Irish archbishop washes feet of sexual abuse victims in Dublin
The archbishop of Dublin has washed the feet of victims of clerical abuse in one of the most visible acts of contrition for the systemic mistreatment of children that has shattered the Irish Catholic Church. Addressing hundreds of people packed into Dublin’s Pro-Cathedral on Sunday , Archbishop Diarmuid Martin then made what victims said was the most explicit apology to date for the role of the Church hierarchy in enabling the abuse.
A damning 2009 Irish government report on widespread child abuse by priests in the Dublin archdiocese between 1975 and 2004 said the Church in Ireland had “obsessively” concealed the abuse. The report said one priest admitted abusing more than 100 children. Another said he had abused children every two weeks for more than 25 years.
“For covering up crimes of abuse, and by so doing actually causing the sexual abuse of more children… we ask God’s forgiveness,” Martin told the congregation. “The archdiocese of Dublin will never be the same again. It will always bear this wound within it.”
Martin and Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, who was sent to Ireland by the Vatican to study the response of the Dublin archdiocese to sexual abuse, lay prostrate in front of an empty stone altar at the start of the service. They later invited five women and three male victims of abuse to the altar, where they knelt down and washed their feet, a traditional Catholic gesture of humility.
“For them to get down on their knees, it was humbling,” said Darren McGavin, 39, who was abused as a child by a priest in his west Dublin parish. “I’ve found it hard to forgive, but today I found a small bit of closure.”