A true voice of hope in the midst of horror
NEW ERA: Archbishop can rebuild the Church after abuse scandal
It was April 2005 and I was in Rome covering the death and funeral of Pope John Paul II as a television reporter. Over the course of a number of evenings, I interviewed a man of the Church for the live broadcasts which were beamed back to Ireland.
It was clear that he was a learned man and one who knew the business end of the workings of the Catholic Church inside and out. He had spent a great deal of his early working career in the Vatican and although he was living back in Ireland then, it was clear that he was at home in Rome and at the centre of its inner circle.
I have asked myself since, did Archbishop Diarmuid Martin know at that time, the burden, that four years later, would be visited upon him? Was he aware as we stood under the television lights at the Vatican that in 2009, the very future of the Catholic Church in Ireland would rest very firmly on his shoulders?
As the nation gets to grips with the horrors of the Ryan Report and prepares for the further revelations to come in the report into abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese, the Archbishop's voice is the only one in a position of authority that rings true and clear with genuine humility. If the Church has any future, it will be up to him to deliver it.
TV3's documentary, Abuse of Trust, broadcast this week, gave us a hint of what is to come in the next few months with the imminent publication of the Dublin Archdiocese report.
The candid and shocking stories of abuse in the film and, in particular, the despicable way the victims were handled by the Church, pierce through the rhetoric of remorse doled out since the Ryan report emerged.
It would be easy to give up entirely on the Catholic Church, given the disgraceful way the victims allege they were treated by the clergy when they asked for help – from the parish priests all the way up to more senior figures. The Church has behaved appallingly and deserves to see the Irish public turn its back on it for good.
Having read the Ryan Report I, along with countless others, have been thoroughly disgusted by the attitude of the institution of the Catholic Church to the evil in its midst. I expected TV3's documentary to entrench that view, but then a truly Christian voice emerged from the hell of abuse and subsequent cover up.
Archbishop Martin is a man of the cloth who is visibly shaken by the knowledge that innocent children were raped and their lives ruined. He doesn't hide behind euphemisms for the terror they experienced, but allows himself to react with tears, like any other human being, to the abject torture that was inflicted upon them.
Towards the end of the programme, Archbishop Martin makes a statement of intent. He wants full disclosure and acknowledgement of the full extent of the abuse.
He wants the Church to repent and compensate. He wants children to be protected, but most importantly, he accepts that Catholicism in Ireland will be utterly changed in the aftermath of this scandal and he admits that the Church will have to take what's left and rebuild an institution that operates in a completely new way.
It has been hard to stomach the Catholic Church and its pleas for forgiveness in recent weeks, but Archbishop Martin might just represent a new era and a rebirth of what it means to be a Catholic in Ireland.
He deserves to be given the chance to make a difference.
Claire Byrne presents Breakfast on Newstalk 106-108 with Ivan Yates, Monday to Friday, 6.30-9am