14 July 2011

The Cloyne Report: another moment of shame for the Catholic Church in Ireland

Interior of St Colman's Cathedral, Cobh, County Cork, Diocese of Cloyne

The main story in the Irish media today is the publication yesterday by the Irish Government on the Cloyne Report. The Commission that carried out the Dublin Report published in November 2009 was asked by the government to make a similar report on 'all complaints, allegations, concerns and suspicions of child sexual abuse made to the diocesan and other Catholic Church authorities and public and State authorities in the period 1 January 1996 - 1 February 2009'.

The homepage of the website of the Diocese of Cloyne carries links to the full text of the Report and has statements by the former bishop, Bishop John Magee, the Apostolic Administrator, Archbishop Dermot Clifford of Cashel and other diocesan officials.

I haven't read the Report yet but the newspapers report that it is scathing about Bishop Magee and also highly critical of the Vatican. The Irish Times says Papal nuncio 'distressed' by report. The Nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, met Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore at the latter's request today.

The Irish Times also reports on the reaction of Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny: The Vatican’s approach to clerical abuse inquiries in Ireland has been branded a disgrace by the Taoiseach today.

In the wake of the report into the Catholic Church’s response to allegations of abuse in the diocese of Cloyne, Enda Kenny warned new laws would not be stopped by canon rules.
The Taoiseach said the Government’s concerns must now be dealt with. “I think this is absolutely disgraceful that the Vatican took the view that it did in respect of something that’s as sensitive and as personal with such long-lasting difficulties for persons involved,” he said.

"The law of the land should not be stopped by a collar or a crozier," Mr Kenny said. Full report here.

I would say that by this stage apologies from Church leaders ring hollow with many people, including myself, even if they are sincere. Enormous damage has been done to the many individuals abused. Enormous damage has been done to the Church's ability to preach the Gospel. One of the most striking things in the Gospels is the people's response to Jesus: 'Here is a man who speaks with authority'. He had no position of authority. The people were comparing the inner authority that Jesus had to the lack of it that the 'authorities' had. For many Irish people, including those who have remained faithful, the bishops no longer have any authority.

Maybe part of the way forward is for all of the bishops to offer their resignations. The Church in Ireland needs radical surgery. Those who have been abused need our prayers.

If we take seriously that the priest by virtue of his ordination is an alter Christus, 'another Christ', the implication of that is victims can see themselves as having been abused by Christ himself.

1 comment:

Shane said...

Father I agree entirely with you. If the whole hierarchy resigned it would be an excellent statement of collective remorse. There's no point in bishops remaining where they are; no-one will take them seriously.

The Church in Ireland certainly does need radical reform, as does the Church as a whole. The enormously successful Council of Trent was convened to deal with abuses in the Church that led to the Reformation. The crisis in the Church now is probably greater than it was in the 16th century.

Sadly Paul VI and John Paul II made many disastrous episcopal appointments and Bishop Magee was obviously unsuitable from the beginning. I don't like the ACP, but Fr Tony Flannery had a good reflection published on their website:


Then John Magee was appointed bishop. Why was he appointed? He was clearly unsuitable, and was an imposition from Rome. Was it that they wanted to get rid of him over there, or that it was a reward for covering up the circumstances of John Paul I’s death. I don’t know, but it was a good example of the terrible policy of Episcopal appointments pursued by John Paul II, which I see as being one of the main reasons for the mess the Church finds itself in today. He was never fully accepted, and his manner and attitudes were foreign to many of the priests and people. He gathered some kudos by promoting perpetual adoration for a time. But I remember an old priest, now long dead, saying to me about 1990 that the diocese would reap a terrible whirlwind from the policies of John Magee.