Irish archbishop washes feet of abused

2011-02-21 11:45

Dublin - The archbishop of Dublin washed the feet of victims of clerical abuse on Sunday in one of the most visible acts of contrition for the systemic mistreatment of children that has shattered the Irish Catholic Church.

Addressing hundreds of people packed into Dublin's Pro-Cathedral, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin then made what victims said was the most explicit apology to date for the role of the Church hierarchy in enabling the abuse.

"For them to get down on their knees, it was humbling," said Darren McGavin, aged 39, who was abused as a child by a priest in his west Dublin parish. "I've found it hard to forgive, but today I found a small bit of closure."

A damning 2009 Irish government report on widespread child abuse by priests in the Dublin archdiocese between 1975 and 2004 said the Church in Ireland had "obsessively" concealed the abuse.

The report said one priest admitted abusing more than 100 children. Another said he had abused children every two weeks for more than 25 years.

"For covering up crimes of abuse, and by so doing actually causing the sexual abuse of more children... we ask God's forgiveness," Martin told the congregation.

Gesture of humility

"The archdiocese of Dublin will never be the same again. It will always bear this wound within it."

Martin and Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, who was sent to Ireland by the Vatican to study the response of the Dublin archdiocese to sexual abuse, lay prostrate in front of an empty stone altar at the start of the service.

They later invited five women and three male victims of abuse to the altar, where they knelt down and washed their feet, a traditional Catholic gesture of humility.

Three of the victims held hands and sobbed as Martin poured water on their feet and O'Malley dried them with a towel. Others stared into the distance, expressionless.

"Today was a day of liberation for me," said one of the eight, a 63-year-old, who declined to give his name. "I never thought I'd live to see this day when the church gave full recognition for the horror that was there."

Martin has apologised for abuse in the diocese before, but the Irish church has never as clearly acknowledged the fact that the actions of the Catholic hierarchy actually caused abuse, said abuse survivor Marie Collins.

Others not impressed

"They were absolutely clear about the accountability of the leadership in the diocese and not just the abusers... That is something we have not heard clearly before," said Collins, who was abused by a priest as a 12-year-old in Dublin in 1960.

Other victims of abuse were less impressed.

"Today was a sham, hollow words," Michael O'Brien, aged 78, said after the liturgy, which he interrupted to tell the congregation how he was stripped naked, plunged into freezing water and whipped by a priest as a 5-year-old boy.

He said the church hierarchy continued to treat victims with disdain and were using token gestures as a public relations exercise.

"Why has the pope not apologised to the Irish people?" he said. "Washing the feet of people in this church will not give us peace."

  • Jaimo - 2011-02-21 12:20

    This is a good gesture. BUT Repentance and a change needs to be made by the whole rotten Catholic system! The Bible does not teach celebacy but that every man should have his own wife! The Apostle Peter was married (see Matthew 8v14, ICor9v5)and never even went to Rome! Apostle Paul chose to be single in his latter years and although no direct reference it seemed as though he was married in his earlier years. Celebacy is a doctrine of devils, is unnatural, part of the occultic priesthood system, and directly spoken against by God. Oh that there would be some light in this present darkness!

  • Gallows - 2011-02-21 12:28

    Lol, Christians are such hypocrites.

      arrionelob - 2011-03-04 12:50

      Gallows, i have to correct u on that matter if u ask one of them what are they will expressely make it clear that they are catholic for that matter and not christians, so the next time u want to comment get your facts right,from a born again christian

  • CapeTownJunk - 2011-02-21 13:01

    WTG, Father O'Foot-Fetish!

  • Dr. Zeek - 2011-02-21 16:28

    The RCC should be disbanded and banned for this evil. There is no "god" that can forgive the unspeakable acts committed by "men of the cloth" on defenseless children. i think we can safely say that the RCC itself has done more harm than good in human history. What a crock!

  • Hennie - 2011-02-21 16:41

    My experience shows that if staff are incompetent or if there is problems with an institution you can bet that the fault lies with the chief executive. The fact that priest in the catholic church keep on doing this type of disgrace (and mostly get away with it due to the church's policies) tells me it is practiced in the Vatican itself.

  • Sandra - 2011-03-03 06:40

    The Catholic Church has a lot to answer for .... I wonder what they intend telling their God on the Day of Judgement. For it is not only the abusers who are guilty here, but all those who ignored or hid the abuse, or just looked the other way! Shame on them and may God forgive them!

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