LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Saying “the truth will make you free,” the Archbishop of Dublin pointed to his archdiocese as an example of child protection done correctly but added “the factors that contribute and protect abusers have to be addressed definitively everywhere.”
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin also called on the judicial system to make it easier for priests and other abusers to be prosecuted for abuse.
The archdiocese is currently hosting the Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families and will see Pope Francis visit the Irish capital Aug. 25-26.
Martin said the number of victims in Ireland is “immense” due to the number of institutions such as schools and care homes that were run by the Church.
“The numbers that have come forward is only proportionate of that and there are many people holding in their hearts the sadness of abuse,” he said.
“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,” Martin said. “There may be ways in which the judicial system could make it easier for people in court.”
Martin mentioned that he provided Ireland’s abuse commission with 80,000 documents, adding that the chairman of the commission said it was “the most substantive of contributions” in the process.
“We have done a lot in the Archdiocese of Dublin,” Martin told journalists on Wednesday.
“In Ireland we have made extraordinary progress. We have mandatory reporting obligations and carry those out within a day as soon as we find a substantial allegation and we follow up on them,” he said. “We have good relations of trust with the police and health authorities.”
“I believe the truth will make you free even if it’s unpleasant, and it’s far better we work together. I said that the factors that contribute and protect abusers have to be addressed definitively everywhere,” the archbishop said. “It’s sad we have to repeat that phrase all the time.”
Martin’s words come as new revelations about abuse in the United States have threatened to overshadow the family conference.
Former-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick resigned from the college of cardinals after accusations that he molested a minor while a priest in New York were found to be “credible and substantiated.” Later, further revelations came to light that settlements were reached in cases involving McCarrick abusing seminarians while serving as a bishop in New Jersey.
Last week, a Grand Jury Report in Pennsylvania highlighted the abuse of over 1,000 minors by over 300 priests over the past 75 years, implicating several serving bishops in covering up the incidents.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, the former bishop of Pittsburgh, pulled out of the Dublin event after details of his actions in the Pennsylvania diocese were revealed.
Another leading American prelate, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, also cancelled his trip to Ireland after accusations were made of large-scale sexual impropriety at the archdiocesan seminary.
O’Malley also serves as the president of the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors.
On Sunday, Martin criticized the commission, saying it’s “not getting its teeth into where it should be.”
O’Malley has come under fire after his secretary didn’t give him a letter from a New York priest detailing the accusations against McCarrick in 2015.
The priest said he was told his allegations didn’t fall under the purview of O’Malley’s office, and that the priest should forward it to the appropriate Vatican department.
Martin said the Vatican commission is “too small” and “not robust enough” and that “puts all the pressure back on” Pope Francis, which places him “almost in an impossible situation.”
The Irish archbishop said the pontiff “really needs a better, stronger and more robust team around him.”
“I’m very fortunate that my predecessor left me a child protection office which was in its early days, but it was robust from the beginning,” Martin said.
Marie Collins is an Irish survivor of clerical abuse who was an original member of the Vatican commission. She resigned in March 2017, citing resistance to child protection reforms from other Vatican offices.
On Aug. 22, she tweeted her agreement that the Archdiocese of Dublin has gotten child protection right: “You can never have too much expertise and Archbishop Martin has done an exemplary job of Safeguarding in Dublin. Any bishop wanting to get it right only has to look at the Dublin diocese.”