The Archbishop of Dublin has said the number of children abused by priests in Ireland is “immense” and called for an easier judicial system for victims giving evidence in court.
Speaking on the second day of the World Meeting of Families (WMOF), Diarmuid Martin said the number of prosecutions of clerical abuse is “very low”.
It comes days after Pope Francis condemned the “atrocities” of child sex abuse and cover-ups by the clergy in an open letter.
The pontiff arrives in Ireland on Saturday as part of the WMOF event in Dublin, and will meet victims of clerical sex abuse during his visit.
I believe the truth will make you free even if it’s unpleasant and it’s far better we work togetherArchbishop Diarmuid Martin
At a press briefing on Wednesday, Dr Martin was asked by a member of the media if he feels he is on trial after he and the Pope apologised to abuse survivors.
He said: “No, first of all I haven’t just said sorry. We have done a lot in the Archdiocese of Dublin.
“I provided the Government (child abuse) commission with 80,000 documents and the chairman said it was the most of substantive of contributions to that process.
“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.
“It’s sad we have to repeat that phrase all the time.
“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.
“We have good relations of trust with the police and health authorities. Particularly in Ireland because of the industrial schools, the day schools, the Magdalene laundries, the mother and baby homes, the children abused by priests in parishes, the numbers of those abused is immense and the numbers that have come forward is only proportionate of that and there are many people holding in their hearts the sadness of abuse.
“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.
“There may be ways in which the judicial system could make it easier for people in court.”
Teresa Kettlekamp, of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in the US, said she feels “embarrassed and disappointed” by clerical abuse.
Ms Kettlekamp said that having read a grand jury report on the extent of sexual abuse in Pennsylvania, she feels she did not know if she had all the facts of what the church knew.
She also said that when she hears of child sex abuse by members of the Catholic Church, she feels she has “failed”.
“All of us Catholics feel deep disappointment in what our church leaders have done and failed to do,” she said.
“When a church person fails it reflects on me as a Catholic as I’m proud to be a Catholic, and it’s hard to hold your head up high when you have front page after front page saying the sins of your fellow Catholic.
“It’s embarrassing, it’s frustrating, it’s sad and I have no words to defend it.”
The church leaders and representatives also addressed issues surrounding the exclusion of the LGBT community from the WMOF event.
Cardinal Kevin Farrell said: “It is, for us and the church, extremely important that all Catholics understand that we are all created in the likeness and image of God, that if a person has a same-sex attraction then they too are children of God.
“They have to be welcomed into our churches. They have to be received by and treated with respect and dignity by all people.
“We need to build bridges and need to communicate.”