I was born, brought up and lived all my married life as a fully paid up member of the Catholic Church. All right I might have made up a few of my own rules along the way but for 99% of the time I considered myself fully fledged. Throughout all this time of 64 years there have always been little quirks that tried to drive me away. Whiskey priests, thieving priests, sexually weak priests, abusing priests, bullying priests but never enough to drive me away, never enough not to forgive the Church, to realize that in every barrel there is bound to be a few bad apples. However, recently, I have been jolted out of my lethargy by the revelations ensuing, in the aftermath of Judge Yvonne Murphy’s report on child abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin over the last 20 or 30 years. This report lists the many hundreds of priests and bishops who have perpetrated these horrible crimes and whose leaders have chosen to deliberately cover up the whole disgraceful scene in order to protect the good name of the Church, possibly the biggest corporate failure of modern times. Faced with the wholesale abuse of children which led to ruined lives, mental illness and in some cases suicide, the Church made a conscious decision to sweep the problem under the carpet. The bishops who were responsible for discipline and the ordinary priests who undoubtably knew, chose to keep the lid on things and let the horror propagate. They all watched as these fumbling, semen stained priests were used as shuttlecocks, being whizzed from parish to parish, institution to institution, as their superiors tried to play an almighty game of badminton in front of the half-hearted investigations by politicians and guarda.
Who is there to say that this odious stain is not in every diocese and in fact has not been there for all time. Murphy’s report or an enquiry of similar unequivocal lines should be made in every diocese, in every land. For all we know this Mortal sin, this crime,could be pandemic. Certainly with the advent of Archbishop John Charles McQuaid in 1940 the Dublin Archdiocese has been tainted and if you read between the lines of his various biographies, he was a practising abuser from his ordination in 1924. The Church knew its men and knew his calibre when he was made an archbishop after only 16 years a priest. They knew of his proclivities and allowed them to run rampant.
To return to the present problem, the bishops and priests who were responsible for discipline and are still living, should be accountable, nobody can tell me that Bishop A and Father B did not know,while Bishop X and Father Z did know. They all knew, some more than others, but nobody stood up and blew the whistle, nobody surrounded by the mire put his hand up and said excuse me. For this sin of neglect they are all guilty and should be made to resign. The way its going anyway we will have no ordained priests to oversee the Church’s rituals soon, so I am only bringing on the day.
The bishops of the Archdiocese who were ruling during the time of this enquiry should be made to go now. Archbishop Martin who is to some extent responsible for discipline in the wake of the report’s findings, instead of shilly-shallying and talking mumbo jumbo, should immediately force their removal and call on whatever powers he needs, instead of asking them to examine their consciences and consider their positions. They must have done this already and found to be wanting. These bishops and I will name them, as the enquiry named them, are Archbishop Desmond McConnell and Bishops Donal Murray, William Walsh, Eamonn Walsh, Martin Drennan, Raymond Field, James Moriarty, Dermot O’Mahoney, the already disgraced Brendan Comiskey, Fiachre O’Ceallaigh and Lawrence Foristal. Since the enquiry was published most of them have chosen silence, waiting for the dust to settle. Only Bishop Murray, now Bishop of Limerick, despite being severely criticised has said “my conscience is clear” and “I will be guided by the priests and the people of the diocese”. (of Limerick that is, whatever they might have to say) and Bishop Eamonn Walsh, who said “my role was simply to pass on messages, but I would not be at the disciplinary table”. Both acting like Pontius Pilate both as guilty as hell. If these two and the silent nine remain in office it will be a massive insult on the already tortured victims. The crime of child abuse is a criminal act, these 11 men and the hundreds of abusing priests seem to consider it an everyday matter, a slight diversion in boring religious life. Even Archbishop Martin with the weakness of his diatribe against these men does not seem to understand the enormity of the crime.
I think the Church has failed everybody who considered themselves of the Catholic faith and I think all anybody can do is to create an embargo. As one letter in the press said “stop attending mass, stop donating money”. Let the guilty clergy rub, that being the operative word, rub along with themselves and stop trying to fool us. I think the day of daily and weekly communion is finished. The Church has reduced itself to a twee little ceremonial stage where people go for weddings and funerals to hear sweet little lies before they go off to get get drunk.
However the Church unfortunately still wields tremendous muscle in the education and health care fields. The designated child protection delegates in 19 of the 26 Irish Dioceses are priests. The need for competent trained professionals in this sensitive role is of the utmost and immediate importance. The state should do all in its power and quickly dismantle the realms of power the Church still have, doing it by any legal or yet to be legal means, citing the breakdown of responsible corporate behaviour. O how the perceived mighty have fallen in the last few years, all together in one big stinking heap. In a way the only beneficiaries are ourselves who are quickly being educated and being given Ireland back for the first time since 1921.
I for my part having observed all and listened to the pleas of innocence from the not so guilty priests have given up. Why subject yourself to a class of men who you feel more than uncomfortable with? Why not conduct your religion in a more private and personal manner? For you know how good you are and hopefully you are able to live with yourself.