Bishop Kevin remembers Cardinal Connell
As a former priest of Dublin Diocese, I was sad to hear of the death this morning of Cardinal Desmond Connell. I have known Cardinal Connell since my time as a student in UCD, where he was my Professor. We worked together on the staff of UCD and then, I think to his surprise as much as mine, he became my Archbishop in 1988. Throughout all of that time he was consistently courteous, kind and affirming. He had a capacity to trust people and, while that trust was not always repaid, it did in very many cases allow people the freedom to develop their gifts and to use them in the service of the Church.
Cardinal Connell had a deep respect for the dignity of the human person and for the family. This respect was rooted both in his strong personal faith and in his many years of philosophical research and reflection. While he could certainly be very academic in his language at times, the Cardinal was also very comfortable in the presence of young people. I have a particular recollection of his very relaxed engagement with them at the World Youth Day in Rome, as he put aside his prepared text to share faith with them at a very personal level. He sat with them over sandwiches afterwards and chatted with them about their Leaving Certificate results and their hopes for the future.
Cardinal Connell was personally horrified when faced with the reality of child sexual abuse. Like many people in the 1980’s and 1990’s, he found it difficult to understand how apparently decent people could be so devious and so destructive of the innocence of children. While he expressed his own deep regret for any shortcoming in his early response to child abuse in the Church, I think history will show that he was also among the very first to take decisive action, at a time when neither the Church or the State had the kind of safeguarding policies and procedures which we now take for granted.
I am privileged to have known him. May he rest in peace.