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April 02, 2010

Anglican Leader Apologizes for Irish Catholic Remark

The head of the church of England has apologized for saying the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has lost "all credibility" because of its handling of child sex abuse cases.

The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, said Rowan Williams telephoned him Saturday to express deep regret for any difficulties caused by his comment.  Martin quoted Williams as saying he never meant to criticize the Church in Ireland.

Earlier, Martin said he was "stunned" when Williams made the controversial remark in an interview with the BBC.

In a statement, the Irish archbishop recognized that the church had "failed" victims of abuse.  But he said Williams' comments will only dishearten those working to restore its credibility.

Rowan Williams is the Archbishop of Canterbury, making him the spiritual leader of more than 70 million Anglicans worldwide.  His comments risk creating tensions with the Vatican ahead of Pope Benedict's visit to Britain in September.

The Catholic Church has been defending itself against new allegations of sexual abuse by priests in Europe and the United States.  The Vatican has denied it attempted to cover up the abuse, and has accused the media of attempting to slander Pope Benedict.

But on Friday, a Catholic priest created more controversy by likening criticism of the Catholic Church to the violence suffered by Jews.  During a Good Friday service in Rome presided over by the pope, Father Raniero Cantalamessa said attacks on the church resemble the most shameful aspects of anti-Semitism.

The Vatican quickly distanced itself from the remarks, which angered sexual abuse victims and Jewish groups.

The controversy is intensifying as Christians prepare for the Easter holiday on Sunday.