VATICAN CITY: The archbishop of Dublin said Sunday he hopes Pope Francis will speak frankly about the “darkness” of priestly sex abuse during his upcoming visit to Ireland, which has been clouded by new revelations of misconduct in the US Catholic Church.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who has spent years trying to recover the Irish church’s credibility following decades of abuse and cover-up, dedicated his Sunday homily to Francis’ Aug. 25-26 trip. He said it comes at a time of heightened anxiety over the future of the church in Ireland and beyond.
Martin acknowledged that sex scandals had produced “deep-seated resentment” at both the abusers and the church leaders who facilitated their crimes and sought to protect themselves. In addition to clerical abuse, Martin cited Ireland’s mother and baby homes, where unwed mothers were often sent to avoid scandal and where they experienced “extraordinary harshness” by the church.
“It’s not enough to just say sorry,” Martin said. “Structures that permit or facilitate abuse must be broken down, and broken down forever.”
He said the pope won’t be able to answer all the questions that might be asked of him, but he said he hoped Francis would speak kindly and frankly.
“The recent history of the church in Ireland had its moments of real darkness,” Martin said in the Dublin cathedral. “We need a church of light, a light that exposes darkness for what it is, and a light that is such that the mechanisms of cover-up and self-justification cannot extinguish or tone down.”
Martin is co-organizing this week’s World Meeting of Families, a once-every-three-year Catholic rally meant to energize and encourage Catholic families around the globe. Francis will close out the final two days with a quick, 36-hour visit next weekend.
But the visit has already been marred by events across the Atlantic: Accusations that one of the most prominent U.S. cardinals, Theodore McCarrick, molested minors and seminarians, and revelations in a sweeping grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania that detailed the abuse of at least 1,000 children at the hands of around 300 priests since the 1940s.
The two developments, which both suggest complicity of the U.S. church leadership in covering up sex crimes and misconduct, have prompted two U.S. cardinals to withdraw from their planned speeches at the Dublin family congress.
Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the pope’s top sex abuse adviser, canceled his participation in a panel discussion on child protection, citing a new investigation at home that he has launched into his diocesan seminary after reports of sexual misconduct went public.
Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl, meanwhile, cancelled his keynote speech on “The Welfare of the Family is Decisive for the Future of the World,” which was to have highlighted the first day of the family congress Wednesday.
The Washington archdiocese declined to say why he had pulled out, but Wuerl has come under fire for his comments about the McCarrick scandal and revelations in the Pennsylvania grand jury report about his actions while bishop of Pittsburgh.