The debate widens..

A genuine debate on the abuse crisis is gaining second wind in the press. Granted that the Pope’s pastoral letter is but one small step, what reforms are needed? The question now is whether the firestorm of disgust and disillusion takes on a political character to equal dealing with the recession, or blows itself out. Giving in to a temptation to stall would allow the conservative forces to regroup, ensuring that little happens beyond some minor internal reforms. Even now the Republic’s political establishment will be wary of taking on the still formidable political machinery of the Church. Veteran Bruce Arnold cries shame on the politicians, right back to the famous vote FG-Lab coalition measure to permit contraception, opposed by Taisoeach Liam Cosgrave himself. Why hasn’t Garret FitzGerald pronounced? Today’s Fine Gael has joined Labour in demanding that the Church hands over schools, but Breda Power argues this would deny parental choice. But does it? The end of clerical power does not necessarily mean secular control. John Cooney, the great polemicist among commentators on religion and a biographer of John Charles McQuaid identifies radical reforms you may have seen before. That “religion-friendly atheist” Ruth Dudley Edwards has a word of compassion for the clergy, not least for the comfort they have given to the bereaved of the troubles. As between Cardinal Brady and Martin McGuinness, guess whom she chooses?

  • TellMeMa

    I don’t think that handing schools and other institutions to secular bodies is going to help prevent paedophilia, other sexual abuse and violence. These crimes are committed in all areas of our society, including schools and orphanages.

    Why not focus on developing guidelines, legislation and possibly new architecture to prevent their recurrence?

  • joeCanuck

    A certain Tonj K posted the following comment on the Irish Times website and I agree with him:

    Tony K
    Parents should be free to choose whatever religious instruction (or avoidance of religious instruction) they think best for their children, but after normal school hours. At a minimum, all schools should make it clear that participation in religious education is entirely voluntary and is outside the academic curriculum. Children whose families wish to avoid religious education in school should be provided with other educational opportunities, paid for by the State to the same extent that it pays for religious education.

    I think schools should be maintained by the State with a Board of Directors for, at least, each district. Given the present religious belief in Ireland, one seat should be retained for a Church (not necessarily Catholic) representative.

  • Seosamh913


    It still feels like you’re in denial – this is not just about the abuse as such, appalling as that in itself naturally is, it’s about the cover given to it by the institution of the church from top to bottom on a colossal collusional scale internationally. I’m afraid that you simply don’t seem willing to acknowledge that or in any way come close to accepting that the church is perhaps the least suitable institution in the world for which this or any other state should be facilitating a significant role in the care and education of its children.

    There is a terrific and perhaps historic opportunity to make a substantial move towards a genuine separation of church and state here by once and for all ending the preposterous position of the church in educational matters and reaping the manifold benefits which could come about over time as a result of that within both irish states.

    If parents are that genuinely passionate about indoctrinating their children religiously, then they and the church can attend to (and fund) that themselves outside of schools, that activity has no business in the public square within a civilised modern democratic state.

  • petermac

    If the Pope really wants this matter moved on then he has the power.Let him send his Papal Envoy to the Gardai with all the Files he commandeered over the time he was head of the Congregation of the Faith
    Then maybe the victims will be given some hope

  • All schools should be run by the state. Religious education should form part of the curriculum but it should not be the choice of any church to decide how much and what kind of religion be taught.

    In addition whoever works in a school or has unsupervised access to children should be subject to Garda vetting and this should include all clergy, whose full details must be provided by the relevant church.

    Schools need governing bodies and these should be a mixture of parents and academics and if the majority of governors wish, include a member of the clergy.

  • New Yorker

    The hierarchy need to be separated from ownership of property and other worldly assets. That is the only way to reform them. The legal instruments that are used to protect their ownership of same should be nullified. Properties should be owned by the communities where they are located. The cost of maintenance of property and payments to clergy should be raised by a voluntary tax similar to Germany. When riches are disentangled from the hierarchy a better church will emerge.

  • New Yorker

    I am inclined to agree that there has been a prolonged effort by the church to protect its assets but sacking a pervert, and reporting the crime to the civil authorities would have saved the church a fortune and its reputation.

  • New Yorker


    I agree with what you say and that they did not sack those that needed sacking demonstrates again that the hierarchy up to the Pope are incapable of managing the church. The clergy may be able to handle doctrinal and sacramental responsibilities, but they clearly should not be managing all the other areas of the Church. To make that happen they have to be separated from the assets side of the Church.

  • Paddy

    Mr Walker doing his Paisley act again. Southern political groups have no credibility at all. Religious schools give better results. Social climbers piggy back on that. Catholic schools should be for Catholics, not social climbers.

    Irish Catholicism is an ethnic badge. The era of the Christian Brothers is over. Like the GAA the Brothers fostered, Catholicism is now a middle class suburbia thing. Good schools, make a few friends, get a nice wedding, baptism and funeral. Mr Wa-ker should get out more.

    The Catholic Church will comfortably outlive this blip. Sad to sat for the UFF fascists and other empty heads, the centre of the catholic Church has nothing remotely Irish about it (if we exclude Polish Chicago). The numbers are in Affrica, Latin America and Asia, wherre most Catholics know or care fa about Catholicism. They can’t even name the Celtic team.

    Secular wa-kers trying to get the Pope or Brady to stand down will not succeed. Even if they did, what odds? Think back to the Reign of the Harlots, Napoleon etc etc.
    The Church will reform. The priesthood and other icons of bygone days will go.

    St Malachy, peace be upon Him, tells us there are only a handfull of Popes to go. Bring on Pope Peter. The Terminator. Bring on the Apocalypse.

    When the dust settles, the Chinese will most likely rule the world.

    And as regards the Vatican: a mere tourist trap.

  • The Vatican is an independent state and does not hesitate to use any advantage that gives them. It would not be easy, or perhaps possible to separate them from their property and other assets.

  • And as regards the Vatican: a mere tourist trap.

    And that should tell everyone something. As for the merchants in the temples, well…

  • New Yorker


    The Vatican obtains most of its revenue from outside the Vatican, therefore, countries with Catholic populations could decide legally how much, if any, gets shipped to the Vatican. Such measures would make the Vatican very responsive to their members worldwide as the members ultimately have the power of the purse.

  • New Yorker

    The Vatican gets its revenue from churches. I doubt it is up to that church where they send the revenue.

  • New Yorker


    As I said above, legal changes could be made in individual countries to control how the Church is funded. That is within the authority of individual countries. Perhaps the Republic should be the first to effect such changes and lead a worldwide movement to really change the Church.

    In worldly matters it often comes down to the money and the Church is not an exception. The hierarchy now control the property and assets. Once that control is removed, big change will follow. It happened once before in history and there is even more reason for it to happen in the present.

  • Just read Ruth Dudley-Edwards piece.

    The Catholic church has not instructed its clergy to report all allegations of abuse to civil authority.

    The Popes letter made no mention of the real changes necessary to bring the church into line with state law.

    As for Martin McGuinness interview, read into it what you will. I have read an article by Mr Cooper talking of veiled hints to Gerry Adams, and it is certainly possible to read the interview that way.

    It is not a question of calling for the heads of senior clergy. It is a question of ensuring all pervert clergy are known to the civil authorities and the future systems will start at reporting abuse properly, not end in a cover up.

  • New Yorker

    I am afraid the Vatican state would insist on full compensation/real estate value for any property seized.

    I hope the current scandals will force the church hierarchy to adhere to the laws of each state. Canon Law is not Gods law.

  • Paddy

    New Yorker and other anti RC ranters: The Church surived Hitler (who continued to pay his dues). If it survived Hitler, do you not think it can survive a few relativley unread blogs emanating from a country, Ireland, that is irrelvant in the grander scheme of things Catholic.

    If former Popes could have stayed holed up in the Vatican after they lost the vast bulk of their revenue with the birth of Italy, do you not tihnk they can survive Charlie Bird, an empty head whom RTE loved {and who intitially came to fame covering the persecution of Catholic priests in the (niminally) Catholic Philippines}.

    Buggering the boys is not the root of the problem. Secrecy, opaqueness and old fashioned managerial methods are closer to the mark. Quite like the Pervies actually.

    And gain: canon law has no standing in law. The Church is bound by the laws of various countries. Saying otherwise uses up bandwidth and shows an unhealthy shallowness to ths blip.

  • Paddy

    You should be addressing your ‘rant’ to the Pope and his Archbishops, especially the bit about: ‘the church is bound by the laws of various countries’. It is those laws the church has broken, again and again and…

  • wee buns

    RDE’s remarks, as so often, seem bereft of any sense of history, for a historian. She is sickened by ‘the persecution of people I believe to be fundamentaly good’ (as if inserting the ages of elderly clergy might bolster this point; no ages mentioned for the children I see)…but she fails to acknowledge as part of the debate, the absolute power of the CC in our history, the reasons for that; people’s resulting impotence; how this contributes to current anger levels. She should save her vomit for the establishments.

    Get all religion out of schools a.s.a.p.

  • wee buns

    I agree Ruth Dudley Edwards should save her empathy for the victims.