21 July 2011

'Today, that Church needs to be a penitent Church'

In the Dáil (Irish parliament) yesterday Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny made a blistering attack on the Vatican during a debate on the recently issued Cloyne Report that criticised former Bishop John Magee and his Vicar General Monsignor Denis O'Callaghan for the way they handled allegations about the abuse of children by priests of the diocese.

In his speech the Taoiseach spoke of some of the effects of clericalism: Clericalism has rendered some of Ireland’s brightest, most privileged and powerful men, either unwilling or unable to address the horrors cited in the Ryan and Murphy Reports. This Roman Clericalism must be devastating for good priests.... some of them old... others struggling to keep their humanity....even their sanity........as they work so hard.....to be the keepers of the Church’s light and goodness within their parishes...... communities... the human heart.

Mr Kenny identified himself as a practising Catholic - and he grew up in County Mayo in the west of Ireland, a place where the Catholic faith was particularly strong and that produced such figures as Fr John Blowick, co-founder of the Columbans: As a practising Catholic, I don’t say any of this easily. Growing up, many of us in here learned we were part of a pilgrim Church. Today, that Church needs to be a penitent Church. A church, truly and deeply penitent for the horrors it perpetrated, hid and denied. In the name of God. But for the good of the institution.

The Prime Minister spoke of the supremacy of the law of the State: Where the law - their law - as citizens of this country, will always supercede canon laws that have neither legitimacy nor place in the affairs of this country.

Both the Cloyne Report and the Dublin Report criticise bishops for not having implemented canon law. If they had held canonical trials for priests accused of abusing minors quite probably much subsequent suffering would have been averted. And there is no intrinsic conflict between the law of the state and canon law. The state can put a priest in prison but cannot laicise him. The Church can do the latter, as it has done in many instances.

Mr Kenny acknowledged what the Church has been doing: I must note the Commission is very positive about the work of the National Board for Safeguarding Children, established by the Church to oversee the operation by Dioceses and religious orders. The Commission notes that all Church authorities were required to sign a contract with the National Board agreeing to implement the relevant standards and that those refusing to sign would be named in the Board’s Annual Report. Progress has been in no small measure to the commitment of Ian Elliott and others. [Note: Ian Elliott, appointed by the Irish bishops, is a Presbyterian.]

He also acknowledged the failure of the State in some instances: Just last week we saw a case of the torture of children, within the family, come before the courts. Just two days ago, we were repulsed by the case of a Donegal registered sex offender…and school caretaker

Full text of speech. A video of the Taoiseach's speech, with the text, is available here. [I'm not sure how long RTÉ will leave the link there.]

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, interviewed on RTÉ's Six One News on TV after Mr Kenny's speech asked What sort of a cabal is in there and still refusing to recognise the norms of the church? He was referring to officials in Ireland and in the Vatican. A video of the interview by Bryan Dobson is here. [I don't know how long it will be available.]

Both Mr Kenny and Archbishop Martin are saying things that need to be said. What has been happening in the Church in Ireland has done enormous damage not only to victims of priests but to the faith and trust of good people.

[For non-Irish readers of this blog: the 'Six One News' is so called because it starts at 6:01pm, after the Angelus bell is played. Some want that to go.]

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