Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Blog Section Banner
You are here: Home >> Blog >> Blogs by Marie Fortune (retired) >> “I listen . . .”

“I listen . . .”

The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, was recently interviewed on 60 Minutes, discussing his efforts since becoming Archbishop to address the sexual abuse of children by priests.

The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, was recently interviewed on 60 Minutes, discussing his efforts since becoming Archbishop to address the sexual abuse of children by priests

One of his first acts as Archbishop was to release the Diocesan files on priests accused of abuse to the Murphy Commission established by the state to investigate the church’s handling of complaints.  Martin’s predecessor had refused to release those files.  But Martin has been outspoken in his support of survivors and unequivocal in calling abusive priests to accountability.  The Vatican is not pleased.

Archbishop Martin seems to be rebuilding trust with Catholics in Ireland where the church has been devastated by the revelations of abuse by priests.  The interviewer sought to paint him as a hero, but Martin demurred:  “I didn’t set out to challenge anybody. . . . I was doing my job.”  Indeed.  He was doing his job as a Bishop:  guiding the Church to be the church, responding to the suffering inflicted by the Church, protecting the most vulnerable, telling the truth.

If the Roman Catholic Church had had more Bishops like Martin, they would not be the sad, tattered shell of a church that they are today.  They would not have dioceses in bankruptcy or parishes being closed for lack of funds because of necessary payments of restitution to survivors.  They might not be seeing the exodus of faithful members. They would not have forfeited their moral capital trying to maintain the façade by cover-up and stonewalling.

Bishops like Martin would have responded to reports from abused children and adult survivors by removing abusive priests and ministering to those who were harmed and their families and parishes.  The children were betrayed first by their priest and then by their church.  It did not have to be that way.

Archbishop Martin was asked what he says to a child who comes forward and discloses abuse by a priest.  He said that it is usually years later when the adult survivor comes forward: “I try to imagine what they looked like as a child.”  The interviewer pressed him:  “but what do you say to them?”  Martin replied: “I don’t say much. I listen.”  Finally a Bishop who seems to get it.  Praise God.

This is what has been missing from the church’s response for too long – a willingness to be present and listen.  This is the beginning of healing for a survivor.  So if faith groups are wondering what to do in response to complaints of sexual abuse, this would be the prescription:  don’t say much, and listen.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute

Document Actions

validation for victims.

Posted by Judy Jones at Apr 02, 2012 03:07 PM
No question - we need more church officials like Martin!

Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511 <>
"Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests" and all clergy.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world's oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims.
SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 12,000 members. Despite the word "priest" in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers and increasingly, victims who were assaulted in a wide range of institutional settings like summer camps, athletic programs, Boy Scouts, etc. Our website is

Commentary on Catholic Church

Posted by Maria Limon at Apr 02, 2012 03:07 PM

I trust your thinking tremendously and appreciate your perspective. I would ask that you remember that when you speak of the Catholic church, you are also speaking of me. It stung when you referred to the church as "the sad, tattered shell of a church that they are today."

There are many differences between the Catholic church and other religious institutions worldwide, true. However, I would remind you that Catholics are not the only institution guilty of hiding clergy sexual misconduct.

I ask that you remember who it is you are speaking of; you cannot paint all of us, the Catholic church, with such a broad brush. There are Catholics who have long stood on the side of justice who are standing on the side of justice in spite of how our leadership has chosen to act.

Thank you, Marie

Posted by James E Roghair at Apr 02, 2012 03:07 PM
Thanks for sharing some good news in a sea of bad news. Indeed to be listened to is the beginning of healing. Keep it up. JER