— Clerical sexual abuse scandals have badly damaged the Catholic Church, in particular ‘the faith of young people, says retired archbishop
Retired Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said there is “a huge amount of resistance among the Catholic education establishment” to pluralism in schools’ patronage. He does not believe there will be women priests in the Catholic Church in his lifetime and described as “bad theology” the banning of condoms in the fight against Aids. The clerical child sexual abuse scandals had “badly damaged the church,” he said and, in particular, “the faith of young people”.
Now living in Dublin’s Stoneybatter, Archbishop Martin (78) has also admitted finding retirement in 2020 “very difficult at the beginning because I retired right in the middle of Covid.” He remembered “one day in the Phoenix Park, I was out in an open-necked shirt and there was a man sitting on a bench. He looked up and said: ‘Are you enjoying your retirement?’ And I said: ‘Yeah.’ And he said: ‘Did they take the collar off you? Did you have to give it back?’ They recognise the face. Somebody stopped me and said: ‘I know your face. Were you ever in Fair City?’ Dubliners are great for that.”
When he was born, the family “lived in a tenement, there was nothing else available, then we went out to Ballyfermot”. Once when he was archbishop a delegation of Christian Brothers complained about criticisms he made of Artane industrial school. They “were sent to me to tell me that I didn’t know what I was talking about and one of them came up with this punchline. He said: ‘You know, many of these children came from appalling backgrounds, from places like Ballyfermot.’ He hadn’t done his homework.”
In discussing child abuse he became emotional. On arrival in Dublin as Coadjutor Archbishop in 2003, he “wasn’t prepared for it. Do you know who understood the harm paedophilia did? Ordinary, working-class Dublin women. They saw the mess that their child got into, they saw in some cases how their child took their own life, and they went to bishops and they weren’t listened to.”
On education, he said: “We do need to have pluralism of patronage in schools to respect individuals, to respect teachers also. We should also be fighting to ensure that we can maintain schools which are strongly Catholic.”
He added: “There’s a huge amount of resistance among the Catholic education establishment to this. I think I was probably out of tune with the other bishops on this and still would be, mainly because I’ve lived in countries where they have a different system.”
He did not see “in any way that women priests will be something that we will see in my lifetime. I’d be very worried about consultations which lead to frustrated expectations which don’t take place. People’s faith is damaged by a church which doesn’t respect women’s dignity.”
Asked whether Pope John Paul II’s ban on condoms during the Aids crisis was bad judgment, he said: “I think that it was bad theology. It’s this idea of an extraordinary narrow dogmatic understanding of bringing principles and not looking at the broad circumstances in which the situation is taking place and the struggles that people have to face. It was one of the problems with the church in Ireland, we learned the rules before we learned who Jesus Christ was.”
As to what, on arrival at the pearly gates, he would say to God, he said: “The only phrase I have is, when you’ve got that weighing scales there, take the 80,000 files I gave and that might bring me the right way.” It was a reference to the number of documents he handed the Murphy commission when it was investigating how the archdiocese had dealt with allegations of clerical child sexual abuse.
Archbishop Martin was speaking to broadcaster Joe Duffy in the 100th episode of The Meaning of Life programme, which will be broadcast on RTÉ One television at 10.30pm on Sunday night.
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