Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin has said there is no way in which the Catholic Church can put definitively behind it the scandals of the sexual abuse of vulnerable children.
Speaking at the MacGill Summer School, Dr Martin said that despite many investigations, he believes there should be adequate reflection on the deeper roots of the abuse crisis and the response to it by the church.
Dr Martin also said he believes that there are some instances where the public interest would be served by public investigation.
He suggested that new forms of research-based investigation might better address such issues as the Magdalene Laundries or the quality of care in some mother-and-baby homes and other institutions.
Dr Martin said this might be less adversarial and somewhat on the level of investigative social history through which the truth could emerge.
He said if abuse did take place it was owed to the victims and to the church itself to bring it to light.
Seeking the truth would also help put aside any false or exaggerated or unsubstantiated allegations against the church, he said.
Dr Diarmuid Martin also said many of the men applying to enter seminaries in Ireland are fragile and some are much more traditional than those who went before them.
Archbishop Martin was asked about cases such as that of Fr Brian Darcy and said that he believed the management of these recent cases has not been good.
He said he did not know the full story about the debate that took place between Vatican authorities and the superiors of the various priests, but he knew they were about much deeper issues than were mentioned in the newspapers.
Dr Martin also said that rather than being silenced, people were asked to take time to reflect.