Irish Archbishop Speaks Candidly on Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal

While many bishops and priests have closed ranks when faced with the extent of the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Ireland, has consistently spoken clearly and directly.

This week Martin spoke at the Marquette University Law School’s conference titled “Harm, Hope and Healing: International Dialogue on the Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal,” as part of the school’s restorative justice program. “Archbishop Martin said what many Catholics want to hear, and they haven’t heard it from their Catholic leadership,” said Janine Geske, a professor at the law school who heads its Restorative Justice Initiative, in the National Catholic Reporter.

Also this week, Presbyterian pastor Peter James Vienna Presbyterian Church in Virginia stood before his congregation and acknowledged that the sexual abuse by a youth director was “far more devastating and horrific than we had imagined.” A row of young women, part of at least a dozen women who had been victimized over a four year period, sat in a back pew as James apologized.

“We failed as leaders to extend the compassion and mercy that you needed,” James said, publicly acknowledging the church’s failings for the first time. “Some of you felt uncared for, neglected and even blamed for this abuse. I am sorry. The church is sorry.”

Below are highlights from Archbishop Martin’s presentation. It needs to be read by far more than just Catholics.

I tell these events not to re-open history, but to illustrate just how difficult it is to bring an institution around to the conviction that the truth must be told. All institutions have an innate tendency to protect themselves and to hide their dirty laundry. We have to learn that the truth has a power to set free which half-truths do not have. The first condition for restorative justice is that all parties are willing to tell the truth and to take ownership of the truth, even when the truth is unpleasant. As I said at a recent liturgy of lament in Dublin: “The truth will set us free, but not in a simplistic way. The truth hurts. The truth cleanses not like smooth designer soap but like a fire that burns and hurts and lances”. ..

I still cannot accept a situation that no-one need assume accountability in the face of the terrible damage that was done to children in the Church of Christ in Dublin and in the face of how that damage was addressed. The responses seemed to be saying that it was all due to others or at most it was due to some sort of systems fault in the diocesan administration. …

But even those numbers, though shocking, have not got the right focus. Statistics are too often offender-focussed. We have to set out from the standpoint that the person who was at the epicentre of abuse was not the priest, but the victim, a child. A restorative justice approach would have to re-orient the way we draw up not just our statistics but our pastoral care. One victim constantly reminds me that the stern words of Jesus in Saint Matthew’s Gospel (Mt 18:6) about the “great millstone” to be fastened around the neck of anyone who becomes a stumbling block for the “little ones”, are quickly followed (Mt 18:12) by the teaching on the Shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep to find the one who has been lost. …

The culture of clericalism has to be analysed and addressed. Were there factors of a clerical culture which somehow facilitated disastrous abusive behaviour to continue for so long? Was it just through bad decisions by Bishops or superiors? Was there knowledge of behaviour which should have given rise to concern and which went unaddressed? …

A restorative justice approach which admits and addresses the truth in charity offers a useful instrument to create a new culture within the Catholic Church which enables the truth to emerge not just in the adversarial culture which is common in our societies, but in an environment which focuses on healing. At our service of lament and repentance I stressed that scandal of the sexual abuse of children by clergy means that the Archdiocese of Dublin will never be the same again. That is more easily said than achieved. After a period of crisis there is the danger that complacency sets in and that all the structures which we have established slip down to a lower gear. …

A Church which becomes a restorative community will be one where the care of each one of the most vulnerable and most wounded will truly become the dominant concern of the ninety-nine others, who will learn to abandon their own security and try to represent Christ who still seeks out the abandoned and heals the troubled. …

Martin’s full speech is below.
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The Repair Project: A Gandhian Approach to Ending Domestic Violence

Gandhi--Iofferyoupeace11mn5Male violence is not a new thing – but treating men for it (rather than only bandaging up the victims) is taking on a new look. The U.K. and Australia have launched a number of male-oriented violence-reduction programs that use Gandhian theories of nonviolence (ahimsa) to address issues of domestic abuse.

The Ahimsa Project in Plymouth, England, is a new breed of domestic violence projects (others include A Man’s Place in New Zealand and the Men’s Resource Centre in Lismore, Australia) that offer transformational programs in nonviolence rather than “correctional” programs for perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse. The REPAIR (Resolved to Ending Power and Abuse in Relationships) Project in the north of England grew out of the AHIMSA Project.

The current issue of Resurgence magazine has an excellent interview with Peter Rosser on his work with the REPAIR Project and his training in Gandhian nonviolence. Here’s an excerpt:

Why are we in denial about domestic violence which, in the UK, is on the rise? I’m talking with Peter Rosser. He turned his back on the Probation Service, fed up with, (old story), the paperwork, but also the absence of informed supervision, and the apparent inability of the Service to enable change in the violent men who were his clients – even those who wanted desperately to escape their propensity for violence. “So are we living in a violent society?” I ask him. He shakes his head and smiles dryly.

“The Press,” he says, “focuses on President Karzai’s legislation in Afghanistan, which it sees as tantamount to legalising rape in the home, when in Britain, according to The Independent, 300,000 children live with serious domestic violence. We are in denial – and the chief denial is that almost all violence starts at home.”

Ultimately, of course, what is billed as domestic violence is simply another aspect of the violence epidemic in the air that our human society breathes. “And the cause?” I ask. “Back to Cain and Abel?” Peter shrugs. “You tell me. What my experience tells me is that the effect is the cause: violence always furthers and fathers violence, unless some form of ‘repair’ intervenes.”

To look for the source is to become entangled in a loop of cause and effect: fear, alienation from our true nature, absence of belief, values, possible fulfillment. It is a climate of violence which humans currently are born into, and it constitutes in itself an abuse of the human child – abused by the first breath he or she breathes. And the poison of that abuse the child seemingly has no option but to take in, and then no option but to visit it on his or her own children.

Peter left probation to become the manager, facilitator and group worker of an alternative approach to domestic violence and abuse called the Repair Project. The programme is grounded in the work of Paul Wolf-Light [read Wolf-Light’s The Shadow of Iron John] and his Ahimsa project in Plymouth. Peter trained with Wolf-Light for two years, working primarily on himself. Ahimsa is a Gandhian practice, Jain in origin, and is based on four principles of nonviolence.  … —by John Moat

Read the rest of the article here.