The Archbishop of Dublin has said the Pope should speak frankly about church abuse scandals. Diarmuid Martin said the institution had come through moments of real darkness and needed to avoid covering up or justifying what happened.
The first papal visit to Ireland for almost 40 years takes place next weekend.
Archbishop Martin said: “My hope is that he will speak kindly but also speak frankly. “The recent history of the Church in Ireland had its moments of real darkness.
“We need a Church of light, a light that exposes darkness for what it is, and a light that is such that the mechanisms of cover-up and self justification cannot extinguish or tone down. My hope is that Pope Francis will challenge the Church in Ireland to be different, to be more authentically the Church of Jesus Christ in a culture that is different.”
The Church has faced a sex abuse crisis which is global of nature but which has caused great harm to a once all-powerful institution in Ireland.
Archbishop Martin added: “The pope has to speak frankly about our past but also about our future.”
He said the scandals had produced deep-seated resentment amongst believers. It is not just anger over the horror of abuse, but an anger at the role of Church leadership in compounding the suffering of so many in institutions for children, for unmarried mothers and for vulnerable women.
“These were people who found themselves placed in the care (of) the Church to be loved and respected but who so often encountered extraordinary harshness.
“What is worse, they were in the main poor and vulnerable people, those who should above all have been the privileged recipients of what the love and care of Jesus Christ mean.
“I keep asking myself what it was in Irish Catholicism that led to such a level of harshness?” He said the number of victims was “immense” and not all their identities were known.
“It is not something that belongs to the past but a hurt that survivors and those close to them carry in their hearts every day of their lives.”
He said the anger was not just about abuse but also directed at a Church that was authoritarian, harsh, autocratic and self-protecting.
“Rather than bringing the liberating message of the love of God, it imposed a world of rules to such an extent that it lacked respect for the personal life of many and especially of women.
“We experienced a Church that felt that it knew all the answers. We experienced a Church that failed to form mature consciences and help men and women grow in discerning a mature faith.
“Faith requires rules and norms but there are also occasions where empty rules alienate from Jesus himself.”