Friday, February 05, 2010

First, The Report... Now, The Revolt

In ten days' time, the Vatican's most intense response yet to the global church's clergy sex-abuse crises begins as Pope Benedict spends two days in an unprecedented closed-door summit with Ireland's 30 active bishops, along with the expected release of a pastoral letter from the pontiff to the heavily-Catholic Isle, still reeling from November's harrowing conclusions of a state inquiry that chronicled the history of abuse in the archdiocese of Dublin, and the serial mishandling of accused priests by generations of its church leadership.

Since the Murphy Report's Thanksgiving Day release, the capital's Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has garnered wide acclaim for addressing the wide currents of public shock and anger at the actions of his predecessors, a response most prominent in his thinly-veiled demands for the resignations of current and former Dublin auxiliaries implicated in the cover-up, and repeated calls for a wholesale renewal of the Isle's once-vaunted ecclesial life.

Among at least some of the onetime Vatican diplomat's clergy, however, reaction seems to run rather different... and on the eve of the crucial meeting in Rome, a leak to the Irish church's paper of record has seen the emergence of a "scathing critique," and from no less a source than an "irate" score of Martin's own priests.

Here, the Irish Times summary:
A MEETING of priests has heard demands that Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin be confronted over his handling of the fallout from the Murphy report on clerical child sex abuse.

It also heard claims that the archbishop had become “a source of division” among priests and bishops. About 25 Dublin priests attended the meeting at Manresa retreat house on January 18th....

“Anger, frustration and a sense of helplessness [were] expressed at the lack of compassion shown by the diocese in recent months, particularly towards the auxiliary bishops,” the minutes report.

“We felt that a grave injustice has been done to men who have loyally served this diocese with selfless commitment and Christ-like compassion.”...

The clerical meeting also heard claims that Dr Martin spoke to his auxiliaries through the media. And in television interviews he seemed to have more in common with his obvious opponents than his bishops.

“He enjoyed a good honeymoon period with the press . . . but now there is a general feeling that the archbishop is a source of division among his priests and among his fellow bishops,” the minutes state. “Justice demands that he be confronted and told that if he is about reform, then his priests and the laity . . . need to be part of the entire process. We are no longer content to be puppets of the diocese.”

The meeting heard claims that Dr Martin had a “dictatorial manner” and said it had emerged “not just now but from the first day he returned to Drumcondra [i.e. Archbishop's House, the Dublin curia]”.
And as if that wasn't enough, Irish reports from Rome speak of "confusion and alarm" in the Vatican over appearances of "infighting" within the Isle's hierarchy itself.

The priests minutes' release comes days after after an exchange of letters emerged between the archbishop and a retired Dublin auxiliary, Bishop Dermot O'Mahony, who sought to take Martin to task for accepting the state commission's finding of a "cover-up" and said that the archbishop "had no idea how traumatic it was for those of us who had to deal with allegations without protocols or guidelines."

After his handling of abuse claims was deemed "particularly bad" in the report, Martin had asked O'Mahony to refrain from performing Confirmations prior to the correspondence.

Following the row's public turn, Martin told the Times that "all [he] would like to see is people accept accountability and say, 'look this is what happened'.

In Mahony's letter, he added, "there is a certain rejection of what happened -- that this horrendous scandal and the cover-up never took place. This I don't accept.... People can criticize me but I believe that, for me, the reaction to the Murphy report must be predominant -- something horrendous happened on our watch and we got it spectacularly wrong."

Prior to his 2003 appointment as coadjutor to Cardinal Desmond Connell, Martin had spent 27 years in the Roman Curia. A curate and student-priest before departing his home-diocese, the archbishop hadn't worked in the Dublin curia until his return there as ordinary-in-waiting.

And, lastly, after the Holy See's response (or lack thereof) was faulted by the state inquiry -- even if the scenario owed itself to the latter's failure to send its requests for cooperation through diplomatic channels -- the papal nuncio to Ireland Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza has been summoned to appear before a parliamentary committee to discuss his "role," including the "issues" experienced during the report's preparation.

PHOTO: Reuters