Dear Archbishop Martin,
Thank you for your letter of 11th January 2010.
In 1983 the Catholic Church in Dublin decided that I was not suitable for entry into the priesthood. Two years earlier the same Catholic Church had allowed Ivan Payne to continue as a priest despite knowing that he had sexually abused me for 21/2 years when I was aged 12-14 years. The idea that anyone sexually abusing children was more suitable for the priesthood than I was totally devastated me at that time and a belief in God and his Church, which had survived Ivan Payne’s actions, came to an abrupt and painful end.
In November 2009 the Murphy Report was published. I was deeply saddened at the sexual abuse of children and I was furiously angry at how the Catholic Church had caused the further sexual abuse of children by covering up abuse in different ways. My anger soon turned to rage when I saw Catholic bishops, including yourself, fail to articulately take responsibility for what your Church had done. You spoke so well about the awfulness of what some priests had done and the suffering of those abused; but there was no real mention of the sexual abuse caused by Bishops who had covered up for priests.
I was also appalled, as I believe you may have been, by the behaviour of your fellow bishops as they did everything to try and hold onto office, four of them failing, but not before they had added insult to injury by a collective failure to immediately offer their resignations in acknowledgment of what they had done, or failed to do, and out of respect for the experiences of children sexually abused by Catholic priests in Dublin.
A Church whose leading members behave in this way is not a Church I want in my life, not even in name only. A Church whose Bishops shielded paedophile priests is not a Church I want in my life. A Church whose priests congregate to express support for those Bishops continuing in office in direct opposition to what many victims asked for is not a Church I want in my life. A Church which finds Bishop Drennan acceptable in its Episcopal ranks, despite having been part of a Church in Dublin between 1997 and 2004 which covered up the sexual abuse of children is not a Church I want in my life. A Church which baptises babies but is arrogant enough to tell young people, or their parents, that defection is not possible until they are aged 18 is not a Church I want in my life. A Church which does not value gay and lesbian people as it does heterosexual people is not a Church I want in my life. A Church which parades itself as a State when it wants to avoid accounting to the citizens of a country whose children it has abused is not a Church I want in my life.
No priest will ever preach to me standards his own Church doesn’t even try to live up to. No priest will ever comfort me when I am sick. No priest will hear my ‘sins’. No priest will instruct me in penance. No priest will bless my relationship with my beautiful partner, Alan. No priest will pray over my coffin when I am dead. And no priest will bury me in ‘consecrated ground’.
Archbishop Martin, I believe you are a good man. I believe there are good priests, I know some of them. But that is not the same as saying I believe that the Catholic Church will ever change its ways or learn from what it has done.