“We failed in significant ways to deal with it appropriately,” he said in a letter distributed at all Masses in Dublin last weekend, “For these failures we ask for forgiveness.”
The prelate says incalculable harm has been done to those who were abused and he urges victims who have not done so to contact the police.
As a result of a 50-year trawl through the Dublin archdiocese archives the cardinal ordered in 1995, the names of 17 diocesan priests were given to gardai.
Since that time, in accordance with 1996 guidelines, “the names of priests known to have abused or suspected of abuse have been given to gardai, except where the gardai were known to be already in possession of that information,” Connell said.
In his abject apology, the cardinal said further “scandal” has undoubtedly been caused by the fact that, having approached the church in expectation of the best possible care and the most sympathetic response, people suffered further hurt.
He apologized to those who suffered abuse “with a keen sense of our failures to deal more adequately with the problem; I deeply regret the mistakes I have made in seeking to come to grips with the problem.”
The letter says Connell wants to acknowledge as clearly as he can that clerical sex abuse is an “unspeakable evil.”
His statement comes in advance of an RTE documentary that will be screened later this month and is expected to contain further damaging revelations.
The cardinal pledged to fully cooperate with a commission headed by retired Judge Gillian Hussey that the hierarchy established to examine what was known by bishops and religious superiors about complaints of child sexual abuse by clerics — and the church authorities’ response to it.
The cardinal said he has accepted the recommendation of an advisory panel, established in 1996 under the chairmanship of former Aer Lingus boss David Kennedy, to set up of a Child Protection Service.