The Archbishop of Dublin has again hit out at the Irish government over “failures” in the healthcare system, for the second time in two weeks.

– Church “must be in touch with the new anguishes and challenges of people”

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin was speaking Sunday February 23 at the Mass and dedication of the new Wicklow Parish Centre.

“The challenge for the Church in every new generation is to ensure that the Church does not become just a much-loved relic of the past, a type of museum to another time, loved and respected by all, but marginal to their lives”, Martin said in his homily.

“The life of the Church must never become entrapped in the past. It must reach out to new generations, to a new culture. It must be in touch with the new anguishes and challenges of people. It must reach out to those who are marginalized and abused”, the archbishop added.

– “Concerned” about mental health “and the failure to address adequately the needs of families with autistic children”

As part of that mission of the Church to be “in the forefront of asking questions and identifying who are the forgotten marginalized in our time”, Martin pointed to those Irish people slipping through the cracks of the healthcare system.

“I am concerned, for example, about problems of mental health and the failure to address adequately the needs of families with autistic children”, Martin denounced.

A February 19 report by the Irish Mental Health Commission (MHC) denounced “an almost total absence” of community mental health services across Ireland, with the result that patients are spending more time in acute mental health units than they need to.

The lack of facilities such as crisis houses and specialist rehabilitative units was first identified in a policy document in 2006, but nothing has been done to remedy the shortage in the intervening 14 years, the MHC deplored.

With regards to Irish young people with autism, a National University of Ireland Galway study has also denounced the fact that 74% of those children and young adults have not received the treatments they need in the past twelve months.

– Second criticism in two weeks

The Wicklow homily was the second time in two weeks that the Archbishop of Dublin has criticised the state of the Irish health system.

At a service for the World Day of the Sick February 9, Martin called on the new government to address the “strange incongruence” in Ireland where despite the “astonishing progress in medical science, so many aspects of our healthcare system are scandalous”.

“Our extraordinary doctors, nurses and carers feel so often let down” by the fact that, in the current system, “sick children and elderly are left waiting and exasperated”, the archbishop denounced.

“… [D]espite the progress of medical science”, many patients “suffer from a deep loneliness and an abandonment, a sense of being rejected and forgotten, that society simply passes them by and leaves them on their own”, he added.

Martin urged the Irish people to make sure the “many promises” their new elected representatives made on the campaign trail don’t remain “just empty words”.

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.