Irish archbishop washes feet of sexual abuse victims in Dublin

February 21, 2011
martin

(Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, November 26, 2009/Cathal McNaughton)

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.”

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This is UK historian Richard Webster, writing about one of the ladies whose feet Archbishop Diarmuid Martin washed on Sunday 20 February. (The Archbishop certainly knows how to pick them!)
http://www.richardwebster.net/print/xbry nestynireland.htm

“The Irish story then developed in a manner which paralleled the development of the North Wales story. In 1996 the producer and director, Louis Lentin, made a television documentary about abuse in children’s homes which was shown by RTE, the main public service broadcasting station in Ireland. It focused on the brutal regime which was said to have been operating during the 1950s at St Vincent’s Industrial School, Goldenbridge, one of a network children’s homes or detention centres which were funded by the state and run by the Catholic Church.

“The documentary featured allegations made against Sister Xavieria, one of the nuns belonging to the Sisters of Mercy order which ran the home. The woman ‘survivor’ at the centre of the film claimed that, on one occasion, she had been caned by Sister Xavieria so severely that the entire side of her leg was split open from her hip to her knee. She says she was treated in the casualty department of the local hospital and believes that she received 80 to 120 stitches.

“No medical evidence has ever been produced to substantiate this bizarre claim. The surgeon who ran the casualty department at the hospital in question has given evidence which renders it highly unlikely that such an incident ever took place. Apart from anything else, the surgeon points out that caning would not have caused a wound of this kind, which would have required surgical treatment under a general anaesthetic and not stitches in a casualty department. Yet although the evidence suggests that the woman’s memory was a delusion, her testimony was widely believed at the time. In the wake of the broadcast, atrocity stories about Goldenbridge and other industrial schools began to proliferate. [3]”

3. Sunday Times (Ireland), 28 April 1996, citing the views of the surgeon, J. B. Prendiville.

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