On paedophilia – is that it?

The Dublin media still seem shell-shocked that so little came out of the Pope’s meeting with the Irish bishops. It’s as if they can’t believe it- maybe asking themselves for a moment, did we dream it all up? There are some signs of a delayed reaction. The extraordinary interview style of one Keith Finnegan, presenter at Galway Bay FM, produced the following exchange with Bishop Drennan of Galway, so remarkable that the Irish Times carried the (slightly inaccurate) transcript. Here Msgr Drennan appears to give an episcopal two fingered salute to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. Apart from the news that the bishop won’t resign, did the Catholic faithful of Ireland receive any benefit at all for the price of 23 return airfares to Rome?

.I did meet Archbishop Martin, yes.. I think, from what I heard, I think he’s satisfied now that I have taken responsibility for my actions. I responded to his letter and he did mention that ..not on this occasion in Rome, but on other occasions, that he felt I had taken responsibility for my actions so I think I’m satisfied on that score, yes.
KF: And is he prepared to say “Ok, Martin Drennan, the gloves are off, get on with your ministry”, even though it’s not his role to tell you to get on with your ministry, is it?
BD: It’s not, no, n fact I know he’s no direct responsibility for me. My direct responsibility is to the Archbishop of Tuam, the Papal Nuncio and then the congregation in Rome.
KF: And then Cardinal Brady as well
BD: Yes.
KF: So you don’t need his permission then, still it would be nice if you could all get on together and move forward.
BD: Well, it would be actually inappropriate for him to be writing to me about my behaviour at this stage. That would be inappropriate diplomatically, it would

On his return from Rome the Archbishop of Dublin was unusually delphic in this Indo report of an Ash Wednesday encounter. Has he been spiked by the Vatican ? And is this all that’s to be said about victims of abuse and negligent clergy before they move on to the healing balm of church reorganisation?

  • Scaramoosh

    A corrupt Church; a corrupt country. Everything is simply brushed under the carpet; a little chastisement, then forgotten.

  • The meeting was intended as an information gathering exercise for the Pope’s upcoming pastoral letter, which will include an attempt at church restructuring.

  • joeCanuck


    It’s the way you tell em, Frank shane.

  • Brian, although I would support the resignation of Bishop Drennan (for totally unrelated reasons), he was not criticized in the Murphy Report.


  • Child abuse, thanks to the holy roman church, has been Irelands ‘dirty little secret’ for years.

    What did anyone expect of this meeting when the pope was, in a previous incarnation, cardinal retzinger, the one who ordered his minions to report complaints of abuse to him, not the police.

    May he and they rot, and may Ireland recover from this prolonged and appalling tyranny.

  • pippakin, child abuse is not uniquely Catholic nor uniquely Irish. Most priests are not paedophiles and most paedophiles are not priests (less than 4% are). The Murphy Report recognized that both codes of Canon Law demanded serious penalties for child abuse and lamented that Canon Law was never applied in the Dublin archdiocese. As everyone who is acquainted with church politics and the history of the Dublin archdiocese could have predicted from the beginning.

  • joeCanuck

    F**k Canon Law. These horrible people who did the dirty deeds were guilty of Criminal Law offences and some Bishops, may God forgive them, covered it up.

  • Cynic2

    Well it proves one thing – the church still has no idea how bad this is and until the laity really walk with their feet or stop paying it wont get the message.

    It is also very worrying. A Bishop or organisation in such denial is in no position to stop it happening again

  • Shane

    I wish! but Im afraid you are sadly out of touch.

    There have I think been four reports in Ireland, each one has found the church responsible for covering up serious child abuse.

    It has been going on since independence, and maybe even before. In the big institutional schools child abuse was the norm, again in those evil convents child abuse was normal. It has been worse here than elsewhere because the Church ruled the country, even today there are some, yourself included who refuse to believe how bad it was.

    Child abuse does indeed happen in every walk of life, there is no class or religion that is not at risk of predatory paedophiles infiltrating their ranks, but only in Ireland did the government, the courts and the police help the cover up.

    We need to investigate every parish and when we finish with the catholics we should move on to the protestants, only then will we be able to cleanse this cancer from our country.

  • BryanS

    A very wise priest who is a friend of mine said that he feared that the abuse by clerics was simply a reflection of the abuse happening in all aspects of society.
    Priestly abuse of course is the worst kind because the abusers are supposed to be more saintly than the rest of us

  • BryanS

    You need to ask yourself, how old is my ‘wise’ friend?

    How is it possible they did not know. How could they go from Parish to Parish, school to school and not see it. The truth is because the good ones knew there was nothing they could do, and so by their silence, became accomplices.

  • BryanS

    Correct Pippa I agree. But you miss my general point. Child abuse and more particularily incest is endemic in Irish society. maybe in all countries for all I know.

  • Greenflag

    Cynic 2-

    ‘the church still has no idea how bad this is and until the laity really walk with their feet or stop paying it wont get the message.’

    Correct . What’s needed is a national boycott of the RC Church for a few months – Zero Church attendance -zero contributions to the Church plate -ostracisation of all clergy and bishops , cardinals etc .

    When the Irish RC Church agrees to hand over all it’s files on all of these cases to the State so that it can pursue criminal cases, then the boycott can be lifted .

    The only weapon the people have to fight against this ‘corrupt’ institution or indeed other ‘corrupt’ institutions is the ‘boycott’ .

  • pippakin, although you are undoubtedly correct in your assessment that I am ‘sadly out of touch’, I’m not sure I agree with the rest.

    The Murphy Report indicted church administration for failing to administer Canon Law. As everyone who knows the politics and history of the Irish church, this was not limited to sexual abuse. Almost nobody in the Dublin Archdiocese in the 70s knew how to conduct a canonical tribunal, and the diocese’s tribunals dealt with little other than annulments (which, again contrary to Canon Law, were [and sadly still are] granted almost invariably). Only two canonical trials ever took place in the 30-year period which was investigated, both in the 1990s and in the teeth of the opposition of the most powerful canonist in the archdiocese, Mgr Sheehy, who “actually considered that the penal aspects of that law should rarely be invoked”. Mgr Sheehy, the report adds, “rejected the view that the Archdiocese had any responsibility to report child sexual abuse to the state authorities. He thought the Church’s internal processes should be used but, in fact, he was totally opposed to the use of the Church penal process.” The Murphy Commission (and Archbishop Martin on Prime Time) also refuted defences that Ryan, McNamara and Connell, were on a learning curve, both pointing to McQuaid’s handling of abuse complaints in the 50s and 60s.

    As Dr GP Lewis noted, who puts it in context, such reactions were the norm across society. Frued sowed the seeds of the highly influential “false memory syndrome” theory that taught abuse victims were not really abused at all but were projecting their own guilt about their own childhood sexuality onto adults. The western world became concerned with abuse of children sometime in the late 1980s.

    As for punishing offenders I’d suggest that we take a page out of the much-maligned Spanish Inquisition and reinstitute the death penalty for the crime.

  • pippakin, as for the Ryan Report, David Quinn (who attended the Inquiry’s hearings) wrote a very good article in Studies magazine, having realized that most media commentators had read no more than the summary:


    Here are a few of the facts: 1,090 former residents reported to the Ryan commission; they named 800 alleged abusers in over 200 institutions.

    Boys: 50% of the physical abuse reports and 64% of the sexual abuse reports came from 4 institutions.

    Girls: 40% of the physical abuse reports came from 3 institutions; 241 women religious were named as physical abusers, but 4 of these were named by 125 witnesses and 156 sisters were named by only one witness each.

    Of the 800 religious and others named as abusers, 400 were named by only one person. Sixteen institutions had more than 20 complaints made against them.

  • shane

    I understand your reluctance to condemn the church, but I cannot see how priests did not know of abuse in their parish.

    The church has been known to ostracise families who complained their child had been abused.

    Not all residents of institutional schools or convents came forward to add their experiences to the list.

    What we know is the list is long and incomplete. On this thread someone has written ‘child abuse and particularly incest is endemic in Irish society’.

    I do not believe that, but even if it is only a quarter true, it is a terrible stain on us, and where do you think it started.

    We have got to deal with it and to do that we need to be ruthless in our scrutiny of the church and punishment of offenders.

  • Bryan S

    I disagree child abuse and incest are not endemic here. It is also a problem for most countries, we have only to look at England to see they have their share.

    The additional problem here has been the willingness of successive governments to bow to the Catholic church.

  • Democrat

    It is worth noting that James Joyce made allusions to the ‘unhealthy’ relationship between the old priest and the young boy in the first story of the “Dubliners” collection, ‘The Sisters’. There is no doubt about what worries one of the other characters (Cotter). He tells the boy’s uncle that he wouldn’t leave any son of his alone with such a man.

    That story was written in the 1890s!!

    No wonder the Catholic church banned Joyce’s books – they were unobtainable in Ireland for years. He was denounced as an ‘obscene’ writer. Recent events have vindicated him and shown that his concerns were well founded.

  • Democrat

    The wonder is not that the Catholic church banned it, but that the Irish/British governments enabled the ban.

    It absolutely infuriates me.

  • Democrat, the first jurisdiction in the world to ban James Joyce was the state of New York, which has never been known as a Catholic theocracy.

  • Bryan, Vincent Browne wrote an article about that in the Sunday Business Post a few years back:

    Clergy just tiny fraction of abusers
    Sunday, December 07, 2003
    By Vincent Browne


    The scale of sexual abuse and rape in Irish society is shocking, as revealed in a report by the organisation that undertook the survey of clerical abuse for the Irish Catholic Bishops.

    Only a tiny fraction of abusers are members of the clergy and only a miniscule proportion of these sexual crimes are reported to the gardai or, indeed, to anyone else. It is an epidemic of enormous proportions, one largely ignored or diminished by the state, politicians and commentators.

    The startling facts of abuse are:

    * One in five women (20.4 per cent) reported experiencing contact sexual abuse in childhood and a further one in ten reporting non-contact sexual abuse. (That is 30 per cent of all women being sexually abused as children.)

    * More than one in 20 women (5.6 per cent), over 110,000 in all,were raped as children.

    * One in five women reported experiencing contact sexual assault as adults with 6.1 per cent of women experiencing unwanted penetrative sex (ie rape). That is over 76,000 women raped during their adulthood.

    * One in six men (16.2 per cent) reported experiencing sexual abuse in childhood, with a further one in 14 reporting non-contact abuse.

    * 2.7 per cent of all men were subjected to penetrative sex (anal or oral sex) in childhood. That is around 12,000 men raped as children.

    * One in ten men (9.7 per cent) experienced contact sexual assault as adults and 0.9 per cent of men were subjected to unwanted penetrative sex as adults.

    * Most of the perpetrators of child sexual abuse were men (89 per cent) acting alone.

    * In the case of those who abused girls, a quarter were family members, half were nonfa m ily but known to the abused girl and a quarter were strangers.

    * In the case of the abuse of boys, only one in seven (14 per cent) was a family member, two-thirds were non-family but known to the abused boy and only one in five were strangers.

    * Only a small fraction of child sex abusers (3.7 per cent) were members of the clergy and a smaller fraction (2.5 per cent) were fathers.

    * In the case of sexual violence against adult women, one-quarter of the perpetrators were partners or ex-partners.

    These startling revelations are in a report, Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland (SAVI), undertaken by the Health Services Research Centre at the Department of Psychology, Royal College of Surgeons, the body that conducted the recently published report on clerical abuse.

    The report was commissioned by the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. Over 3,000 people, randomly selected, were interviewed anonymously by telephone.

    This information was published a year ago, but caused little fuss. Remarkably, only 47 per cent of those who disclosed information to the interviewers for this survey said they had reported the abuse to anybody else. The remainder had never previously disclosed it.

    A tiny fraction (1 per cent) of men who had been abused as an adult, and only 7.8 per cent of women had reported their experiences to the gardai. In the case of child sex abuse, only about 10 per cent of victims reported their abuse to the gardai.

    The phenomenon of sexual crime is by far the most startling of all criminality in the state andyetalmostno attention is focused on it, apart from clerical sex abuse, which is a minor, almost incidental, part of the problem, although, obviously neither minor nor incidental for the victims of clerical abuse.

    For those of us who have ranted for ages about clerical abuse, perhaps a more balanced assessment of the phenomenon is overdue.

  • BryanS

    The interesting thing about sexual abuse to me is the following.
    80% of sexual abuse by clerics is against boys
    In non clerical society – the rest of us – 80% of sexual abuse is against girls.
    Is celibacy the problem? Does the church attract latent homosexuals?

  • pippakin, Diarmaid Ferriter, UCD Professor of History, recently wrote a meticulously researched book called Occasions of Sin detailing the history of sex in post-Famine Ireland. In it he shows how ‘sexual repression’ and a cult of celibacy became so highly esteemed in the post-famine era; sexual puritanism (which was voluntarily self-imposed) is darwinistically advantageous in such a depressed context. For example, before the Famine about 10% of Irish 50-year-olds were unmarried; this increased to a quarter before WWI. In 1907 the Irish marriage rate stood at 4.8 per cent per 1,000 – 40% below that of England’s, and 35% below Scotland’s. Marriage became so late in 1950s Ireland that an American gentleman, John O’Brien, wrote a book entitled The Vanishing Irish.

  • pippakin, people in those days expected religion to be intertwined with the civil authority. In some cases, they still do. The Church of England is the state religion of England, its senior prelates have automatic seats in the Upper House of Parliament and its courts are part of the state legal system. The Church of Scotland is the state religion of Scotland and its doctrinal confessions are on the secular statute book. All European states with an established church are Protestant. There are no Catholic countries anymore because Pope Paul VI asked that Catholicism be disestablished everywhere.

  • shane

    I do get what you are telling me. All I am saying is the Catholic church, and no doubt others, contributed greatly to the problem.

    It is not something we can brush under the carpet. Paedophilia appears to be a ‘learned’ behaviour. Some abused children will go on to become abusers in their own homes, others will become predatory paedophiles. Those who became predatory could find no safer home than the Catholic church.

    Of course most did not become abusers, they managed, to their enormous credit, to overcome their trauma, alone and without help.

    All Christian churches had great (too much) influence in their respective states, but only here did they more or less run the country.

  • joeCanuck

    Does the church attract latent homosexuals?

    Absolutely YES. But it goes further. It actively tries to recruit young confused boys going through puberty and struggling with their total identity. I think that may have started 1000 years ago. Celibacy was a key factor. It was awfully convenient too to have relationships with likeminded colleagues who could “forgive” your sins and crimes in the name of “GOD”.