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The Catholic Church is still refusing to face up to its responsibilities in the area of child sex abuse
Eamonn McCann, 24 Apr 2002
It’s hard to know whether it’s the State or the Catholic Church which is the more hypocritical about the abuse of children by priests.
As I write, it’s reported that the Dublin Government is to appoint a senior barrister to inquire into the best way of inquiring into the hierarchy’s handling of complaints. As a device for putting off the evil day of reckoning this is both crude and transparent, which is not to say it won’t work. For all the huff and blether which has regularly arisen when this issue has erupted in public, there’s never been any stomach in State circles for following the trail where it leads.
If the evidence of abuse which has been presented against Catholic priests over the past decade had been brought against officials of any other institution in the State – a sports organisation, say – a Tribunal of Inquiry would have been established years ago, witnesses subpoenaed and all relevant documents compelled. This is so obvious a stone blind person could see it on a dark night. And yet, over the same decade, how many TDs have supported the call for a State inquiry? Not one. Not even the supposedly most independent-minded, left wing among them. Nor, until now, has a single national newspaper with the honourable exception of the Sunday Tribune taken up the call. This scandal could not have continued unabated for so long with all the attendant trauma for the hundreds (at least) of victims and their families without the complicity of all the political parties represented in the Dail and the vast majority of Irish media outlets.
We now hear again the mindless mantra that only a tiny minority of priests has been involved, that the vast majority of religious are themselves victims of the abusers in that their reputations have been unfairly tarnished. What rot. This is like saying that the reputation of cops in the North has been unfairly tarnished by the sectarian bigotry of a minority of RUC men. If despicable behaviour persists over years within an organisation of a few thousand people who live and work closely together and exhibit an unusually high degree of internal cohesion and solidarity, and if this behaviour is known in detail to the officer corps of the organisation which consciously intervenes to prevent the extirpation of the abusive behaviour, then we are dealing not with a stain upon the image of an institution but with its deep-dyed and defining colouration.
The reputation of the Catholic Church has not been unfairly tarnished. There’s nothing unfair about it. The Catholic Church is an abusive, corrupt and corrupting institution which people concerned with the safety and moral formation of children should have nothing to do with.
Take a case which we know for certain is in no way unrepresentative. A priest is transferred from southern Ireland to a parish in the North. The night before he arrives, the priests living in the parochial house where he is to take up residence are visited by an emissary from the bishop who tells them generally to “keep an eye” on their new colleague and specifically to ensure that he is not left alone with children. He rapes at least two little girls. The family of one of his victims tells the bishop. He does nothing. The family writes to the cardinal, telling him in unambigous terms what has happened and describing the heart-rending effect on the child and her extended family. The cardinal acknowledges the letter, assuring the family that he will pray for them. The rapist is moved out of the parish to a monastery in the South. When he is traced there and exposed, the bishop lies in public that the Church had earlier informed the civil authorities of the allegations.
What is this if not collusion in the rape of a child at the highest level within the Catholic Church in Ireland?
All this information is known to the State authorities, North and South. Where’s the need for an inquiry into the need for an Inquiry?
A few years ago a friend of mine hanged himself from the fire escape outside the flat where he lived in the Northland Road in Derry after futile years trying to persuade Church and State properly to investigate his story of prolonged appalling abuse by members of the De La Salle Order. Did his death disturb the complacency of anyone in authority? No. They averted their eyes like the furtive colluders in crimes against children which they are.
And yet we have representatives of the Catholic Church, putrid to the core and rotting from the top down, interviewed respectfully in the mainstream media about all manner of sensitive subjects. The overwhelming majority of the children of the southern State are handed over to the Catholic Church for “education”. We might cackle hysterically that we don’t disintegrate in tears. Newspapers po-facedly report the opinions of Desmond Connell on abortion, as if he or anybody else running a haven for child abusers were in any position to pronounce to the rest of us on matters of personal morality.
Far from intervening to curb its evil influence, the Southern Irish State joins with the Catholic Church to extend its power across Europe. In Oct. 2000, at a meeting of the EU Council of Ministers, “Justice” Minister John O’Donoghue threatened to veto the EU Equality Directive if a get-out clause wasn’t included allowing Church-run schools to insist that all teachers conform to “the ethos and beliefs of the school”. O’Donoghue boasted to the Irish Catholic that if he had not insisted on the amendment, “Church run schools would be powerless to act against teachers, other than the religion teachers, who openly defied the ethos of their employer”.
In an editorial (Oct. 25th, 2000) the Irish Catholic praised O’Donoghue’s victory. “(The Directive) could have meant that, religion teachers apart, schools would be forced to employ openly declared atheists, gay activists and others whose views or lifestyles were obviously contrary to the ethos of their employer”.
In other words, the Catholic Church was given the go-ahead to impose its perverse prejudices on teachers in State schools of languages, maths, drama, art, whatever. How many members of Dail Eireann registered an objection to this outrage? The question scarcely requires answering.
The date of the day the music died is always changing because always the music lives on.
But we can identify the date of the latest near-death experience – March 26th 2002. That’s the day the wires hummed with the mournful news from Isleworth that Mr. Bono had internalised the political attitudes which have endeared him to Dubya Bush, Time magazine and the World Bank and was now extolling clean living, family values and respect for the requirements of major corporations.
This is what happens when an accredited curator of rock’n’roll tradition changes from blue suede shoes into goody two-shoes.
The unsettling development came during the trial of REM guitarist Peter Buck, 45, for drunkeness, assault and criminal damage during a transatlantic flight. Buck pleaded innocent on the basis that he couldn’t remember a thing about it. He’d taken a sleeping pill and one glass of wine. The totally unexpected and scientifically inexplicable interaction of pill and plonk had made him mindless. He was so very sorry, his behaviour had been entirely out of character, nothing like it would ever happen again, etc. and so forth.
Isleworth Crown Court subsequentlyaccepted Mr Buck’s version of events and he was acquitted. It is also widely agreed that his success in beating the rap was significantly enhanced by the appearance in the sworn witness box of “Mr. Bono”, described by Mr. Buck’s brief as – what a truly shaming phrase this is! – “a man who enjoys respect at the highest levels of society”.
Whether Isleworth Crown Court will swallow this concoction remains unclear at the time of writing. But it was widely agreed that the chances of Buck beating the rap were significantly enhanced by the appearance in the sworn witness box of “Mr. Bono”, described by Mr. Buck’s brief as – what a truly shaming phrase this is! – “a man who enjoys respect at the highest levels of society”.
The Economist contentedly reported the dismaying scene: “’Hello there,” a waggish Mr. Bono greeted Judge John Crocker as he took the stand. Mr. Bono more solemnly went on to say that Mr. Buck is a devoted family man who, though he enjoys a glass of good red wine as much as the next guy, is wholly incapable of the raucous antics of which he is accused.
Mr. Buck, like Mr. Bono, respected and understood the reasons for the rules imposed on passengers by British Airways, and was aware of the responsibilities which came with his role as “a major figure in popular music”, Mr. Buck’s lawyer assured the court.
“Witness the unrockerly spectacle presented by Bono...”, sniggered The Economist, describing him “as sounding brass (compared with) the rock’n’roll gold standard of Keith Richard”.
What humiliation for rock’n’roll that the house magazine of the global bourgeoisie is in a position to jeer at Mr. Bono and Mr. Buck even as it welcomes them into its ranks.
But fear not. Ani di Franco is still out there, patrolling the ethos, saving the earth for the unruly. And The Coup aren’t aiming for a putch but for outright revolution. About which, more next issue.