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Still Kissing the Bishop's Ring
It’s widely believed that the Irish State no longer fears the Catholic Church. But it still fears facing up to State collusion with Church criminality.
Eamonn McCann, 26 Nov 2009
State Agencies continue to strive to stop the truth about child sex abuse coming out. And there are other indications of Christ and Caesar still hand in glove.
Publication of the report of the Commission of Investigation into abuse in the Dublin diocese is being thwarted by the Director of Public Prosecutions. The DPP says that release of a chapter on how State institutions handled abuse allegations would compromise a possible extradition case.
The case concerns a priest who has been living abroad since the 1980s, against whom a number of grave allegations were made before he fled the jurisdiction. Until last Spring, there was no mention of extradition being sought. On the day before the DPP was to give evidence to the Commission, the possibility of issuing a warrant was raised.
The text of the report was cleared for publication by the High Court on October 15th. On the 16th, the DPP contacted the Department of Justice to complain that publication might compromise extradition proceedings. Minister Dermot Ahern responded by asking the court to think again.
For 20 years, no move had been made to bring the cleric to justice. But within 24 hours of a ruling which would have exposed the State’s role in the matter, Ahern was citing the possibility of charges to keep the facts hidden.
Ahern has form on this front. His Department’s new Charities Act outlaws the selling of Mass-cards other than with the imprimatur of an approved Catholic Church official. Defiance of the Church is punishable by 10 years in jail or a €300,000 fine. State lawyers are currently in court defending the Act in a case taken by an aggrieved Longford card merchant.
Ahern is author of the Blasphemy Act 2009, imposing a €25,000 fine on anyone who “publishes or utters matter... causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of [any particular] religion.” Police with a search warrant will have power to raid premises and use “reasonable force” to obtain evidence.
It would be wrong to say that nothing has changed in the Republic regarding the overbearing role and immunity from law of the Catholic Church. But not as much has changed as is frequently suggested. And there are elements, like Ahern, still fighting, not unsuccessfully, to conserve the past and hold back the future.