MILWAUKEE * In the early years of the priest sex abuse crisis, Catholics often expressed their frustration with how bishops handled the scandal by saying, "They don't get it." Arcbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Ireland, may be a member of the hierarchy who begins to reverse that perception.
In a keynote address April 4 at Marquette University Law School here, Martin described the struggles he encountered in bringing to light the "disastrous situation" of abuse in the Dublin archdiocese, from assembling documentation to facing the resistance of priests and other bishops who opposed disclosing the history of abuse. "I tell these events," he said, "not to reopen history, but to illustrate just how difficult it is to bring an institution around to the conviction that the truth must be told."
Martin spoke at the start of a two-day conference titled "Harm, Hope, and Healing: International Dialogue on the Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal." The conference is the latest in an annual series presented by the law school focusing on restorative justice, an approach that goes beyond the traditional judicial system's emphasis on punishment and involves both perpetrators and victims of crimes.
The Dublin archbishop has been a rare voice in the Catholic hierarchy in his blunt description of the damage the abuse scandal has caused and in his call for the church to divulge the details of abuse, to reach out to victims and to examine clericalism and other elements of church culture that may have contributed to the scandal's longevity.
"Archbishop Martin said what many Catholics want to hear, and they haven't heard it from their Catholic leadership," Janine Geske, a professor at the law school who heads its Restorative Justice …