Brenda Power:

The Catholic Church has hidden behind bureaucracy and rhetoric for far too long, it’s time for legal intervention
The Sunday Times Published: 24 July 2011

If Enda Kenny had squirted shaving foam into a paper plate and flung it all over the papal nuncio’s soutane, he wouldn’t have caused any more astonishment than he did with that speech on Wednesday.

The silence from the Vatican ever since is reminiscent of Bishop Brennan’s stunned disbelief in the episode of Father Ted in which the bishop is invited to bend over and inspect a skirting board and then kicked up the backside. One of these nights, I imagine, the Pope will sit bolt upright in his gilded bedchamber and cry: “He did! He did call me narcissistic, elitist and dysfunctional, the little bollix!”

The taoiseach’s speech has been hailed as a final, irredeemable severing of church and state in Ireland, a reclamation of our sovereignty. It’s also been termed hysterical and ill-judged, a populist outburst of radio phone-in invective that glossed over the state’s failures on child protection.

It was certainly unprecedented. It is rare to hear any politician criticise a mainstream religious institution. But when the political leader is Irish and the institution is the Catholic church, then it becomes what mathematicians term a “10-sigma event”. In other words, if the life of the universe was repeated one billion times over, the chance of an Irish taoiseach denouncing the Vatican would still be theoretically unlikely.

At least that’s what the Vatican must have calculated. Otherwise, it might have shown our civil laws and the welfare of our vulnerable citizens a little more respect before now.

The consensus on Kenny’s speech seems to be that some straight talking from an Irish government to the Vatican was about half a century overdue. Cynics may argue that Kenny’s initiative is not so much a measure of how confident the Irish state has grown, but a reflection of how weakened the Catholic church has become.

The immediate response of the papal nuncio was to express his surprise at the severity of Kenny’s attack given that the taoiseach appeared to be demanding of canon law a standard of child protection that does not exist in civil law. It is more than 13 years since Bertie Ahern promised to make mandatory the reporting of information regarding the abuse of children, and yet Kenny was still promising it last Wednesday.

Bishop gets a kick up the Arse!

Bishop gets kick up the behind.

In this regard, any politician with a Dail career as long as Kenny’s is vulnerable. And it’s not just in relation to clerical child abuse that some straight, honest dealing is overdue. The torture meted out by a Roscommon traveller woman to her eight children in 21st century Ireland suggests there are still categories of perpetrator and victim who are shielded by their singular status from the reach of civil and social mores.

Last weekend, Brian Walsh, a Fine Gael TD, suggested the abuse of those children may have gone unchecked for so long because they were travellers. Walsh is almost certainly right about that, but not for the reasons he suggested. If a blind eye was turned to the woman’s behaviour it was not because of official indifference to her children’s plight, but rather because the fear of appearing to be critical of “traveller culture” might have rendered social workers, teachers or gardai slow to intervene. Persistent child abuse, ranging from the denial of an education to exposure to drugs, alcohol and violence, to the infliction of a dead-end lifestyle upon innocent youngsters, is endemic in the travelling community and yet no politician has the guts to say so. The Pope is a comparatively low-risk target.

Whenever the Vatican does get around to responding we can expect more hair-splitting pedantry of the kind that characterised the papal nuncio’s initial reaction. There will be grave dissertations on the distinctions between guidelines and directives, advice and instructions. The reason why Kenny’s speech struck such a chord is that most ordinary folk have long since wearied of the church’s linguistic and procedural contortions designed to confuse this simple issue.

The truth is that we’ve known for years that the Catholic church covered up instances of child abuse, and that this concerted policy can only have come from the top. This newspaper revealed how Cardinal Seán Brady once participated in a meeting in which a child abuse complainant was sworn to secrecy. If, as the Russian proverb has it, a fish rots from the head down, then we can assume the bishops who moved offending priests to fresh pastures were simply complying with the spirit of that dictum.

The letter of the law, both canon and civil, has for too long offered a refuge to persons of responsibility in search of a handy escape clause. It shouldn’t matter whether the Vatican’s 2001 guidelines for the reporting of abuse had an advisory or an imperative status. Functioning human beings don’t need legal texts to tell them a child-abuser needs to be stopped. Nor do they need directives telling them that if a child is in danger from an adult in a position of trust or care, they have a duty to intervene. For too long, certain categories of people have been able to manipulate deference and special pleading to exempt themselves from moral and social obligations.


11 Responses to “Vatican should not need kicking to admit guilt”

  1. Hi Paddy<
    I do believe the Vatican gets too much attention from the public and unfortunately governments take their role seriously.

    What really needs to be happen is, to shrink and dry them out, by reducing members. This will take time since too many people are in a codependency, believing the pope is God’s representative on earth.

    For this reason, all countries, where abuse has taken place by members of the Catholic Church, and this is nearly the whole world, need to unite and bring the Vatican and its perpetrators to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague in the Netherlands.

    Why wait until the pope decides something for victims. He never will.


  2. I have often wondered what the nuns and priests taught in outside schools about familys. in the instutions it was always to tell us that our perents were the scum of the earth. what effect has this had on irish society. when the children are taught things like that thay are bound to lose respect for others and thier perents.if anybody knows i would love to hear about it as its a question i have been trying to find out by myself.

  3. Martin Maguire says:

    Hi: The RC church were and have remained the most successful invader of Ireland and Irish culture since 644 A.D.

    For years have we been concentrating on the impact of the wrong invader, the Normans?

    “After considerable study and review of the infamous Synod of Whitby (664AD) it has been determined by this Synod that Whitby was focused on a political rather theological agenda.”

    Following the Council of Whitby the early Celtic Church was successfully suppressed with its clergy churches and abbeys ultimately absorbed into the Roman Church.

    For me, that model was simply extended to the whole population. Hence the RC Church claim that they follow Ecclesiastical Law and not the law of the land.

    This position and the reaction to this may now see the R.C. church become a minority in Ireland and possibly underpin the final stage of actually achieving a real “Republic”, where citizens rights and position are actually and possibly even respected, especially in the period between elections.


  4. Portia says:

    Pauline, what draws child rapists and abusers to religions is the patriarchial hierarchy where those at the top have power over the others- so priests are trusted. No better place to be then. Child rapists are cunning, groom their victims first to trust.All religions are MAN MADE.All worshipping an invisible male thus GIVING THEIR HUMAN POWER AWAY.

    Shudder the thought that the sheeple might work that out. The pyramid of power comes tumbling down and people see the scam they were brainwashed with from birth, generation after generation.

  5. Albert & Mary King says:

    Watch YouTube – World’s Strongest Pope

  6. Evin Daly says:

    @jackson. pauline. The attraction for pedophiles to church groups is twofold. They are accepted as repentant sinners or those who want to do good in G-d’s name. They have unfettered access to children wrapped in the cloak of trust association with the church gives them.

  7. ac says:

    Matthew 18:6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a large millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned at the bottom of the sea.”

    Where is the difference between church law and state law?

    Where in Canon Law is it acceptable to disregard the simple basics to the Bible message?

    Matthew 5:30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

    There would be a lot on one armed clergy!!!

  8. Portia says:

    If the Vatican admits guilt, then it will have to accept responsibility and that is unlikely.

    Guilt is a gift bestowed upon its followers, so unlikely the brainwashers will admit to it themselves.

    The mother who abused her children is in jail, but the men of god who raped and tortured children are still being protected.

    Pauline, the men and women of god wordhip Molach not the father of Jesus. Part of that worship is the moll estation of children, the feeding from their light and innocence.

    Many Sheeple still see the men and women of god as being somehow at the top of the pyramid- because that is what we were brainwashed with as children. Our parents taught us these people could do no wrong- they were “gods”.

  9. FXR says:

    In Ireland the Vatican operates a state within the state aided and abetted by traitors like Bertie and all the other small minded gombeen who line up for a pat on the head from the Pope. In all this horror story the legions of lay catholic organisation in government departments are still hiding behind a veil of secrecy.

  10. How come so many pedophiles finish up in church groups. what draws them there.

  11. Not to diminish the high crimes of the RCC but please examine the Jehovah’s Witnesses who go door to door and come on our property.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses pedophiles.

    Many court documents and news events prove that Jehovah’s Witnesses require two witnesses when a child comes forward with allegations of molestation within the congregation. Such allegations have customarily been treated as sins instead of crimes and are only reported to authorities when it is required to do so by law, (which varies by state). It has also been shown that child molesters within the organization usually have not been identified to the congregation members or the public at large.
    These people engage in a door to door ministry, possibly exposing children to pedophiles.

    Although the Watchtower Bible Tract Society claims that known pedophiles are accompanied by a non-pedophile in such work, there is no law stating that such a practice must be followed.

    The Watchtower corporation has paid out millions in settlement money already.

    Danny Haszard abuse victim