It is exactly a year ago today, on 21st July 2011 and while the leaders of the free world stood around and scratched their arses, none of them daring to say a word against those ogres of men in the Vatican and Joseph Ratzinger in particular, did Enda Kenny, the Taoiseach of Ireland, stand up in the Dail and give the leaders of the Catholic Church a verbal battering which they will take a long time recovering from. The speech to all intents and purposes asking the Dail to accept the findings in the Cloyne Report on clerical abuse in that Diocese, turned out to be a cudgel of immense proportion that has never been used by a politician against the power of the Roman Church. It could not have come from a better man in a better position, a practising Catholic and Premier of Ireland, the country once accepted as being the most Catholic country in the world, telling the Vatican that they had come to the end of the road and to back off.
For 80 years whatever the Church said in Ireland happened and it was ably assisted by political acolytes like Eamon de Valera, Charles Haughey and Bertie Ahern. The Fianna Fail party that was in power for most of those years almost genuflected if an officer of the Church appeared. They knew of and allowed the Church to run riot with the physical and emotional bodies of children for all that time and never raised a voice in anger or even in concern.
The speech was such an amazing piece of locution that it deserves a little bit of examination to see whether on its first birthday it has made a difference. So I will pick out what I consider were the most important elements of the peroration and comment. Enda Kenny’s words are in italics.
1. Because for the first time in Ireland, a report into child sexual abuse exposes an attempt by the Holy See, to frustrate an Inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic…as little as three years ago, not three decades ago. And in doing so, the Cloyne Report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism….the narcissism…… that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day. The rape and torture of children were downplayed or “managed” to uphold instead, the primacy of the Institution, its power, standing and “reputation”.
This was Kenny’s big annoyment after the disgust of the abuse proper. The meddling of the Vatican into the democratic state of a foreign country and the way that the abuse was discerned as uninportant when the name of the Church was at at stake. This charge could be levelled at the Church in any country and certainly in England in the Salford Diocese, this behaviour has been rife.
2. Far from listening to evidence of humiliation and betrayal with St Benedict’s”ear of the heart”……the Vatican’s reaction was to parse and analyse it with the gimlet eye of a canon lawyer. This calculated, withering position being the polar opposite of the radicalism, humility and compassion upon which the Roman Church was founded. The radicalism, humility and compassion which are the very essence of its foundation and purpose.
The Church was not interested in its guilt but only to shoot down those who disagrees with its behaviour. It had lost its essence and that can be seen anywhere, the Church is only interested in personality, pomp and pageant. Why else for God’s sake would they welcome into their midst, Tony Blair. The Church no longer cares about its people but is acting more like an international conglomerate, only interested in good publicity. Kenny wants the Vatican to realise the purpose of the Church and get itself back to basics. In time it will but whilst it stutters and farts it is losing lots of devotees.
3. While it will take a long time for Cloyne to recover from the horrors uncovered, it could take the victims and their families a lifetime to pick up the pieces of their shattered existence.
As I said in my recent blog posting Spare a Thought for Victims of Clerical Abuse, the Church can move on and forget about individual cases, the victims cannot and live with “their shattered existence” for the rest of their lives. That point is so important and so very few people understand its horror. Throughout the Catholic world some of these victims will have 50 or 60 years of purgatory to live through even if abuse is stopped tomorrow. Certainly Ireland has many survivors and it seems the State in its own impoverished way is being of some help to them.
4. This Roman Clericalism must be devastating for good priests….some of them old….others struggling to keep their humanity….even their sanity….as they work so hard….to be the keepers of the Church’s light and goodness within their parishes….communities…the human heart.
Definitely a thought should go out to the good priests but I have to say in my experience there are not that many. I have known lots and lots of priests in my time and very few stood out for such praise. Most I knew just trundled through their job, it was a comfortable existence but most failed to deliver when the chips were down. The stunted emotional development of most contributed to their human failings. Possibly the fingers of one hand would be representative of the really good priests I knew.
5. This is the Republic of Ireland 2011. A Republic of laws… of rights and responsibilities…of proper civic order…. where the delinquency and arrogance of a particular version…of a particular kind of “morality”…will no longer be tolerated or ignored.
Here is Enda setting the position out straight. His coalition government is determined to sort out the mess the Church has made and it looks as though they are succeeding. Both the Labour leader, Ian Gilmour and his political mate Rory Quinn are determined that this errant Church steps into line. The closure of the Vatican embassy in Rome sent that message out loud and clear. The Pope even changed his nuncio in Dublin from that unyielding Giuseppe Leanza, who thought the old times still ruled, to the newly promoted American who is possibly more in tune with the present.
6. Today the Church needs to be a penitent Church. A Church, truly and deeply penitent for the horrors it perpetrated, hid and denied. In the name of God but for the good of the institution.
Here Mr Kenny is saying that the Church has possibly only got one chance left so they had better get it right. They are showing no real signs that they have transgressed. Only the lone voice of Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, seems to be trying but he could be pissing in the wind. The newly formed Association of Catholic Priests is also trying and might come through if Benny 16 would stop sending their leaders to a monastery
7. When I say that through our legislation…through Government’s action to put Children First…those that have been abused can take some small comfort in knowing that they belong to a nation…to a democracy…where humanity, power, rights, responsibility are enshrined and enacted…always, always for their good.
Here the Taoiseach was spelling out the Government answer to the Church’s intransigence. It was early days in the policies but the Children First legislation has now gone through the Dail and is part of the legislation of the country but with various hard line priests bleating about the loss of their confessional power, which is and has been the most abused tool of these clerics. The legislation was pushed through by the very able Alan Shatter, The Justice Minister and Frances Fitzgerald who was appointed to the new cabinet position of Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. She has done some excellent work in this field and is not scared of treading on as many holy toes as possible.
8. Minister Shatter is bringing forward two pieces of legislation – firstly, to make it an offence to withold information relating to crimes against children and vulnerable adults; and secondly, at long last, to allow for the exchange of “soft information” on abusers.
As with the last item, this legislation is now law, passed by the Dail just over a week ago and it is now a criminal act punishable by imprisonment to withold any information regarding abuse to the authorities. The very reason why Monsignor Lynn in Philadelphia will be going to prison this week and why Brady of Armagh should be going to prison for the nondisclosure of information regarding the abusing priest, Smythe.
9. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said “standards of conduct appropriate to civil society or the workings of a democracy cannot be purely and simply applied to the Church”
After this quotation from Ratzinger, Kenny is warning the Vatican that in future there will be no more omerta from the Church. They will obey the laws of Ireland or get out. The Church will be last and the children first.
In summarisation Kenny was unbelievably strong and it was not empty air he was spouting. This Fine Gael-Labour coalition have certainly been working hard in the last 12 months to back up their rhetoric. Although clerical abuse will never be stamped out, the politicos are trying and good luck to them.
All praise to Enda Kenny, if he does nothing else in his time in power, he will be remembered for this stance.