of sexual abuse”.

Archbishop Martin said “no one, no one who shared any responsibility for what happened in . . . this archdiocese can ask forgiveness of these who were abused without first recognising the injustice done and their own failure for what took place.”

He said “I, as Archbishop of Dublin . . . ask forgiveness of God and I ask from each of you for the first steps of forgiveness from the victims of abuse.”

He expressed “immense gratitude” to those men and women who, “despite the hurt it cost them . . . had the courage to speak out, to speak out, to speak out and to speak out again and again, courageously and with determination even in the face of unbelief and rejection.” All victims were indebted to them, he said, as was “the Church in Dublin and worldwide and everyone here today.”

He apologised “in my own name” for “the insensitivity and even hurtful and nasty reactions that you have encountered. I appeal to you to continue to speak out. There is still a long path to journey in honesty before we can truly merit forgiveness.”

At the end of the liturgy a “Candle of Protection” was blessed by Archbishop Martin and lit from the Paschal Candle before it was carried in procession to nearby St Joseph’s altar.

Two victims made unplanned contributions at the service. Interrupting the liturgy, Robert Dempsey presented Archbishop Martin with documents alleging continued abuse by civil authorities while, doing likewise, Christopher Heaphy spoke of his savage treatment in an institution as a five-year-old.

Abuse Victims Protest at Service

Irish Times, 21 February, 2011 by Patsy McGarry

YESTERDAY’S LITURGY of lament and repentance in Dublin’s Pro-Cathedral had its origin in a letter to The Irish Times on June 19th, 2009, following publication of the Ryan report the previous month.

Signed by 22 Catholics of the Dublin archdiocese, including three priests, its sentiments were repeated in a letter published in this newspaper on December 1st, 2009, following publication of the Murphy report in November. It was signed by the same 22 people.

The Ryan report dealt with the abuse and neglect of children in institutions from the 1930s to the 1970s, while the Murphy report concerned the handling of child sexual abuse cases involving priests of the Dublin archdiocese.

Among the signatories to both letters were abuse survivor Fr Paddy McCafferty and Catholic activist Paddy Monaghan who, along with survivor Marie Collins, set about preparing a liturgy in consultation with survivor groups. The liturgy content was agreed with the archdiocese in February 2010 which suggested excerpts from the two reports be included.

After the service yesterday, Ms Collins said church authorities had asked for forgiveness for covering up the abuse of children. This was “something that has not happened before”, she said.

Among a small group of protesters outside as the service took place was well-known survivor Paddy Doyle who described the liturgy as “a stunt”. It was “getting to the stage where apologies are becoming cliches”, he said. Survivor Mary Smith said she “cannot forgive them”. She recalled how a parish priest put her mother in a Magdalen home while pregnant with her and how her own life had been a series of industrial schools and a Magdalen home.

Michael O’Brien of the Right to Peace group said the Catholic bishops, who had met him and other members of a committee of survivors three times, had been refusing to do so recently.