Cork South West TD Holly Cairns has moved to explain her position after a conservative website reposted 8-year-old Tweets where she criticised the Pope and linked the position to paedophilia.
During the Papal conclave eight years ago, Ms Cairns had sent out a series of Tweets, which were dug up this week by the conservative, anti-abortion website, Gript.ie.
In a lengthy post on Twitter tonight, Ms Cairns said: "Some of you have probably heard about a website publishing Tweets I posted 8 years ago in which I was critical of the Pope. Since then, I’ve had a lot of messages of support and a lot of very abusive, nasty ones too.
"The tone of my 8-year-old tweets was immature and I am so sorry that they have upset people.
"I have no desire to offend anyone personally and I really hope everyone knows I don’t lack respect for individual members of the Roman Catholic Church."
She added: "There is no point in me claiming to now disown my views. My choice of words was wrong but I continue to feel concern about the long-standing cycle of abuse and discrimination within the Church.
"When we keep silent to avoid offence, we offend the many thousands who have suffered and are still waiting for justice.
"Ongoing cover-ups, people deprived of their adoption files, Tuam - there are genuine grounds for speaking out against a culture of trying to hide these things.
"We live alongside these people every day and their suffering must be acknowledged. My priority will always be not to offend victims of abuse and discrimination by saying nothing.
"I'm sorry for my choice of words, it wasn’t personal in 2012, it’s not personal today."