The Ferns Report into sexual abuse in that ill starred Catholic diocese was one of two big issues we missed due to the change over in Slugger’s platform and pressing committments to another online project. The other was the mis-reporting of the circumstances of the accident in which Liam Lawlor and his chaffuer lost their lives. However, today in the Irish Times Fionnuala O’Connor thoughtfully muses on the difference between Catholic reaction north and south (subs needed) of the border.In part, she believes, it’s been a case of ‘circling the wagons’:
The instinct that says washing dirty linen in public will feed anti-Catholicism is still powerful, though for whatever reason there has been remarkably little Protestant/unionist comment on the Ferns report fallout. Catholics come blinking into the sunshine of comparative peace very conscious that they are in better shape – politically and communally – than Protestants. It is surely ironic that they need every ounce of confidence to confront internal demons.
And she argues that the Northern Irish media have struggled to look the issue directly in the eye:
The Southern airwaves have seethed for years with the fallout from programmes revealing abuse. Northern comment is muted by contrast. BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback has none of the unselfconscious ease of Joe Duffy or Marian Finucane. Revelations of scandals have helped to empty churches in the Republic. They stay remarkably full in the North.
In Catholic circles, which of course are eternally surrounded by Protestant circles, once unquestioning faith in the clergy has gone: it is a matter for private grief rather than public display. Northern Catholics may be examining their consciences, but it will be a slow business.