The Irish Times – Tuesday, December 15, 2009
PATSY McGARRY, Religious Affairs Correspondent

TWO DUBLIN Catholic priests, themselves directly affected by the cover-up of clerical child sex abuse by the church leadership, have separately called for a radical “reconceptualisation of what it means to be a church”, following publication of the Murphy report.

Resignations of themselves would not be enough, they said, as more than a change of personnel was needed.

Fr James Norman has acted as support priest to Marie Collins, who was abused as a child by Fr Edmondus when a patient at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, Dublin.

Fr Alan Hilliard unknowingly shared a parish house with a priest abuser, though the archdiocese was well aware of the other priest’s history.

Yesterday he recalled: “I was ordained in June, was appointed [to the parish] in August, he [abuser priest] moved in in November.”

Fr Hilliard was told nothing. Since he found out about the other priest’s history he has wondered “what has kept me going”.

Fr Norman stood by Marie Collins’s account of a meeting at Archbishop’s House on December 30th, 1996, with Cardinal Desmond Connell, then archbishop. He was Mrs Collins’s support priest when they met the cardinal in connection with Fr Edmondus.

The cardinal said then that church guidelines on clerical child sex abuse, introduced in January 1996, were “only guidelines”. They did not have to be followed and were not binding in canon law, he had said.

Fr Norman also concurred with Mrs Collins’s claim that the cardinal accused her of trying to ruin Fr Edmondus’s good name over something that had happened 30 or 40 years before.

The priest confirmed too that all at the meeting were aware that Fr Edmondus had admitted the abuse of Mrs Collins earlier in 1996. In a 1997 press statement the archdiocese said it had co-operated with gardaí in addressing Mrs Collins’s complaint. She was upset by this. Fr Norman inquired on her behalf and later told gardaí that the archdiocese responded: “we never said we co-operated ‘fully’,” – emphasising the word “fully” – with gardaí.

This was an example of “mental reservation” given in the Murphy report. A stratagem whereby people are knowingly misled without being deliberately lied to, it was explained to the Murphy commission by Cardinal Connell himself.

Fr Norman was appointed support person to Mrs Collins by the archdiocese in accordance with the 1996 guidelines, after she first made complaints in 1995 about abuse by Fr Edmondus. Fr Norman had been curate in her parish. She had gone to him seeking spiritual advice when a healthcare specialist identified that as what she required.

Yesterday Fr Norman said the hierarchical nature of the church structure “does not allow for openness and accountability. The institution does not allow for voices from the bottom up”.

Younger priests in Dublin “are very hurt. The institution has acted in a way that has caused the integrity of all of us to be questioned. Most are doing a good job, but have been let down”, he said.

The Irish Catholic Church was “so bruised by bad leadership” it was going to be “very hard for it to have credibility for a very long time”, he said. Where sitting bishops from the period investigated by the Murphy commission were concerned, he felt “all are tainted. They should go”.

Fr Hilliard believed that what was now necessary in the church was “a paradigm shift in our way of doing things”. He had been to a parliament of world religions in Australia last week where theologian Hans Kung called for a third Vatican Council. He supported that call.

The Murphy report showed “that dishonesty has permeated the core of the church”, he said. Its “representatives were conservative with the truth. They used archaic moral formulations to justify stances that served to promote suffering and distress among the people of God.

“My experience has been that the church in Dublin has dealt in half-truths, deceptions and denials,” he said.


3 Responses to “Priests accuse church of bad, dishonest leadership”

  1. Hanora Brennan says:

    This is for Barry Clifford! Exactly as you said Barry. It’s about numbers at the end of the day and gonads! Who has them though?

  2. Andrew says:

    Are there 58 priests in Ireland willing to stand up to their superiors ?

    Fifty priests invincible – Letters – The forced resignation of Cardinal Law:

    Four days after the 58 courageous Boston priests delivered their letter requesting Cardinal Law’s resignation and one day after he resigned, while reading Hans Kung’s book, The Christian Challenge, I came across a most prophetic paragraph. Taken from the chapter titled, “The Practice of the Church,” which describes many of the human follies of the institution, it reads: “We must advance together. One member of the parish who goes to the parish priest does not count, five can be troublesome, 50 can change the situation. One parish priest does not count in the diocese, five are given attention, 50 are invincible.”;col1

  3. Michael Hull says:

    I’d say it’s time to shut that organized crime ring down for good. Seize all their property, buildings, everything, and kick the lying swine out of the country forever (including that idiot papal nuncio).
    No religion is worth the pain and disgrace they’ve caused. People can pray directly to God anywhere, without the middleman ie, lawyer priests. Jews have been doing it for several millennium, and they seem pretty happy. God doesn’t live in those monuments built by the catholic church, he/she is everywhere .

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