Why Archbishop is sticking his neck out for the sake of the truth
A PRIEST rang me having heard Archbishop Martin on the news and said: "So he has decided to be a bishop again." It was a sharp remark but a backhanded compliment too in the aftermath of a press conference given by the Archbishop in which he called on the Taoiseach to explain one of his stronger accusations against the Vatican.
The Taoiseach in his July speech to the Dail specifically stated that the Vatican attempted to frustrate "an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago."
The Holy See (Vatican) statement released on Saturday states categorically that the particular accusation is "unfounded" and something that Mr Kenny "made no attempt to substantiate".
It goes on to say that all the State-led abuse investigations such as in Ferns, Dublin and now Cloyne do not act as a basis for such criticisms.
The reports "contain no evidence" and the Holy See says that given the vast amount of information in these reports it is impressive that "there is no support for these accusations".
Finally, the Vatican letter states: "The Holy See wishes to make it quite clear that it in no way hampered or interfered in the inquiry into child sexual abuse cases in Cloyne . . . furthermore at no stage did it seek to interfere with Irish civil law or impede civil authority."
This is the point usually where someone says, "Yeah, but didn't they..." but let's not change the goalposts here. Did the Vatican interfere or attempt to frustrate a State Inquiry? If yes, let's see the evidence. If there is no proof then we are forced to believe that the proposition is on the balance of evidence incorrect.
This is what Archbishop Martin is asking of Enda Kenny and the Government. In a simple three words he spelled it out to reporters in his house in Drumcondra on Saturday afternoon: "This requires explanation".
So let's be fair here and say that Archbishop Martin has stuck his neck out here, not for the Vatican who haven't always been his greatest supporters, but for the sake of a "serious and sober" assessment of the truth.
No one can say Archbishop Martin hasn't been a champion of victims of abuse. Nor has he been afraid to take on fellow bishops or priests when he felt the need to.
And now, even with his high media profile and popularity among the general public, he is courageously putting all of that at risk to ask for truth and honesty.
The reason is simple: if we don't stop the polemics on both sides -- the row about confession box secrecy being a key example of a State-Church phoney polemical war -- relationships will be utterly damaged and this will do nothing for the protection of children.
Both Church and State failed children miserably but both need to work together to ensure that children in today's Ireland are protected and safe.
I asked the Archbishop on Saturday if he and the Cardinal were prepared to sit down with the Government and try and find ways forward to ensure Ireland becomes a safer place for children. He said he was ready and willing.
It's up to Minister Shatter and Fitzgerald now to show equal goodwill, and start the talking.
As for the Taoiseach and the Tanaiste, they just got a 20-page lesson from the Vatican in how to back up what you say. Unless they want to look like third rate politicians on the international stage, they should carefully back away from the wilder aspects of their accusations against the Holy See.
This is what the Vatican spokesman Fr Lombardi seemed to be advocating after the press conference, giving the Irish Government a gentle rebuke and hoping they will have the sense not to add fuel to the fire.
Archbishop Martin too is asking for accountability from our Taoiseach, but also he is wearing his old Vatican diplomat's hat, ready to act as a bridge between the State and the Holy See.
It's not that he has decided to be a bishop again -- he never stopped -- but he has decided to be a diplomat again.