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