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?

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London