Old-style, secretive Church must be given the last rites

By John Cooney

Monday December 14 2009

The slogan of ‘A peasant Church for a peasant people’ was created by the moulder of the highly centralised and secretive clericalist Catholic Church in Ireland, which is crumbling in the wake of the paedophile priest scandals.

It was the Archbishop of Dublin, Paul Cullen, Ireland’s first cardinal and pre-eminent churchman from the mid-19th Century until his death in 1878, who built the authoritarian church structures which his successor, Dr Diarmuid Martin, wants to shake up.

Cullen spearheaded ‘a devotional revolution’, based on novenas, pilgrimages, processions and the cult of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady, for a pious and docile faithful. Since the 1960s this form of piety has largely been abandoned but the mindset of an obedient laity still remains strong in the pews.

What historians call ‘the Cullenisation of Ireland’ produced a disciplined clericalist Irish Church that marched in total loyalty to Rome and ‘cute hoor’ acceptance of the authority of bishops by clergy and laity.

By mid-20th Century, Cullen’s legacy reached its high point of awesome power under Archbishop John Charles McQuaid. From 1940 to his retirement in 1972, McQuaid, as ‘the ruler of Catholic Ireland’, imposed his iron will on Irish politics and society, while instilling fear in clergy and people.

Although Irish politics and society have joined the European secular mainstream in the four decades since McQuaid’s death, this centralised culture of ecclesiastical secrecy of unaccountability to civic and criminal law was identified in the report by Judge Yvonne Murphy as the root cause of church cover-ups of paedophile priests.

The Murphy report dramatically showed that, from 1940 to late 1995, four successive archbishops of Dublin, McQuaid, Dermot Ryan, Kevin McNamara and Cardinal Desmond Connell, did not inform gardai of the rapes of innocent children by clerics. They placed the good standing of the Church above causing public scandal by exposing ‘the sins of the Fathers’.

In the public revulsion and shame accompanying the state investigations into Ferns, the religious orders, and now the Archdiocese of Dublin, Irish society has been stunned by the collapse of the credibility and moral authority of bishops.

But the fallout has come up against a roadblock caused by the refusal of five bishops — Donal Murray, Eamonn Walsh, Jim Moriarty, Martin Drennan and Raymond Field — to resign. Their abdication of moral responsibility has widened the crisis for the Irish Church into a huge test of the papacy of Benedict XVI.

Astonishingly, at last Friday’s summit in Rome with Cardinal Sean Brady and Archbishop Martin, Pope Benedict and his senior officials in the Vatican did not address the question of episcopal resignations.

The one possible saving grace in the communique issued in Pope Benedict’s name read: “The Holy See takes very seriously the central issues raised by the report, including questions concerning the governance of local church leaders with ultimate responsibility for the pastoral care of children.”

However, this passing-the-buck was followed by a deeply disappointing holding statement that caused further fury among victims of clerical abuse.

The statement said: “The Holy Father intends to address a pastoral letter to the faithful of Ireland in which he will clearly indicate the initiatives that are to be taken in response to the situation.”

Over the weekend, it looked as if the question of resignations was parked, while we wait to hear from ‘Godot’ Benedict Ratzinger.

However, a new phase of debate has been prised open by Fr Vincent Twomey, a conservative moral theologian and former doctoral student of the German pontiff.

“The longer they dig their heels in and refuse to resign, the greater damage they are doing to the Church,” Fr Twomey said. “They are causing great scandal.”

Fr Twomey, the author of ‘The End of Irish Catholicism?’, wants a scaling-down of Ireland’s 26 dioceses — many of them rural and with the population of a Dublin parish — and an immediate end to appointing mediocre bishops.

Another voice is that of Mayo’s Fr Kevin Hegarty, who has echoed Fr Twomey’s call for resignations of the five bishops but has extended this to church officials at the level of chancellor named in the report.

And more significantly, too, Fr Hegarty has raised the Church’s rule of obligatory male priestly celibacy and suggested the need for a review of the Church’s negative teachings on sexuality.

It is painfully obvious that the crisis in the Irish Church is not going to go away and that talk of medium-term plans of church reorganisation will not appease public opinion and the quest for justice for victims of clerical abuse.

With Bishop Donal Murray still in Rome defending his “inexcusable” handling of the Fr Thomas Naughton case, his immediate fate lies in the hands of the Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops, Cardinal Battista Re.

At this moment it is Cardinal Re who has the power to recommend Bishop Murray’s resignation to Pope Benedict.

This he must do.

If his Holiness does not give the Bishop of Limerick his P45, the four others will try to cling on to office, and he might as well save himself the postal cost of sending his pastoral letter to Ireland in the new year.

Pace Cardinal Cullen, Ireland is no longer a peasant Church — and it is fast discarding its Catholic membership.

– John Cooney

Irish Independent

  1. Charles O'Rourke

    It is now for the strong and good people of Listowel to show Europe that the mentality displayed in that court house does not belong to them. Hitting the media on mainland Europe you just want to say” no not again” Silence is approval. Muster the men and women of that town and show where you stand, either beside the victim or beside the rapist. There is no middle ground.


    After spending several years in Kerry I had come to realize then and now that it was a country within a country and deserves to be called the kingdom. It’s rural landscape have given it more than a feeling that all politics are ‘local’. A place of squinting windows, and tight knit parishes that never quite gets the larger picture of a changing Ireland, and ruled by cunning farmers with dodgy comb- overs and leprechaun hats. Somewhere far into the future, it will. For now, the recent trial of a ‘gombeen’ bouncer from Meen, in Listowel found guilty of raping a woman had predictable results.

    The parish priest waded in suggesting doubts with the evidence, late middle aged and elderly pensioners wished the rapist well, and this Sunday all will celebrate Mass together. No doubt some of those prayers will be for the rapist, some for clerical child abusers, and the rest for their own immortal souls. A very different future has been left for the victim .

    She has been convicted in the court of local opinion of being a liar, a fallen woman, and faces being shunned by the same parish. Her sentence will be for a lifetime with no chance for parole.

    Barry Clifford
    18 dec 2009

  3. Tuesday December 15 2009

    PLEASE allow me to send a Christmas message to our public representatives.

    On behalf of the Horsman Hogan household I’d like to thank them for all of the beautiful Christmas cards we’ve received.

    Indeed not only were we impressed and beholden to them for sending the cards, but we were suitably impressed by the high quality of those issued. We were also slightly overwhelmed by the number of local councillors and TD’s who knew us, never having met or spoken to the majority of the senders.

    But unfortunately, I have to confess to a slight fiscal embarrassment.

    As a clinical nurse manager employed by the HSE, while I personally welcome the taxes and levies imposed on my salary in the national interest, unfortunately it means I can no longer afford to buy cards to respond to their largesse. As a self-employed accountant, ditto for my long-suffering and hard-working spouse.

    We did turn to our adult sons to ascertain if they could provide the necessary funds but, as a student garda and a student scientist, they also reported a sad lack of finances.

    So as polite taxpayers who would love to reply to our well-intentioned representatives, we have no alternative but to turn to your newspaper’s well-read ‘Letters’ page to respond to their kindness this Christmas.

    Florence Horsman Hogan

    Irish Independent

  4. 18, Dec, 2009.

    With regards to Florence Horseman Hogan, letter, Irish Independent, Tue 16 Dec 2009
    While Florence Horseman Hogan is concerned this season with having enough money to pay for Christmas cards even though she and her husband are employed, and been offered no help from her working children, I began to ponder her dire circumstances. I hoped instead she might ask forgiveness from victims of institutional abuse that for over a decade she has insulted at every opportunity, apologise to Cardinal Connell for believing his lies, and explain where her stand is today with regards to the terms, ‘false memory syndrome’ and ‘mental reservation’. Is there any L.O.V.E. left for victims or indeed Mr. O Connell on ‘mature reflection’.
    Total cost: one phone call, one letter, and one moment of clarity along with honesty.

    Yours very sincerely.
    Barry Clifford

  5. Kathleen O'Malley. Childhood Interrupted"

    Thought provoking.
    What if the Virgin Mary had been born in Ireland and was walking the Country side looking for a bed with a Man in tow (Joseph). Finally ending up in a Stable, claiming she was the Virgin Mary. The local Priest would have had her taken to “Grangegorman” her infant (Jesus) kidnapped by the N.S.P.C.C. and committed to an Industrial School up to the age of sixteen. The Catholic Church would not have had the vast Revenue it has earned over these past years.

  6. ‘A peasant Church for a peasant people’

    Oh yes, the Church had the secret knowledge and used it to enslave us sheep- in the hope that we would remain docile forever.

    “cult of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady”

    So it is a CULT when it pertains to females.!

    “centralised culture of ecclesiastical secrecy of unaccountability to civic and criminal law was identified in the report by Judge Yvonne Murphy as the root cause of church cover-ups of paedophile priests.”

    That secrecy of unaccountability is still alive and well in Government agencies like the HSE and our court system. Judges still quote the Catholic doctrine to women in courts about their place in Ireland. Who are the advisor’s to the courts and judges?


    The secret family courts, the secret witch trials to remove property from women- it is all happening Paddy, as you well know.

    As for “His Holiness” or hollyiness as it is supposed to be…..who made this guy holy?

    It is the foolish brainwashed peasants of the planet who have to have someone to worship, instead of realizing that most are far more pious that the Patriarch in Rome who demands obedience to his God.

    But who is “His God.” and how do uneducated people know that they are worshipping the same God as him.?

    When one looks at the whole picture world wide of millions of people paying money to the Vatican in the hope of it being dispersed among the poor and needy- instead it is spent on lives of luxury by men only.

    You know Paddy, all the wealth in the Vatican would feed and clothe and shelter the whole planet of human beings forever.

    That is not the work of the Church Corporation of course- its only mission is to conquer and control in any way it feels like. The rapes of innocent children mean nothing to the men of the corporation.

    These men of “G-d” will hang on like drowning men though as they are so predictable.

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