DUBLIN, Ireland, FEB. 21, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The Church is indebted to survivors of clergy sexual abuse who refused to be silent even when confronted with unbelief, says the archbishop of Dublin.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin affirmed this Sunday when he led a Liturgy of Lament and Repentance in St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, within the framework of the apostolic visitation of the Archdiocese of Dublin.
During the service, which was prepared mostly by survivors, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, and Archbishop Martin washed the feet of a group of people who suffered in various ways through abuse.
Cardinal O’Malley is one of the apostolic visitors appointed by the Pope.
In his homily, Archbishop Martin reflected on silence.
“Someone once reminded me of the difference between on the one hand apologizing or saying sorry and on the other hand asking forgiveness. I can bump into someone on the street and say ‘sorry.’ It can be meaningful or just an empty formula. When I say sorry I am in charge. When I ask forgiveness however I am no longer in charge, I am in the hands of the others. Only you can forgive me; only God can forgive me,” the prelate reflected.
“I, as archbishop of Dublin and as Diarmuid Martin, stand here in this silence and I ask forgiveness of God and I ask for the first steps of forgiveness from of all the survivors of abuse,” he added.
The archbishop spoke of another silence: that which is “a failure of courage and truth.”
“There are men and women in this cathedral today to whom we must express our immense gratitude for the fact that they did not remain silent,” he said. “Despite the hurt it cost them they had the courage to speak out, to speak out, to speak out and to speak out again and again, courageously and with determination even in the face of unbelief and rejection.”
He said the Church in Dublin and the Church worldwide is indebted to these survivors.
“Some of you in your hurt and your disgust will have rejected the Church that you had once loved, but paradoxically your abandonment may have helped purify the Church through challenging it to face the truth, to move out of denial, to recognize the evil that was done and the hurt that was caused,” Archbishop Martin reflected.
“I appeal to you to continue to speak out,” he added. “There is still a long path to journey in honesty before we can truly merit forgiveness.”
The 65-year-old prelate also considered the silence of Jesus on the cross, punctuated by his final words, including his affirmation of forgiveness for one of the thieves crucified with him.
“[T]hat forgiveness is not cheap forgiveness,” the archbishop affirmed. “One thief mocked Jesus; he did not recognize that act of injustice that was being carried out. The other recognized his own guilt and that recognition opened the door to forgiveness.
“No one who shared any responsibility for what happened in the Church of Jesus Christ in this archdiocese can ask forgiveness of these who were abused without first recognizing the injustice done and their own failure for what took place.”
“We gather under the sign of the cross which judges us but which ultimately liberates us,” he added.
Archbishop Martin characterized the liturgy as “only a first step.”
“The Archdiocese of Dublin will never be the same again,” he said. “It will always bear this wound within it. The Archdiocese of Dublin can never rest until the day in which the last victim has found his or her peace and he or she can rejoice in being fully the person that God in his plan wants them to be.”