24 July 2011

Jesus himself would be reported by many today to the police

Christ Blessing the Children, Nicolaes Maes, 1652-53

'It is hard going out on the altar these days after Cloyne and Enda Kenny clearly has read the national mood re Vatican etc . . .' In an email from a friend who is a parish priest in Dublin and is much younger than I am.

Three bishops have come out in support of Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny's speech in the Dáil (Irish parliament) last Wednesday. Patsy McGarry quotes the bishops in an article in yesterday's Irish Times, Kenny reflected anger, says bishop. Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor, which includes Belfast and is the second largest diocese in Ireland in terms of general and Catholic population, though Catholics are in a minority, said the Taoiseach had 'accurately reflected the dismay and anger felt by many, many Catholics in Ireland'. He was further quoted as saying he was 'shocked and devastated by the content of the Cloyne report and by the failure to implement the basic national guidelines imposed by the church within that diocese. Let me state once again that the protection of and care for our children is our absolute priority. The events described in the Cloyne report simply should not have happened'.

Mr McGarry's article quotes Bishop John McAreavy of Dromore who said that the Taoiseach's address  'accurately reflects the deep anger of the people of Ireland at the contents of the Cloyne report and underlines the huge challenges ahead for the Catholic Church as a whole'.

Auxiliary Bishop Gerard Clifford of Armagh is quoted as saying  that while he was 'taken aback at the force and wide sweeping nature of the Taoiseach’s address in the Dáil' he acknowledged 'the reason for the intensity of feeling expressed given the awful findings of the report'.

Whether it has any significance or not I don't know but the Diocese of Down and Connor and the Diocese of Dromore are the only two of Ireland's 26 that are totally within Northern Ireland, over which Mr Kenny's government has no jurisdiction, while Armagh is one of a number that is partly in Northern Ireland and partly in the Irish Republic.

Kathy Sheridan wrote in yesterday's Irish Times about how the Cloyne Report has affected priests in Ireland, The fearful Fathers. The article begins, Angry, isolated, paranoid and ageing, many of Ireland’s ‘ordinary’ Catholic priests feel failed and abandoned by the church hierarchy. But where were the ‘good priests’ when they were needed? Ms Sheridan quotes Fr Brendan Hoban of Ballina, one of the leaders of the Association of Catholic Priests, which has about 500 members, about ten percent of the country's priests, presenting a pastoral dilemma: 'A woman comes to the door who may have psychiatric problems . . . What do I do? Take a chance by letting her into my front room? There is no doubt that priests have withdrawn, that they’ve become ultracareful and ultrasensitive on how they might be compromised'. Irish parishes, unlike those in the USA and the Philippines, for example, don't usually have an office. Priests meet people in their presbytery.

I'm not sure how fair Kathy Sheridan's question is: But where were the ‘good priests’ when they were needed? I was ordained in December 1967. I know that we must have touched on the question of the abuse of children in moral theology classes in the seminary but it was never part of my experience or awareness until the 1980s when reports about abuse by priests began to emerge from North America. I had never heard a whisper of it growing up in Ireland. I remember reading Irish author Walter Macken's novel published in 1962, The Silent People, set in the time of the Great Famine in Ireland of the 1840s, where a pre-adolescent girl is abused by a neighbour and the horror when this was discovered. As a child I remember clearly the canonisation of St Maria Goretti in 1950. I'm not sure to what extent I really understood what she went through.

One of the great joys in my life is my involvement with a home for girls here in Bacolod City, Philippines, where most of the girls have experienced abuse, mainly from family members or close relatives. This morning I celebrated Mass there followed by a simple celebratory lunch in gratitude to God for a group who recently passed the Social Work Licensure Examination. One was Sr Jenemer Torio TC, Director of Holy Family Home. Three others were young women who have been in the home for some years. One of them, Richelle Verdeprado, came second in the Philippines. Her background is simply one of poverty and she is now employed by an NGO in Manila that is fighting the trafficking of women.  I am conscious that the sense of joy I find there would not be possible in the Ireland of today or in North America or in other English-speaking countries.

The appalling reality is that Jesus himself would be reported by many today to the police: 'Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.' And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them (Mark 10:15-16).


Philly said...

Father, Sorry as I am for the good Priests (I know a few), I think we also need to start being sorry for the innocent rapees, the unfortunate people who have to endure the self-indulgent nonsense of the ACP and the kind of liturgies/catechesis/iconoclasm/oppression of the laity that comes as part of the package.

The good Priests may be working away, may not be preaching heresy, may be celebrating Mass according to the text and rubrics of the Missal, may not be wrecking beloved sanctuaries, may be spending hours in the confessional, may be living simply and working a full day instead of abdicating their responsibilities to pushy lay people. They MAY be dong these things but I doubt it.

The Archdiocese of Dublin had a vocations campaign a few years ago "where are the men in black". I agree. Where are they and are they giving witness?

I think we all knew about the 6th Commandment, even before Vatican II. I think we all knew that if you stand by and permit a sin you participate in it.

We should start examining our own consciences instead of whinging. We should be reforming our lives and growing in zeal. We should become more like Christ than trying to make Christ more like ourselves.

What, do you think, would Christ be reported for??? He condemned those who abused Children. He attacked the money-changers. He denounced the Priests and the Pharisees. His example, not the God-complex, is what the clergy needs.

Fr Seán Coyle said...

Thank you, Philly, for your comment. What I meant by Jesus being reported to the police by some is that there is such paranoia and fear of showing affection to children, because of all that has happened, that if he even touched a child that would be considered abuse by some. It happened to a confrere of mine in the USA who, with other priests, was hearing confessions of children in full view of everyone. He gently touched one girl on the shoulder as she was leaving. He was reported and an investigation followed. No charges were made.

The worst pain of all, of course, is that of a child or adolescent who has been violated by a priest. But others are hurt too - their families first of all. So are priests who are genuinely trying to be what each priest is called to be, an alter Christus, another Christ.

And Irish society needs to look at the other 96 percent of minors who have been violated, most of them within their families or by people they know.

Philly said...

Father, if I started examining my conscience by saying "look at the 99% of other sinners who aren't me" do you think I'd grow in virtue? My sin is what should concern me first of all. Catholic sins are what should concern Catholics first of all. The sins of the clergy are the concern of every Catholic. We gain nothing in human or spiritual terms by looking at what the publican is doing when we should be examining ourselves.

Fr Seán Coyle said...

I don't disagree with anything you are saying, Philly. I have to accept responsibility for my sins.

As a Catholic from Ireland I am deeply concerned that some bishops and priests have crippled the Church's ability to preach the Gospel. As a citizen of a country where the majority of people describe themselves as Catholic I cannot ignore the incidence of child abuse that is much wider than what the focus on abuse by clerics might suggest. This is not in any way to minimise the latter. The SAVI Report indicates how grave the problem is [http://epubs.rcsi.ie/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1014&context=psycholrep&sei-redir=1#search=%22Survey%20child%20abuse%20ireland%22 ]. Most of the 96 percent abused by others than clerics are Catholics and so are most of the abusers.