Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Archbishop Martin's words are worth heeding

Editor's Viewpoint

Earlier this year Mr Justice O'Hara, who had chaired a lengthy inquiry into the deaths of five children in Northern Ireland hospitals, called for the introduction of a duty of candour because doctors and health managers were unwilling to admit to errors.

The Catholic Church adopted a similar attitude over clerical sexual abuse and in his frank and wide-ranging interview with this newspaper, Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin admits that was a gross mistake. The medical professional could well learn from that error.

By trying to cover up the abuse and prevent it becoming public knowledge, the Church created another scandal which has continued to blight it.

Archbishop Martin said the dark stain of abuse will continue to hang over the Church for the rest of his priesthood.

When the Catholic hierarchy finally realised the folly of its ways on this issue, the damage was done. As the Archbishop acknowledges, there was the everlasting trauma of the victims of abuse, the shadow of doubt cast on good priests, the effect on the faithful and the impact on Church leaders.

There is no doubt, though he does not mention it, that attendances at Church services have fallen quicker and further as a result of the abuse revelations, vocations have reduced, and the authority of the Church has been eroded.

Yet Archbishop Martin is keen to put across the Church's view on what is effectively an abortion referendum in the Republic. He warns that if the vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment is successful, it could lead to a very liberal abortion regime.

He is keen to point out this is not a Church versus State battle, but an argument that people should choose life over death. It is obvious that he welcomes a similar attitude as expressed by other denominations and Churches.

The Archbishop would love Pope Francis to come to Northern Ireland during his visit to the Republic later this year, but said it is unlikely although he will continue to press for a visit at some stage.

There is no doubt that it would be a welcome fillip for the Church and would also be welcomed by all those of good faith and none. A beleaguered Church needs all the help it can get and a Papal visit would be a great balm for it.

Archbishop Martin believes in candour and his flock demands it. If there were more prelates like him, the Catholic Church might be in a much better position in Ireland today.

Belfast Telegraph

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