Monday, November 30, 2009

Connell must come clean without any 'reservation'

Connell must come clean without any 'reservation'

Monday November 30 2009

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and Cardinal Desmond Connell have been in direct personal contact since last Thursday when the explosive Commission Report into the Archdiocese of Dublin's cover-ups of clerical child sex abuse ignited the biggest challenge ever to the moral authority and credibility of both the Vatican and the Irish hierarchy.

Naturally enough, a talking point between the retired Prince of the Roman Church and his successor as head of Ireland's Dublin archdiocese, was the fate of former Dublin auxiliary, Bishop Donal Murray.

In a Church system which has practised the cult of secrecy to near perfection and has upgraded this anti-democratic practise to the status of an eleventh commandment on top of the original 10 scripturally decreed by God, it was only by chance I found out that the two leading churchmen have been talking in recent days.

I discovered this while pressing Archbishop Martin yesterday on his personal opinion as to whether the embattled Bishop Murray, now head of the diocese of Limerick, should resign from office. This took place in the sacristy of St Patrick's College, Drumcondra, as the archbishop was vesting to celebrate Mass for the disbandment of the archdiocese's Colleges Volunteer Corps established by the 'beloved' Archbishop John Charles McQuaid in 1961 as his youth guard at church ceremonies and on diocesan pilgrimages to Lourdes.

As Dr Martin was swinging his decorous chasuble over his shoulders, I remarked that Cardinal Connell had said publicly some years ago that Bishop Murray was the most brilliant student he had taught in his 35 years teaching metaphysics and philosophy at University College Dublin.

"That is exactly what the cardinal told me the other day," Archbishop Martin said, moving off to lead the all-male entry procession of celebrants into the college chapel.

The cardinal's concern for his former pupil will have been deflected by critical comments said yesterday by his own successor as Archbishop of Dublin.

The cardinal must have reacted less than admiringly to Archbishop Martin's candid radio criticisms to the resort to "mental reservation" used by His Eminence in evidence to the commission. The theological term "mental reservation" permits a churchman knowingly to convey a misleading impression to another person without being guilty of lying.

In 1997, Cardinal Connell said in a statement issued by his press office that he had co-operated with gardai in the case of victim Marie Collins' complaint of abuse. When she knew this was untrue, she had the statement checked out, and an archdiocese spokesman said: "We never said we co-operated fully."

Asked by RTE journalist Richard Crowley if this was "mental reservation", Archbishop Martin said it was not. It was being scarce with the truth. Refusing to call this a lie, Archbishop Martin pointed out that it was said by someone else on behalf of the cardinal.

Crowley quoted the cardinal's evidence to the commission of telling victim Andrew Madden that "diocesan funds ARE not used for such a purpose, and that he had not said that diocesan funds WERE not used for such a purpose." He asked Archbishop Martin if this was a deliberate intent to hide the truth by the cardinal.

Archbishop Martin replied that if there was a deliberate attempt not to tell the truth, it was not right. But Archbishop Martin quickly qualified this by adding that he could not judge this. It would be unfair to say so, as he did not know the man's state of mind.

Has the archbishop not availed of his access to "this man" to ask the cardinal what was in his mind?

The question surely also arises as to whether Archbishop Martin was resorting to "mental reservation" in his reply. Scarcity with the truth is a serious charge. If even Archbishop Martin is unsure of the cardinal's state of mind -- and of the cardinal's jumps from "mental reservation" to being economical with the truth -- it is imperative the cardinal clarifies this.

No wonder commentators Mary Raftery, victim Colm O'Gorman, lay radical Sean O'Connail and American canon lawyer Fr Tom Doyle all expressed dismay at Archbishop Martin's interview. Fr Doyle went as far as to call Dr Martin's interview "mumbo jumbo".

Clearly, Archbishop Martin is limited in what he can say publicly about comments of others, but his semi-criticism, semi-defence of Cardinal Connell -- and his refusal to speak his own mind as to the resignation of Bishop Murray is putting at risk the public's appreciation of his colossal work of disclosure to the commission.

Last year, when the two Church leaders clashed publicly over the cardinal's High Court action to have some 5,000 documents handed over by the archbishop to the Murphy Commission declared confidential and privileged to him alone, it was the cardinal, not the archbishop, who blinked first.

Now that the commission report is published with its highly critical but mixed verdict on the cardinal's handling of abuse cases, such equivocal answers from Archbishop Martin is placing him in danger of being bracketed with evasions by other bishops.

Cardinal Connell owes it to Archbishop Martin to make a press statement, or better still a press conference to save his successor from "mental reservation."


Irish Independent

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