"We failed in significant ways to deal with it appropriately," he said in the letter, distributed this weekend. "For these failures we ask for forgiveness."
Meanwhile, the president of the U.S. bishops' conference said he hopes the clerical sex-abuse scandals do not weaken the role of religious ideals in influencing public policy, the Associated Press reported.
AP said that Bishop Wilton Gregory, at a Mass in Washington, D.C., for government officials today, cited the role of "religious voices" in shaping policies "whether they be war and peace, the death penalty, stem cell research or questions of poverty.''
"The truth that underlies faith is not diminished because its messengers are human beings with all their faults and failings,'' he was quoted as saying.
In Dublin, Cardinal Connell says that incalculable harm has been done to those who were abused. Further scandal has undoubtedly been caused by the fact that, having approached the Church in expectation of the best possible care and the most sympathetic response, people suffered further hurt.
In Ireland, scores of priests and brothers have been convicted of abusing children. The Church in January pledged to contribute to a government-run compensation fund for victims, the AP noted.
Since 1996 an advisory panel has been established in the Dublin Archdiocese to assess each reported case of child sexual abuse by priests and to make recommendations for action. The cardinal has accepted their recommendations in every instance.
He also pledged full cooperation with the Hussey Commission. The commission was formed to study the extent of child sexual abuse allegations made against priests and religious in Ireland and how these allegations were managed by the Church.