In an extraordinary interview with Maureen Dowd of The New York Times Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has revealed he himself was once attacked by a pedophile and he broke down while describing what many priests of his own diocese had done.
Dowd stated he has also been ostracized by fellow bishops because of his stance on abuse victims and that he fears pedophiles are still at large in the church.
Speaking about the attempt to abuse him he said “One day when I was waiting on my mother,” he recalled, “I must have been about 12, this dirty old man came up and said the most horrendous things to me in the public street, and he had me sort of pinned against the wall and I could do very little about it. I was getting very upset, and I saw a policeman coming, and I called the policeman and the man ran away.”
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Dowd notes that Marin could not get through a story about “a really nasty man” — an Irish priest who sexually abused, physically tortured and emotionally threatened vulnerable boys” — without breaking down.
“He built a swimming pool in his own garden, to which only boys of a certain age, of a certain appearance were allowed into it,“There were eight other priests in that parish, and not one of them seemed to think there was something strange about it.”
Dowd calls Martin “That rarest of things in the church’s tragedy: a moral voice.”
Dowd says that as a result he has been “ostracized by fellow bishops in Ireland and snubbed by the Holy See who failed to appoint him a cardinal.”
Garry O’Sullivan, the managing editor of The Irish Catholic in Dublin, told Dowd that Martin “has had a prophetic role in the church.”
“And all the prophets were stoned or murdered or ignored,” he said. “The big question is, why would the Vatican be indifferent to a guy who’s so brilliant at identifying with the victims? They should put him in charge of a protection office in the Vatican, a global watchdog against sexual abuse.”
Martin says he is still worried that abuse can happen.
“The danger now is to think, well, that’s in the past and we can sit back and relax and say it can’t happen again,” he said. “It can happen again.”
The pedophiles, he said, “have an ability to take the young children into their grips and make it impossible for them to talk. They look for the vulnerable and make them worse. You see that a lot of these men were driven not by faith but by hormones.
“One of the things that annoys me is when I see a priest get convicted, the newspapers try to get the most devilish photographs of them. The trouble is that child sexual abusers don’t look like devils. They look like charmers. If pedophiles had horns on their noses, no one would go near them.”
In a church where officials still put more energy into protecting their arcane prerogatives than protecting children, Martin has become a hero merely by stating the obvious says Dowd.
“In the case of serial pedophiles, what should have happened from the very beginning, people should have said, look, stop, these people are real dangers,” he said. “They have to be brought out, they have to be prosecuted and so on.”
Dowd states that “after hearing the story of a man who was raped as an 8-year-old, Archbishop Martin went to see a class of 8-year-olds, just to get a sense of it.
“I mean, the idea of raping an 8-year-old boy is so alien to me. It’s hard to believe it’s actually possible,” he said.
He rejects however the notion that he is a hero. “Nobody could have read what I have read and not did what I did,” he said.