One of Ireland's highest ranking Catholics has denounced the church for having grown self-centred and arrogant, during an apology for clerical child abuse scandals.
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, second only to Cardinal Sean Brady in the hierarchy, said the cover-up of paedophile priests was a symptom of a deeper malaise in the church.
Saying the church was "called to renewal", Archbishop Martin declared it had allowed itself to drift into a role in Ireland that was beyond legitimate.
Archbishop Martin made his remarks during mass at the Church of the Assumption in Ballyfermot, the former parish of ex-priest Tony Walsh who was jailed last week for sexually abusing three boys. They also came a day after the WikiLeaks revelations that the Vatican was offended by requests for information from the Murphy Commission into clerical sex abuse.
Archbishop Martin told parishioners in Ballyfermot, where he grew up, that he had come to renew his apologies for the church's hushing up Walsh's horrendous catalogue of abuse during the 1970s and 1980s.
"I apologise unreservedly," he said. "As I look back, I see more clearly that the catastrophic manner in which the abuse was dealt with was a symptom of a deeper malaise within the Irish church."
The church had drifted into a position where "its role in society had grown beyond what is legitimate", he said.
"It acted as a world apart," he told mass-goers. "It had often become self-centred and arrogant. It felt that it could be forgiving of abusers in a simplistic manner and rarely empathised with the hurt of children."
Archbishop Martin said the church had to honestly acknowledge "with no buts and no conditionality" the gravity and the extent of what happened as it takes a first step on the road to renewal.
The Murphy Report identified 320 people who complained of child sexual abuse between 1975 and 2004 in the Dublin archdiocese.