Operating outside the law

Today sees the publication of Judge Yvonne Murphy’s damning report into clerical abuse of children in Ireland from 1975 to 2004. ‘It has laid bare a culture of concealment where church leaders prioritised the protection of their own institution above that of vulnerable children in their care
As someone who was bought up as a catholic and who had a close relationship with an Order of nuns from an early age, I find myself very torn about this report. I saw great kindness and care among some of the nuns, but at the same time I am more than aware that there were others who fared very badly at their hands. The level and nature of abuse is shocking beyond words.
Perhaps the most damning part of all of this is how Society at large were able to accept en masse the idea that no matter what type of punishment or violence was perpertrated by the relgious orders was acceptable. It seems to have been a given that Christian Brothers were apt to use corporal punishment, but no-one seems to have felt the need to stop them. I wonder if this report will be the real beinning of the end for the Church in Ireland, a process that began with the revelations about Bishop Casey and Michael Cleary and were underscored by Ferns. Perhaps the lesson we learn is that we never accept what we feel is wrong, no matter who tells us otherwise. In probably the best example of too little, too late
The commissioner of the Irish police, Fachtna Murphy, said it made for “difficult and disturbing reading, detailing as it does many instances of sexual abuse and failure on the part of both Church and State authorities to protect victims”. He added: “The commission has found that in some cases, because of acts or omissions, individuals who sought assistance did not always receive the level of response or protection which any citizen in trouble is entitled to expect from An Garda Síochána (the Irish police).

He said he was “deeply sorry” for the failures.

The needs and rights of the child seem to have had no importance whatsoever to the Church that saw self-protection as the key area of concern:

The report stated: “The Dublin archdiocese’s pre-occupations in dealing with cases of child sexual abuse, at least until the mid 1990s, were the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church, and the preservation of its assets. It also said that the archdiocese “did its best to avoid any application of the law of the state”. It found that four archbishops – John Charles McQuaid who died in 1973, Dermot Ryan who died in 1984, Kevin McNamara who died in 1987, and retired Cardinal Desmond Connell – did not hand over information on abusers. The report said that authorities in the Dublin archdiocese who were dealing with complaints of child sexual abuse “were all very well educated people. It added that, considering many of them had qualifications in canon law, and in some cases civil law, their claims of ignorance were “very difficult to accept

  • Garza

    There is few faiths as gulity of mental bullying, hypocrisy, false promises and intolerance as Christainity.

    My only surprise is that everyone is so surprised.

  • bangordub

    I went to the brothers, nothing but good say bout them,
    Maybe I was lucky

  • Nordie

    Catholics in NI are lucky they had the Unionist Party and the RUC to protect them.

  • Carter

    Nothing excuses child abuse. Hopefully lessons will be learnt from this and a veil of secrecy lifted.

  • wild turkey

    ‘having sex with the late Fr Sean Fortune for money when he should have been studying for his Leaving Cert?’

    ah, he was having sex with the late Fr (choke) because said Fr cared fuck all about any vows of poverty, chastity , care or basic decency.

    As you have so sensitively and astutely addressed this subject Sean Fortune I can only assume you are named after your late Father, so why omit the Jr from your full name? eh Sean Fortune Jr?

    Is there any truth in the allegation that the late Fr behaviours had a genetic pre-disposition. If so, like Fr, like son? right?

    Is it also true that even a good carbolic scrubbing does not remove the stench, eh Junior?

    below is a link to an article re ‘mental reservation. this apparently is a theologically sound assertion that priests can lie, uh, without lying.

    Well maybe from time to time they do lie…but they shouldn’t get laid.


  • I completely agree with comment #3.

    The important story here isn’t the institutional facilitation of rape, but that rape victims amongst the lower orders were really prostitutes.

    Courageously said anonymous fuckwit.

  • “ The time has come for people of reason to say: enough is enough. Religious faith discourages independent thought, it’s divisive, and it’s dangerous. ”
    “ For many people, part of growing up is killing off the virus of faith with a good strong dose of rational thinking. But if an individual doesn’t succeed in shaking it off, his mind is stuck in a permanent state of infancy, and there is a real danger that he will infect the next generation. ”
    “ The god of the Old Testament has got to be the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it, petty, vindictive, unjust, unforgiving, racist, an ethnic-cleanser urging his people on to acts of genocide.

  • CW

    “I wonder if this report will be the real beinning of the end for the Church in Ireland, a process that began with the revelations about Bishop Casey and Michael Cleary” Miss Fitz

    At least what Casey and Cleary did would be considered normal for any layman – ie having relationships with women and fathering children wit the said women. To put them in the same category as paedophiles is inappropriate.

    But because of this ridiculous celibacy rule for clergy (which AFAIK, but correct me if I’m wrong doesn’t apply to any other Chrtistian denomination) scandals of this nature erupt. Enforced celibacy is unnatural. I know I’m going slightly off topic here, but perfectly good priests have had to leave the priesthood after entering into relationships with women – a perfectly natural thing – when they still could have continued their vocations as married priests.

    There’s no chance of the church changing the rules on celibacy any time soon (exept perhaps in the case of already married Anglican converts) as it doesn’t want to foot the bill for priests’ families.

    And by the way I think that it’s fair to say that the celibacy rule and tendencies towards paedophilia aren’t totally unrelated either.

  • Miss Fitz

    Personally, I think you have to draw a big line between paedophilla and celibacy/ chastity in the Catholic Church for clerics.

    In the worst case scenario, what we have witnessed is a paedophile ring operating in Ireland of fairly epic proportions. If you remove the Church from this, and evaluate the situation as it stands, you have a group of men related through occupation sexually abusing young males with the tacit approval of their employer and the State and Police Force for over 30 years.

    Those are the facts that make this staggering and unforgiveable.

  • joeCanuck

    Well said, Deborah. And it’s not just some Christians who cling to this god. The same “god” of the O.T. is “holy” to some Jews and Islamists too.
    A pox on all extremists.


    Shocking day for the Catholic Church particularly the heirarchy and Guards. There are many many powerful groups who believe that they can act outside the law and consequently do what they like. One only has to look at Britain’s Security Services which operated murder gangs outside their own so called law and ran a private Establishment paedophile club at Kincora for decades. While I accept all the criticisms of the Catholic Church I will not take the hypocrisy from some who need to take the beam out of their eye first.

  • shane

    CW, I don’t think its the case that celibacy causes paedophilia. I think it’s more a case of paedophiles becoming priests. After all, Protestant denominations in the US actually have a higher rate of sex abuse, but the fact that Catholic canon law mandates the keeping of records makes it easier for statistics.


  • shane

    Miss Fitz, the Catholic Church in Ireland has been declining since the 60s. People have this notion that it has only been declining since the sex scandals, but even by the mid-70s Ireland was a totally different place from the 50s. It really all started after Vatican II – though it’s shocking how almost all of this abuse actually happened after Irish society had liberalized.

    Important to note too that Archbishop Ryan and Archbishop McQuaid utterly hated each other.

  • miss fitz

    Some people would argue that the true decline, or at least the verifiable decline really started at the time of Casey and Cleary. There may well have been and indeed there was evidence of declining mass attendance, but the open questioning of church doctrine and personnel really only started the major slide at that time.
    For some people, the hypocrisy was astonishing and undermined any religious message that may have been at stake.
    Programmes like ‘States of Fear’ added further fuel to a disillusioned public and I think that this latest report now demonstrates that the only thing the Church was trying to protect was its own interest.
    In 1987, a ‘special insurance’ policy was taken out when it was obvious that this was eventually going to hit the fan and compensation was going to be sought.

    In short Shane, we are on the same page, but there is a real school of thought that charts the severe decline to the start of the sex scandals, albeit in the face of a dinisnishing church

  • file

    Well Nordie – don’t forget about Kincora please…

    But really, the only sensible option for Catholics is the following: do not boycott the church, because we are the church; however DO boycott the collection plate until the hierarchy of the church bring in some reform that clearly demonstrates that they have recognised the seriousness of this report and The Ryan Report – eg allowing priests to marry or/and allowing female priests. The hierarchy understands money better than anything else so we should sent them a message in a language they understand.

  • Deborah Cullen

    Anyone want to address the Richard Dawkins point that religion is the root of all evil?

    The Catholic priests are only the tip of the abuse iceberg. The whole edifice is a sham front for paedophilia.

    Sticking plaster management by Ratzinger and see no evil by the Irish government and police. The Republic of Ireland seems like a ‘wicker man’ state.

  • Comments #3 and #9 are beneath contempt.

    How do we prevent such abuse in future? Time to change the Irish Constitution to give proper place to children’s rights – my blog on this here.

  • igor

    And still the cover up goes on:

    Commission: Can we see the records please

    Pope: You have to submit request through channels

    Commission What channels?

    Pope {silence}

    The majority of honest decent clergy must be questioning what their Church is doping institutionally though they have less power to change it than we do. Still, always remember that this is an organisation where senior members were working with the Italian Mafia to launder drugs money in Italy and where a Pope who asked too many questions died suddenly as soon as he took up office and there was no investigation – to protect the Church of course.

  • couldn’t comment shouldn’t

    What are we saying it’s a shocking day – we knew – they church knew – the garda knew – even the prods knew.

    For the leaders of the catholic church to say they are shocked is just a continuation of their lies and self delusion. Over 100 priets in Dublin 22 identified in Ferns come on this was well known

    One of the most striking things about all of this is that everyone knew but no one did anything to stop it – unionist were often acused of being sectarian etc when they say the Republic of Ireland was priest ridden and totally under the control of the cathoic church – yesterday’s report confirms this. Amazingly Home Rule did mean Rome Rule and as the Papal nuncio still refuses to co operate it is clear some parts of the church still believe they are above the law.

    If the catholic church in ireland really wants to show thier atonement then the church should declare a day of penitance – all priests should shave their heads, dress in the equivalent of sack cloth and ashes and on behalf church publicly atone

  • Yani

    Someone introduces “British Security Services” as co-equal abusers alongside the Church. Such bitterness and bigotry is staggering and goes some way to explain the type of insular closed-minded community within which the Church was able to abuse with impunity. Sad.

  • RepublicanStones

    all priests should shave their heads, dress in the equivalent of sack cloth and ashes and on behalf church publicly atone

    Collective punishment, sure, that’ll help.

    As regards this issue, there had better be some porridge handed down, big feckin bowls of it.

    And can we please refrain from the kincora/big jock knew idiocy. This issue is disgusting without trying to drag other shite in as well.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Kincora should not be overlooked but it is worth comparing. Once the lid was blown open, the people involved were punished. With the Ryan report of a few months ago, the church was pretty much granted immunity and it continues to try to block investigation into its actions. I do not think the two compare.

  • Patrick Corrigan

    For the record, my comment #17 refers to comments #3 and #9 which subsequently were removed, although no record of this removal has been noted in the comments zone.