Address by Archbishop Martin to the new Diocesan Child Safeguarding Committee

19 Jan 2013

Address by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin to the new Diocesan Child Safeguarding Committee

 Holy Cross Diocesan Centre, Clonliffe

I am particularly happy to be with you this morning and I am genuinely grateful to you for accepting to form this new Dublin Diocesan Child Safeguarding Committee.  I am grateful to you for the commitment that you have already shown over the years in your parishes and in other areas of diocesan life in contributing to building-up and consolidating the child safeguarding structures within the diocese.

These past years have been at times very difficult as we faced the unveiling of something dreadful that took place over decades in the Church of Jesus Christ.  These years have been even more difficult for survivors, many of whom have not yet reached healing.   Indeed there are many who today bear within the own hearts a hurt that they still feel unable to share.

These past years have also been years of regeneration and reconstruction and of a desire to ensure that the Catholic Church would be a safe place for children and vulnerable adults, so that the Church would be more and more a credible witness to the teaching and the caring of Jesus Christ.

This is a process which has been underway for years now. My predecessor Cardinal Connell left me with the framework of a forward-looking child protection office.  Priests, in the face of what was for them a tragic situation in which their very vocation seemed to be blamed for the sins of a few, responded with commitment and dedication and selflessness to addressing the challenges of the time.

What has emerged above all is how lay men and women like yourselves responded with commitment and dedication to an urgent need of what is your Church.  I am grateful to the Lord for the way in which so many lay men and women in our parishes took up the task of addressing and redressing dramatic situations for which they themselves bore no responsibility.  You did this as a sign of your dedication to your Church and indeed also a sign of your respect and love of your priests.

The Church of Jesus Christ in our days has greatly benefitted from your commitment and is now in a better place to face the on-going challenges of reaching out to young people and introducing them to the person and the teaching of Jesus Christ as hope and meaning for their lives and in their futures. I feel that we often underestimate the effect that the scandals had on young people.

Child safeguarding is an important element in ensuring the credibility of the Church.  We have made progress.  The reviews carried out by the National Board for Safeguarding of Children have identified problems but they also record that there has been steady progress in ensuring that the right policies are being put in place across every aspect of church life.  But we can never sit back and say that the problem is now resolved.  We need ever new resolve.

I come this morning not to give you a packet of instructions.  I have come here to say that I have confidence in your ability to propose ways that our day-to-day procedures are constantly in place and are practiced and that we can go forward reaching out to new areas of pastoral concern.

You are not the sort of people who wish just to sit on the sidelines and make comments and judgements.  You wish to be leaders in an innovative programme of renewal, which involves current workings, future projects and the healing of the past.

There is no way we can afford to be complacent.  We have to keep our watch up.  I look to you to provide leadership in that role and I look to you to be brutally honest and uncompromising in your work.  I need to learn from your vision and where necessary I need to hear your criticisms of where I make mistakes.  In the past deference may have seemed the correct tone.  We have seen the results which have left thousands of lives broken in this diocese alone.

Child safeguarding is not yesterday’s issue but one which belongs to our today and to our tomorrow.  It is not just about the negative shadows which have darkened and damaged our Church.  It is really about how we as Catholic Christians respect the lives of the youngest and the most vulnerable.  Child safeguarding is a truly pro-life witness.  It is about a fundamental vision of the Christian life, about a Jesus who reminded all of us that children are a sign of the kingdom of God and that therefore our attitude to children tells us a lot about our understanding of the kingdom of God.


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