Thursday, July 21, 2011

Taoiseach's Speech - a first reaction

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


Michael Petek said...

One should remind the Taoiseach that these offences were committed by Irish men and women on Irish territory and under the noses of the police and the Irish state, who have the primary responsibility for detecting and suppressing crime.

The most obvious conclusion to be drawn from this affair is that Ireland is finished as a Christian nation. By 2016 she will have enacted a secularist Constitution and have joined the rest of Europe in its terminal welter of abortion, the sexualisation of infants and family breakdown - child abuse par excellence.

Blue Eyed Ennis said...

It is not just the Irish government that is disgusted at the role of the Vatican in this situation.
The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, made the comments against his own institution in response to Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s Dáil speech on how the Vatican has failed to address the scandal.

Speaking on RTÉ yesterday evening, Dr Martin said Mr Kenny’s comments should be a "wake-up call" to immoral priests and dishonest clergymen standing in the way of improved child protection standards.

The archbishop said at the top of this list are those who have stood in the way of true reform of the system.

He said this includes the failure of some priests and bishops to implement Vatican policy issued in 2001 by Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

"I’m very disappointed, annoyed," he said. "What do you do when you’ve got groups, whether in the Vatican or in Ireland, who try to undermine what is being done or simply refuse to understand what has been done?

During the interview, Dr Martin accepted that the Vatican was unhelpful in sending a letter in 1997 questioning the authority of Irish bishops to agree on child protection.
An outspoken critic of the Church’s handling of abuse, he said the only way all allegations, abuse and cover-ups can be exposed is through "invasive" audits of each diocese which are not based solely on selective information provided by bishops.

Read more:

Blue Eyed Ennis said...

In response to Michael.You can't detect crime unless the evidence is presented. Given that many of those abused were bullied into silence or cowed because of fear of reporting, such was the hold of the abuser over them and the clerical culture prevailing it is naive to expect the police to have intervened. The situation In Ireland is repeated elsewhere across the world and I find it ridiculous that the Irish who were long upheld as a model of faith for others are now being blamed for their own ability to speak out and show righteous anger. Separation of state and religion is a good thing. The present trend in some parts of Europe would sugggest that Islam may well become the dominant religion in years to come.

Who would want the equivalent of Sharia law ?

GOR said...

I'm not impressed by Ab. Martin's words. Too often he seems to be tooting his own horn and - like Mr. Kenny - pandering to the sentiments of the general populace and the media. He should have taken Kenny to task for attacking the Holy Father and misusing his words, but apparently in his effort to maintain his 'populist' image, he didn't have the guts to do so. Shame on him!

There's plenty of blame to go around in Ireland and while Kenny is playing to the choir, he conveniently downplays the responsibility of the State and society in general - putting the blame on the previous administration. How long has Kenny been in politics...? Where has he been all these years when this was going on...? Child abuse didn't just begin in recent decades - nor only with some members of the clergy.

If Kenny is really serious about child protection he could start with the Social Welfare departments. As Kevin Myers pointed out recently, social workers only operate during 'normal business hours'. Too bad if you have a problem after 5 pm - you won't find anyone to help you. Look to your own house Mr. Kenny, before you start casting stones at the Church!

Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia said...

"The now retired popular Bishop Willie Walsh infamously claimed he threw documents from Rome, unread, into his wastepaper bin."

I heard an expression many years ago that the Irish take their religion from Rome and their politics from home. If they had remained faithful to taking their religion from Rome then they might not be in the unholy mess they are now in. Pride comes before a fall - and how spectacularly have the Irish bishops fallen. Something spectacular is now needed to bring about some kind of redemption and the suggestion from Fr Vincent Twoomey seems a very good place to start. If the bishops really do care about the salvation of souls then they have to do what is right for their flocks - and not what might save their own skins. A collective resignation might even elicit a small degree of respect from many people for finally taking a decisive and courageous decision.

Anonymous said...

Poor Ireland is a victim of the wave of sludge that rolled back on her when her thousands of emigrants arrived in this country only to land in the arms of the opportunist and morally bankrupt Democrat Party.

This vitriol has long been boiling under the surface. The abuse scandal is only a convenient excuse for its unleashing. The Irish and the left were wedded long ago. The Rising and subsequent Civil War had little initial support, but was birthed in backroom bars where socialists schemed. Its leaders were exemplified by the odious Marxist James Connolly who apostatized from his faith, only returning under the converting influence of the executioner's rifle-barrel.

Here in America, the Irish like lemmings followed the poisonous Kennedys and their pied piper Richard Cushing over the cliff in their crusade to hallow in law the sin that cries to heaven for vengeance and the slaughter of innocents.

Hostility to the Church his forebears once suffered and bled for is bred to the bone in today's Irishman. The Mass rock and the depredations of Cromwell are forgotten, with the collective amnesia abetted by Roncalli's aggiornamento, which threw open the window out of which blew the faith of centuries.

Patrick pray for us indeed.

~ Belloc

georgem said...

I don't know the workings of the Vatican but I keep thinking surely the whole of the relevant Irish episcopate should have been swept away. Why it hasn't been is what I don't understand. The issue remains a running sore.

Gigi said...

I need to read the Coyle Report again, at that requires a stiff glass of elderberry. Obviously it is a chilling and infinitely sad read.
My initial reaction to the Taoiseach's speech is that Church and State do indeed need to be kept distinctly separate. And the murkiness of the deferred responsibility and cover-up is probably not going to be addressed by this Head of State or any other. It's a skilfully crafted speech with a tautly calculated emotive streak running through it. He's a politician: what more did we honestly expect him to say?
If the Vatican truly failed to act on allegations as recently as a couple of years ago, then I am upset and angry; as every Catholic and indeed Christian has a right to be. But the Vatican is not just one man, but a hierachy with all that implies.
I don't believe the Catholic church in Ireland is "finished". I do believe that priests in Ireland particularly need our prayers and open support.
I don't often condone damage limitation, and the damage of abuse and deceit has an insiduous malignancy to it. Whether we are the Taoiseach, a bishop, a priest, social worker or anonymised blogger; the unspeakable has happened and none of us should ever feel we "should" stay silent again.

GOR said...

I disagree with Kevin Myers on many things, but his article in today's Irish Independent had much that I can agree with. Amongt other things he said:

"The measured words of the Vatican press officer Fr Federico Lombardi are barely audible beside the Taoiseach's shrill outpourings: "Therefore, the severity of certain criticisms of the Vatican are (sic) curious, as if the Holy See was guilty of not having given merit under canon law to norms which a State did not consider necessary to give value under civil law."

"In other words, the Government of Ireland is denouncing the Vatican for not introducing those very changes to its canon law which it had itself failed to introduce to its civil code. To remind you: in February, 1998, the then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern announced that mandatory reporting of child sex abuse would be introduced within the lifetime of that government. Yet here we are, thirteen and-a-half years later, and this has still not happened.

WHY? Is it because the very concept of mandatory reporting of abuse escapes easy legal definition? For when does "mandatory reporting" simply become passing on tittle-tattle? Moreover, the Catholic Church cannot operate outside its own canon laws: it is bound by them, as the State is bound by the civil laws. So why this expectation that the Catholic Church can select whatever laws it likes, like a child at a pick and mix sweet counter?

As an opponent of the political power of the Catholic Church all my adult life, I will just say this. The nuns of Ireland ran our hospitals with greater efficiency than the HSE, and at far less cost. The Celtic Tiger was made possible by a conservative educational system that was largely the creation of the Catholic Church. Tens of thousands of Irish people became priests, brothers and nuns, in the fond and fervent expectation that they would be serving God and the needs of others, not themselves or their own appetites. As the cataclysm of hate, hysteria and humbug washes the Catholic Church out of our lives, it is worth remembering those basic truths."

He also notes that a member of that coalition government of 1998 was one Enda Kenny...

Fr Seán Coyle said...

For the record, GOR, Enda Kenny wasn't a member of Bertie Ahern's government in 1998 nor does Kevin Myers say anywhere in his column that he was. The Fine Gael party was out of government from 1997 until this year.

Kevin Myers often says things others won't say and he tries to bring some perspective on what is happening. But the leadership of the Irish Church has failed miserably. Why does it take the prime minister to call the Church, of which he is a practising member, to be a penitent one? Archbishop Martin is saying what many good and faithful Catholics are saying. So is Enda Kenny.

In 1972, shortly after the killings on the streets of Derry, the British Embassy in Dublin was set on fire by demonstrators. Nobody was attacked and nobody injured but it was a channel for the anger and outrage that so many Irish - and British - people felt. Maybe Enda Kenny's speech the other day served a similar purpose.

Deacon Nick's analysis of the speech did indeed show that the then Cardinal Ratizinger's words were taken out of context by Mr Kenny. Both the Dublin and Cloyne Reports criticised the bishops for NOT following canon law, which is not intrinsically at odds with civil law.

But the Irish people want more than constant apologies, even if they are genuine. They don't want more legalistic arguments and explanations, even if they are legally correct. Jesus used terms such as 'brood of vipers' and 'whited sepulchres' for some of the religious leaders of his day.

50 years after the Patrician Congress in Dublin when almost everyone went to Mass, when our seminaries were full, fewer than half now attend Sunday Mass, all but one of the country’s seminaries are closed – and a Catholic priest now needs a police clearance to enter a Catholic school.

At least Enda Kenny showed some passion about what has happened in the Irish Church. He has every right as a head of government to criticise the Vatican State when it deserves to be criticized. The Vatican State may serve a good purpose but belief in it is not part of the deposit of faith. Nowhere in his speech did Mr Kenny attack the Catholic Church. Nowhere did he say anything contrary to its teaching.

On two visits to Ireland within the last year I had no negative experiences while in clerical dress, apart from being accosted by beggars. But I met good and faithful Catholics who feel as if they have been punched in the stomach and very badly let down.

Liam Fitzsimons said...

I am not sure how aware the Taoiseach is of the etiquette of international diplomacy, but I find his tirade in the dail against another state with which we have diplomatic ties to be most embarrassing. As an Irish man living in Northern Ireland I am considering returning my Irish passport and taking up British one.
He also claims to be a practicing Catholic. Is this possible after what he has stated in public?????

Peter said...

I am reinforced in my thoughts that proper training for bishops is needed and subsequent supervision. They should be told what is needed of them and helped if they get it wrong.
It would be better to remove them before they cause too much trouble.

GOR said...

You're right Father Coyle, it was David Quinn's article not Kevin Myers' that spoke of Enda Kenny being a minister in the coalition government in 1996 (not 1998). So I got the dates and articles mixed up.

But my point still stands that Enda Kenny was in government in the 90s - and a minister to boot. So now he wants to shift all blame to the Vatican, downplaying the failure of successive Irish governments to address the abuse issues. Yes, Kenny has a right to criticize. It is his intemperate language that I take exception to - as did Myers and Quinn. "...language normally associated with a Richard Dawkins or Ian Paisley..." was how David Quinn put it and Myers made the Paisley (the 'old' Paisley...) connection as well. Also, per David Quinn: "Kenny added his voice to those who believe the breaking of the seal of confession should be required by law." Is that what a faithful, practicing Catholic would do...?

I agree that the response of the Irish hierarchy was abysmal - mirroring the response of not a few bishops here in the US - and with Fr. Twomey that a house-cleaning is in order. Here the Dallas Charter addressed the issue of deviant priests, but didn't do a thing about the deviant bishops or the ones that covered up the abuse or blamed the victims. We're very familiar with that here in Milwaukee with our former archbishop Rembert Weakland.

But I have an issue with people judging the past in the light of what we know today. It's what we refer to here in the US as "Monday-morning quarterbacking" - referring to American Football. It's easy to be smart after the fact. It's quite another thing to have been there and dealing with the situation on the ground. That's an issue I have with Ab. Martin. He wasn't there and didn't have to deal with the cases other bishops had to deal with. Would he have acted differently? Perhaps he would have - but he didn't have to and his attitude at times strikes me as 'holier than thou' in relation to other members of the hierarchy.

I'm glad that your visits to Ireland have not resulted in negative experiences (once, in clericals, I was loudly declaimed as a 'heathen' on the street - but that was 1960s Belfast...). Yes I know many good Catholics in Ireland were shocked by all of this - as were we here in the US some years back. But I also know that the oft-touted 'imminent demise of the Catholic Faith in Ireland' is exaggerated. My home parish there is still very faithful and active - with Mass attendance in the 40-50% range. A far cry from 50 years ago, admittedly, but not as dismal as frequently painted in the media.

Fr Seán Coyle said...

Thank you, GOR, for your clarification. One of the things that struck my in the Ferns Report was that there wasn't any 'Monday-morning quarterbacking'. Each bishop was evaluated in the context of the professional advice available to him.

Archbishop Martin inherited a huge problem because three of his predecessors, according to the Dublin Report, had not followed canon law, never mind civil law. Cardinal Connell, his immediate predecessor, was the first to initiate a canonical trial against a priest over abuse.

Mr Kenny did acknowledge that the State had fallen down, referring to two current happenings. My own sense is that all of this will move things forward and that the Irish government and the Irish people will begin to look at the much wider reality of the abuse of children. The newspapers too for the last few years have been regularly reporting such cases. Brian Cowen, then Taoiseach, after the Dublin Report came out spoke of the much wider problem.

While Mr Kenny has threatened legislation about the seal of confession he didn't refer to it at all in his speech the other day. If such legislation is introduced we would have to oppose it. I don't think that such legislation would ever get through.

The only time I was ever criticised in the street while wearing clericals was in White Plains, New York, around 1970 when I was wearing an anti-Vietnam War badge. A postman called me a 'Communist priest'.

God bless.

GOR said...

A 'communist priest' eh, Father? From a postman...? Well it could have been worse. In subsequent years there was a series of instances here where postal employees used firearms to express their feelings - giving rise to the expression: "going postal"...!

Coming back to my point about judging the past in light of what we know today. As children growing up in a small Irish town I recall my mother warning us about certain men in our town - that we should stay away from them and never be alone with them. No specifics were given, just that they were bad men who "did things" to little children. Other friends told us about similar warnings they were given about a certain relative - an uncle or a cousin perhaps. In our innocence we didn't understand what this was about, but obviously the adults did know and this was 'common knowledge' either in the family or the community at large.

Did anyone consider reporting this to the Gardai? I doubt that it would have occurred to anyone. These men were known entities to be avoided and only spoken about in whispers. I don't know if there were even any laws on the books at the time that covered this. And even if there were, could they have been successfully prosecuted back then? Who would have taken the word of a child over that of an adult? Given that studies have shown that more abuse occurs within families than elsewhere, this may also have entered into the mindset of the time. No one would want to 'wash the dirty linen' in public. People in glass houses, etc. That was decades ago.

More recently, when the first accusations were leveled against priests, there was widespread disbelief - even on the part of some of the victim's close relatives. If the priest was a popular priest there was outrage and anger among parishioners - frequently towards the victim for revealing this, rather than towards the priest! Some victims and the families who did believe them were ostracized by the parish. Here in Milwaukee, then Archbishop Weakland infamously asserted to some parents that the perpetrators were 'led on' by their victims - shooting the messenger and re-victimizing the abused! And this wasn't so long ago.

I can believe that some bishops honestly thought they were doing the right thing initially - avoiding Scandal and/or Detraction. Given that the occurrences were met on all sides with incredulity at first, I can see a bishop thinking that once confronted, or with counseling, the priest would be so mortified that he would repent and never re-offend. In fact some medical professionals told them just that. So I don't think the actions or reactions of all bishops can be neatly put in one bag. Given what was known at the time some may have sincerely acted in what they thought was the best manner for all concerned. Today we know they were wrong, but back then...?

I said 'some bishops'... My biggest beef is with those bishops who were themselves abusers. The ones who covered for others and had them cover for the bishops themselves. I don't know that there were any cases like this in Ireland - but we certainly had our share of them here in the US. And there were no repercussions for these men. Some continued in office or, if you believe various allegations, are still in office! Others quietly retired or disappeared altogether from public view without apology or obvious remorse.

And that is my biggest criticism of Vatican procedures. Those men should have been removed from office. Yes I know that ultimately only the Holy Father can remove a bishop, but as we saw in the recent case in Australia the process can take years. If a priest can be summarily suspended at the first hint of an allegation, there should be a comparably expeditious procedure for bishops. Perhaps a few canons should be added to the Codex...

Here endeth the rant!

Ma Tucker said...

I wpuld love to know who wrote or helped to write his Catholic Church hate speech. I would love to know what exactly he means by protecting the innocence of children. Of course if he was being honest I'm sure he would have tackled the HSE and their appalling record of child neglect that leads to the death and abuse of so many children in their care right now. I'm sure he would have seen to the banning of the morning after pill that kills children. I'm sure he would not allow the state imposed sexual grooming of children as young as 5 years in our school system here. No, this bilge is a load of rubbish. Historically, the secular state has proven to be the biggest murderer of it's own citizens. Think of France, England, Russia, China.

The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...