Irish Cardinal Desmond Connell, the retired Archbishop of Dublin, has died aged 90.

Cardinal Connell’s accomplishments during his 16 years as head of the Archdiocese of Dublin were overshadowed by the Church’s slowness in coming to terms with the clerical sexual abuse scandals.

During a Holy Thursday Mass, about two weeks before his retirement was announced in 2004, Cardinal Connell asked for forgiveness from those he offended, especially those abused by priests.

“I ask pardon of all whom I have offended, especially of those who suffered unspeakable abuse by priests of the diocese and experienced a lack of the care that ought to have been provided,” said the cardinal, who was 78 at the time. “I can only hope that the steps now taken will ensure that the future will see no repetition of what happened in the past.”

Five years later a report by the Commission of Investigation, led by Judge Yvonne Murphy, looked at the handling of abuse claims in the archdiocese from 1975 to 2004. Cardinal Connell became archbishop in 1988.

“The Dublin archdiocese’s preoccupations in dealing with cases of child sexual abuse, at least until the mid-1990s, were the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church and the preservation of its assets,” said the report. “All other considerations, including the welfare of children and justice for victims, were subordinated to these priorities.”

​How to continue reading…

This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week

The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection