Friday, November 27, 2009
As an Englishman I write this with trepidation.
When I was first ordained all Irish people in England seemed to practice.
Nowadays, I presume that most aren’t. At one time for the most part the priest was welcomed into Irish homes, nowadays there is a tension.
On several occasions over the last few years before a death or following a funeral of a respected member of the community, a son or daughter has turned up, unknown to anyone else, who had been up for adoption years ago. They had been “forgotten”, their appearance unwelcome by their parent, their presence glossed over by friends and other relatives. There are things which are secret and things which are not spoken about, there is always insistence on a eulogy that reflects what appeared to be rather than what actually was.
It was against these experiences I read the reports of the sexual predation and abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese, the revelations are actually truly shameful. The big scandal was secrecy and cover-up, keeping up appearances, hypocrisy, it was these things that damned the Church and damned the State too in slightly more muted terms. It strikes me that this report and the Ryan report too only scrape the surface, the Irish media knocks the Church off its privileged pedestal, it reacts against Catholic Ireland; government ministers posture, suggesting Ireland has moved on, inferring they are as distant from it as they are from absentee landlords, the famine, the emigrations, the civil war. What will never be addressed is the level of cover-up in other areas of Irish society, nor the levels of sexual abuse or violence against the vulnerable outside of the Church and institutions related to it.
There is something Joycian in all of this. It is convenient in post-Catholic Ireland to use the Church as a scapegoat, loading the sins of the nation onto it and driving it into the wilderness, perhaps that is where it belongs, if it is indeed the unworthy bearer of Christ’s message rather than being a metaphor for Irish society, in which case it merely becomes another form of cover-up .
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