Garret, you too share the blame

Garret FitzGerald, the visionary of a New Ireland in the 1970s, has at last pronounced on the Catholic abuse scandal. He says the Pope is “open to criticism” which is putting it mildly. Typical Garret, he homes in on the impact of canonical procedures in creating secrecy from at least 1962 to the mid 90s. This period spans Garret’s career in politics. In common with the rest of the political establishment, why did he do nothing about it? The former taioseach’s column is an unwitting indictment of the hands-off approach of Irish politicians to the Roman Catholic Church, well after the era of John Charles McQuaid and well into the period of Vatican 2. Out of his own mouth, the statesman sometimes known as Garret the Good brands himself as an accessory. The issue in the south now is the future of clerical control over education and welfare.
Adds. Ian Paisley delivers a rebuke in the Newsletter, interesting only because it’s so mild. Just think what he’d have made of it a few years ago. Extr from Garret FitzGerald’s Irish Times column

It is not clear to me when clerical child abuse, through the confessional or otherwise, was first included with the sacramental issues dealt with in this part of canon law. This is because a relevant papal document of 1962 was issued to bishops only, who were required to – and did – keep this edict absolutely secret. What we do know, however, is that, whenever this issue was first included in this part of canon law, the pontifical secret procedure was applied to it too. We know this because as late as 2001, the present pope, as Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, secured the promulgation by Pope John Paul II of Sacramentorum Sanctitatis , requiring all child abuse cases with a semblance of truth to be referred by bishops to the Congregation. And, in paragraph 25 of that document, Ratzinger himself provided that this new procedure would continue to be “subject to the pontifical secret”.
It is clear that until the mid-1990s the Irish bishops interpreted pontifical secrecy as precluding the reporting of child abuses to the Garda – a stance which they dropped only in the mid-1990s, under huge pressure from public opinion.

  • Drumlins Rock

    I think the question needs to go further and the whole idea of the Vatican as a “State” should be under scrutiny, having a tiny area not subject to generally accepted laws of a host state (Italy in this case) has given the Roman Catholic Church enormous scope to escape scrutiny over the years. The Vatican institutes its own laws, temporal as well as spiritual, and because it seems that the primary alliengence of most clergy has been to a Foreign State, not the country in which they live, then they naturally give the laws of that country precedence over the “law of the land” in which they reside, it should not be an acceptable state of affairs anywhere in the world imagine, but unfortunately it was accepted and encouraged in Ireland and elsewhere for many years, other countries have eventually dealt quite brutally & ecessively with this “enemy from within” ie. revolutionary France, Civil War Spain, and the Communist states, but so long as the centre remains a law-maker then no matter how much the branches are cut back it will continue to act as a law unto itself within every juristiction it operates.

  • Well said Brian, Fitzgerald is a much a part of the establishment that allowed this abuse as anyone else.


  • Seosamh913

    It seems to me fairly widely assumed that the Church has been given its internatioanl staus as a consequence of the Vatican City being an independent State. My understanding however is that it isn’t the Vatican City per se which is recognised at the UN and allowed diplomatic representation in more than 150 countries; rather, it is the Holy See – the government, not of the tiny enclave in Rome, but of the Roman Catholic Church worldwide. As such, it comprises the Pope, the Curia and the College of Cardinals drawn from around the globe, not the administrative apparatus of the tiny territory.

    In 1964, the Holy See informed UN Secretary General that it had appointed a “permanent observer” to the UN in New York. The UN wrote back accepting the appointment. The UN later explained that, since there was no provision for “permanent observers” in the UN charter, “[the UN] have been following a line which seems to be the only possible one – to accept observers when such an arrangement is proposed in cases where the country in question is recognised diplomatically in this form or that form by a majority of UN members.”

    There has never been a vote by Member States on the Holy See’s presence at the UN.

  • Greenflag

    Brian Walker ,

    ‘The issue in the south now is the future of clerical control over education and welfare. ‘

    Indeed and the sooner our politicians start tackling that issue the better at least in respect of the state sector .

    Drumlin’s Rock,

    Good post but don’t forget that the ‘enemy from within ‘ in the case of Ireland was historically seen as the ‘only ‘ friend the nation ever had which is why the RC Church occupied a ‘revered’ position in Irish society and history.

    But your basic premise I agree with . I’d like to see the same premise applied to Switzerland which is without question the world’s greatest hoarder of the wealth of tax evaders and money launderers of all nations, and the repository of stolen wealth .

    Transparency Transparency
    How long will this ‘fad ‘ last ? or is it with us to stay ?

  • Drumlins Rock

    makes you wonder though greenflag, throughout history how often was the Catholic Church (and principally i mean the clergy) serving the Irish people or serving the Vaticans interests, I know from a protestant perspective it was always an obstacle to any settlement with our neighbours.

  • The Vatican serves the Vatican first and last. At no time in history can it be seen to have put the interests of the people first, and that is fine. So long as its clerics know where they live and who in fact they answer to. A priest, like the rest of us, may answer to his God in heaven, here on earth, he answers to his country and the laws of that country.

    It would seem the Vatican and some of its clergy may have forgotten that, at least for some time.

    All schools should be, if not run by the state, then under the firm rule and control of the state.

  • Greenflag

    Drumlin’s rock,

    It is not beyond the whit of man or his institutions to serve two masters at the same time . Just look at any modern politician in full flight . Like every other institution in society historically as well as at present the higher up the hierarchy they go the more they serve the hierarchy’s (be it political or economic or religious) interest .

    I’ve known priests and ministers(protestant ) who no doubt whatsoever serve the people’s interest even if I don’t share their religious faith .

    Power corrupts etc and absolute power etc , think RC Church in religion -think the old UP in NI pre 1969 in local politics, and think the current mega banks in finance .

    I don’t understand what you are referring to re your neighbours re settlement etc but I always take it as a given that the Churches /denominations , were /are particular about holding on to market share just like any commercial business .

    I see them as businesses -all of them . Which is not to say that they don’t do and have done some good. Caveat emptor as always .

    I think that these ‘secretive’ institutions be they the RC Church or others will continue to have difficulties in coming times . And that’s a good thing.

  • Paddy

    So someone, Brian Walker, actually reads that old rogue’s column. Some time ago, the IT printed the same column two weeks in a row by this ex MI5 agent (his ma a Unionist from the Black North, his da a fluent Irish speaker and he a virulent opponent of the Irish language). Only person noticed the faux pas: the “good” Dr himself.

    So the Vatican should now report to Drumlins Rock or no doubt the nearest branckh of the LOL or UFF.

    In the big swing of things, Ireland is irrelant to the Catholic Church. Its hey day was from the opening of Maynooth to the late 1950s, when it spread the Truth throughout the English speaking world.

  • Alias

    Catholics in Ireland answer to a foreign state and its unelected ruler – and not the EU this time. So that part of the Irish nation that is Catholic (the vast bulk of it) is not sovereign in its spirtual culture and development, being determined in those matters by said foreign state. And to many of them those matters are paramount, transcending all areas where they are (or were) sovereign as a nation. It is colonial rule with that ruler having huge influence in this state via control of its educational institutions and its spiritual culture and development. The Vatican, contrary to myth, was no supporter of the sovereignty of the Irish nation. It denounced the struggle for Irish independence at every turn. The Irish nation owes this foreign state no loyalty and would be well served by demanding that the Catholic Church in Ireland becomes a sovereign institution, answerable to, and controlled by, no foreign state.

    As for Fitzgerald, become Bertie Ahern and now Brian Cowen challenged his position, he was easily the worst Taoiseach in the history of the State.

  • Alias

    Typo: “…before Bertie Ahern…”

  • Paddy

    First on one thread and now on this. My word you are in a tiz.


    In many ways you are right about Ireland never being free. I wonder who has to take the blame for that?

    Ireland, always felt (rightly) the Brits did not want them to be Catholic, so independence was taken as an opportunity to reaffirm the faith. I think it was wrong. No one and certainly no party should put the church before their country. It has ultimately hurt Ireland, but people are out growing their subjugation and I suspect future politicians will be expected to show they are putting the country first.

    The other side of the coin of course is the north, in exact opposition to the south, reaffirmed its Protestantism and we all know the result of that. If Ireland needs to get the church out of the Daill, the north needs to get the OO out of Stormont.

  • granni trixie

    As one who was brought up a Catholic, learning my catechism etc, until these weeks into the church crisis I never knew anything about cannon law or its significance eg in the I.News Brian Feeney wrote that cannon law is like sharia law, above the states laws.

    As I am out of the loop re Catholic teachings I have made a point of asking practicising Catholic friends about this to find that commonly their understanding is like mine (indeed iin some cases they had not heard of cannon law or at least did not think it was anything to do with them.

    So although I have not conducted a scientific poll, I think that we should not assume that all RCs have knowledge of cannon law in their frame of reference. Although you would think if it is so crucial it should. Could be that the heirarchy have taken advantage of a system of laws which the general population do not know about, to cover up.

  • Rory Carr

    If you intend to delve further in to it, Trixie, to expand your knowledge on the subject, you should first know that the topic you should search in Google (or wherever) should be “Canon Law” and not “cannon law”, which might lead you into some esoteric discussion on Mao’s dictum that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun”.

  • granni trixie

    Thanks, Rory – but I am nnot interested enough to do so.

  • Paddy

    See Rory: you are wasting your time with your candles. She is ranting on about Islamic law and trying to equate it to the Vatican’s gentocracy. They just spout on without knowing anything.
    Alias: The entire population of Carlingford was excommunicated in the Civil War. Learn your history of Rome before regurgitating the rantings of the Protestant Truth Society.

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
    Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

  • Paddy

    Canon Law is not my law and it is not the law of Ireland, perhaps you should move to the Vatican, or enter the priesthood. Anything so long as you remember the laws of the land are the laws that apply here and everywhere.

  • Alias

    Pip, the Irish nation briefly developed its own culture as a nation in the pre-independence years under the direction of nationalists, but the colonial Catholic Church quickly asserted its authority by stamping on any cultural development of that nation that clashed with its own colonial dogma, and so the stultifying influence of the Church ensured that the Irish nation developed itself as nothing more than clones of devout Catholics, having no identity outside of the identity that was imposed on them by their true oppressor. From stamping on Parnell to stamping on Joyce, this rotten institution has retarded the development of the Irish nation, turning it instead into a Catholic nation ruled by Rome.

  • AAlias

    I agree the Catholic church has held Ireland back, but it is not as one sided as you imply. A lot of the acceptance of Catholicism goes back to the Brits Protestantism. I am not blaming anyone, no one is to blame. It was just the reaction at the time.

  • Alias, well said.

  • Driftwood

    like the bit at the bottom showing the signing of the ‘confidentiality’ agreement.

  • anne warren

    Here is what I found out about Canon Law – a major player in all discussions about the Catholic Church and child abuse by clerics.

    What is Canon Law?
    “Canon law is necessary to maintain the ordered and peaceful life of the ecclesiastical community The principle of the salvation of souls distinguishes canon law from the secular law of the civil state. The secular order aims to establish a set of societal conditions that maximize the opportunity for material well-being and prosperity. Canon law, however, seeks to create the optimal conditions for salvation through the proclamation of conversion, forgiveness and penance”. THE CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE CRISIS AND THE SPIRIT OF CANON LAW Rev. John J. Coughlin, O.F.M.*

    When did child abuse become a crime?
    UK: 1889 The first act of parliament for the prevention of cruelty to children.
    1908 made sexual abuse within families a matter for state jurisdiction rather than intervention by the clergy
    Italy: 1934 First Juvenile Courts in Italy RD. 20/7/1934 n.1404

    USA Since 1962 47 US states have passed legislation to curb child abuse Child abuse reporting laws – some legislative history;=&page;=

    The Murphy Commission report: “There is a two thousand year history of Biblical, Papal and Holy See statements showing awareness of clerical child sexual abuse. Over the centuries, strong denunciation of clerical child sexual abuse came from Popes, Church councils and other Church sources…These denunciations are particularly strong on “offences against nature” and offences committed with or against juveniles”.
    Some examples:
    1517 Pope Leo X “Taxa Camerae” established pecuniary sanctions for guilty parties.
    1917 Code of Canon Law decreed deprivation of office and/or benefice, or expulsion from the clerical state for such offences”
    1962 Cardinal Ottaviani Crimen Sollicitationis A series of rules for dealing with clerical child abuse. Basically – it’s the Bishops’ job to cover it up and keep it secret. Why? Because the sin is committed by the priest with a child “cum impuberibus”. Priest and child were both sinners because both had fornicated.
    According to the Vatican website, each diocese should have an archive or “at least in the common archive a safe or cabinet, completely closed and locked, which cannot be removed; in it documents to be kept secret are to be protected most securely”.These contain “; documents relating to any matters the bishop considers secret”. Only the bishop has a key to the secret archive.. Child abuse scandal is war ‘between church and world’, says Italian bishop
    1983 Canon 1395 of the 1983 Codex Iuris Canonici establishes that sexual contact with a minor qualifies as one of four classifications of sexual offences for which a man may be permanently removed from the clerical state.

    May 1985 All USA bishops received a document known as “The handbook” written by Fr Michael Peterson, psychiatrist, and Fr Thomas Doyle, Dominican, expert in Canon law and Ray Moulton, lawyer , analyzing the problem of clerical paedophilia and its economic and moral consequences for the Catholic Church and providing directives for dealing with it. It was largely ignored.

    2001 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger promulgated De Delictis Gravioribus or Ad exsequandam, advocating the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith should directly handle all serious sins, including child abuse by clerics.
    February 2005 he was subpoened to appear before Harris County District Court (Texas, USA) accused of “obstructing the course of Justice” as the document facilated a cover-up of clerics involved in child abuse in the USA.
    19 April 2005 Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope. His lawyers pleaded diplomatic immunity and the Bush administration agreed to exonerate him from appearing in court. Pope Benedict also decided to give a job in Rome to Cardinal Bernard Law, who presided over terrible scandals in Boston and is wanted by a grand jury in the USA.
    2009 Archbishop Rembert G Weakland, who retired in 2002 after it became known that he paid $450,000 in 1998 to a man who had accused him of date rape years earlier and who has been accused of covering up widespread child rape by priests in Milwaukee, wrote in his memoir:
    “We all considered sexual abuse of minors as a moral evil, but had no understanding of its criminal nature.” Weakland said he initially “accepted naively the common view that it was not necessary to worry about the effects on the youngsters: either they would not remember or they would ‘grow out of it’.”