VATICAN CITY – The archbishop of Dublin, a leading voice for reform following Ireland's devastating Catholic church sex abuse scandal, said Thursday that the Irish church is trying to rebuild even as he demands the full truth be told about the past.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin told a Vatican briefing that he hoped an upcoming church meeting in Dublin would show the world that the Irish church is "alive and vital and anxious to set out on a path of renewal."
But the June 10-17 congress is being held against the backdrop of new revelations over how the country's primate, Cardinal Sean Brady, handled the case of a serial abuser in the 1970s — revelations that have sparked new calls for his resignation.
In 1975, Brady helped take testimony from a 14-year-old boy about the abuse he had suffered at the hands of the Rev. Brendan Smyth, a serial pedophile who went on to abuse scores of children in the U.S. and Ireland before being imprisoned two decades later.
In a recent BBC documentary, the victim said he had told Brady and two other priests the names and addresses of five other boys and girls who were being sexually assaulted by Smyth. The BBC interviewed all five and reported that their parents never received any message of warning from the church. Police were never called, either.
Brady has apologized to the victims but has said his bishop bore the blame for failing to follow up on the information. He has refused calls for him to resign as Ireland's highest ranking prelate.
Martin has called for an investigation into the Smyth case, arguing that the full truth must come out for the church to learn from its mistakes.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Martin recalled that he turned over 60,000 church documents to a state investigation into the coverup of abuse in his own archdiocese.
"I believe that bringing the truth out actually helped," he said. "And I believe that should continue, not to bring it out in sort of a morbid way, but to ensure the people have the opportunity to see exactly what happened.
"It's only when you see what happened that you learn the lessons," he said.
At the same time, he said, the Irish church must find a way to rebuild itself even if it becomes a much smaller, "even minority" church in the once-highly observant Roman Catholic country.
Pope Benedict XVI had been invited to attend the congress. But with public outcry against the church still so high in Ireland, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Vatican's bishops' office, will take his place.
At a Vatican press conference, Martin said he didn't fear protests at the church meeting, noting that each Sunday protesters demonstrate outside his cathedral and that on occasion have occupied the church and chained themselves to the lectern.
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