Taoiseach's speech yesterday is worth reading. It is a carefully scripted piece of rhetoric, rich in bombast but short on facts, a rather unpleasant piece of popularism, designed more to capture headlines than to deal with a problem which is as much the responsibility of the Irish State as of the Irish Church. It is perhaps a distraction from Ireland's economic situation. It is interesting he did not address the Cloyne Report's criticism of the civil authorities, when things calm down it might be interesting to ask: why?
I do not think it is possible to defend the actions of the Irish Bishops, they were responsible for cover-up of crimes, whether that was caused by malice or sheer incompetence is a matter of personal judgement. They have lost the confidence of their people and earnt the contempt of the majority of Irishmen. No wonder Fr Vincent Twoomey of Maynooth recently suggested that all those old guard Bishops appointed before Archbishop Martin, which would include Cardinal Brady, should resign and the number of Irish diocese be significantly reduced. That might at least deal with the tensions in the Irish hierarchy that have obstructed it from taking decisive action.
Mr Kenny attacked "the Vatican", which seemed to be a thinly veiled attack on the Pope but one is forced to ask to what extent "the Vatican" is taken seriously by Irish Bishops. The now retired popular Bishop Willie Walsh infamously claimed he threw documents from Rome, unread, into his wastepaper bin. Was Willie the only one, and were these documents to do with abuse? Another question which should be asked.
He and his fellows have taught their people to ignore Rome's oversight and teaching.
The former Bishop of Cloyne, John Magee, seems to have had a history of simply not being able to do his job, he suffered frequently from bouts of "ill health", at least one of his priests suggested that he was in a permanent state of depression, often incapable of fulfilling his diary engagements. Of a group of weak and ineffectual bishops, he was the weakest and most ineffectual and fragile. Rome doesn't do itself any favours with Bishops like him but just imagine the kerfuffle in Ireland if he had been removed.
The Association of Catholic Priests, with its own "Rome free" liberal Irish form of "We are Church" or "Voices for Reform", seems illustrative of where many "thinking" Irish men are coming from, not least Mr Kenny. One of the marks of the Irish Church in recent years is that has done its own thing, and solved its own problems. It is perhaps part of the Irish character, a result of being on the edge of Europe, as well as years of English oppression, to be independent and to mistrust outside authority. It has both served the Church well but also done it great damage. But then of course there is the Parnell factor too.
One Irish priest wrote to me recently saying at the moment being a priest in Ireland was like "living through the Terror". There seems to be a real attempt to "dissestablish" the Irish Church, certainly to take away its wealth, thus removing it from social care, from education, from healthcare, to rejoice in its lack of moral authority, to the point where it is incapable of defending the family, of defending Life. It is almost as if Ireland stands on the brink of a late Reformation.
Pray, pray hard for the good Irish priests struggling to do their best in a world that has become very hostile to them, they are being tested like gold in a furnace.
St Patrick and all Saints of Ireland pray for them.
read Deacon Nick's comment on Kenny's misrepresentation of the Pope