11 October 2010


A characteristically perceptive and intelligent piece on Ireland by Pastor in Valle Adurni, about the plot to subvert the natural communities which still survive in many parts of Ireland. The secularising elite behind this need, above all, to destroy the Irish Church.

I find it difficult not to admire the Irish Church, despite all. Reasons are partly personal; the kindness I have always received from the Irish clergy; the willingness of Irish bishops to permit me formally and in writing to receive the Sacraments in their dioceses; gestures of friendship from, for example, the late bishop of Limerick, Jeremiah Newman (who wrote a book on the Recovery of the Sacred which I regard as one of the harbingers of the Benedictine Renaissance); and from Cardinal Desmond Connell, who sent me a hand-written letter of great warmth after reading something that I had written.

The disaster that has overtaken the Irish Church is, at least partly, the result of senior clergy refusing to be coldly legalistic when dealing with errant clergy. Failing to realise - as we all did - the true nature of paedophilia, they commonly tried a pastoral approach rather than subject a priest to the rigours of canonical process, deposition, disgrace, and despair. We now know that their assumption - give a man a bollocking, add some psychiatric treatment, move him on to a parish where an experienced priest would keep a draconian eye on him, and trust to Grace - was inadequate to deal with the perversion concerned. But were there any establishment cuties going around explaining all this in the 1970s?

How were the bishops of that generation to guess that, a generation later, a 'liberal' ascendancy would have suddenly discovered the overriding duty for those in authority of being coldly legalistic and inexorably unforgiving? The entire culture of the 1960s/1970s was personalist, anti-legalistic, and inclined to mercy.


Paddy said...

That there is an anti-church agenda being pursued by the self-appointed forces of secularism in Ireland is beyond dispute. The shocking disparity of coverage between the Irish media and the British of the Holy Father's visit is further proof, should anyone need it (see the 23 Sep edition of the Irish Catholic at http://www.irishcatholic.ie/site/content/archive for details).

It is heartbreaking to watch each new 'revelation' being given such a one-sided airing. There's no willingness to take into consideration the fact that things were done differently when these sad events took place. And Heaven help any cleric who attempts even the mildest defense: he will be savagely vilified throughout the media.

The pain this causes the Catholic clergy I meet daily is written on their faces. Sadly, many have taken to slipping off their clerical collars when out in public. I am not the only one to notice this - many of my fellow Anglican clergy colleagues have remarked on this also. Presumably the intention is to be as 'invisible' as possible. But I believe their is no need for them to do so. Oddly enough, this means that the only clergymen wearing their collars in the streets are those from the Church of Ireland, like myself, or other denominations. And this being Ireland, people presume we are RC priests. If the genuine warmth and affection I encounter is anything to go by - the smiles, the nods, the 'How are you, Father?' from the strangers I pass in the street and elsewhere - the hopes of the secularists for a Church-free Ireland are doomed to failure. The fidelity of the ordinary people of Ireland to the Church is deep rooted enough to weather the current storm.

Steve said...

The problem was not the pastoral approach or the leniency - as you very rightly say, nobody at the time had any reason to know better. The problem was the cover-ups to maintain the power and prestige of the RC Church in Ireland. Until this is properly acknowledged (in Rome as well as in Ireland) the saga will, tragically, run on and on.

Sue Sims said...

Steve: I know this is the standard trope ('maintain power and prestige'), and it may be true in many cases. However, having seen this scenario not in the Church but at a school where I was teaching, it's not as simple as that.

Many years ago, one of my colleagues was accused by a sixth-former of raping her at a party. He'd been at the party - a somewhat drunken affair, apparently - and the accusation therefore had some plausibility. He was immediately suspended pending a police investigation, and the rest of us were summoned into the staff room where the Head instructed us all, on pain of dismissal, neither to discuss the situation with our colleagues nor to mention it outside the school.

The accused was actually shown to be completely innocent, by the way (though it took nine months for the investigative process to be completed).

I'm not saying that this is a complete parallel to the sexual abuse scandals in the Church - only that what Steve calls 'cover-ups' can (as it was in this case) stem from a laudable desire to (a) protect the good name of the accused if he is, in fact, innocent, and (b) to protect the good name of the institution. Of course, when all is revealed, the scandal is, alas, far greater - but that was hard to see at the time.

You'll notice that I'm not revealing the name of the school, either, or the teacher, or when it happened. The code of silence still applies.

Paddy said...

Following what Steve & Sue Sims said ... it should be noted that for every member of the Church hierarchy who knew about each individual case of abuse there were dozens in the wider community who also knew; police, doctors, teachers, social workers, community leaders, neighbours, family members. When the Church 'covered up' the abuse by moving the offending priest, it was done with the knowldege and tacit approval of all the other parties who knew.

The responsibiility for this tragedy, if responsibility is the right word, belongs to society as a whole. The Church, as a part of that society, bears its share of the burden, but does not deserved to be society's scapegoat. The Church's main failing was to be innocent of what these peadophiles truly were and to be decieved by their promises to reform. Neither the faithful nor the fairminded should allow those with other agendas to highjack the pain and suffering of the abuse victims for their own purposes.

GOR said...

Well put, Father! As with many other matters in modern times there is a tendency today to make the Church the whipping boy for all the sins of the past. People are so ‘enlightened’ today that they cannot see how bad decisions might have been made in good faith or how “what we knew then” factored into how we acted then.

It is easy to judge when one has not lived in the atmosphere of the time and the actions (or lack thereof) being judged. As they say - hindsight is always 20/20.

Abuse did not start 40-50 years ago, nor was it ever primarily a clergy matter. It has been everywhere – not least within families and education – but it is convenient to gloss over that as people look for scapegoats to cover over their unwillingness to address the problem closer to home. It is always easier and more self-affirming to see the mote in the other’s eye while ignoring the beam in our own.

Sadie Vacantist said...

I agree with your assessment Father and like others here take issue with Steve's interpretation.

Boston's tedious correspondence on their abusers which I found on line and presumably published from the archives is characterised by an air of insouciance. There was no hint of a cover-up. If there had been more concern about the Church's "image" (not less), this might have acted as a driver for a suitably robust response to the problem.

Anonymous said...

Sadie is quite correct. Bishop O'Mahony, a retired auxiliary bishop, also criticized "the acceptance by media and current diocesan policy that a 'cover-up' took place" in his Letter to Members of the Council of Priests. He pointed to a police investigation, in 2003, which found no sign of interference with evidence and no attempt to obstruct the course of justice.