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 Garrets 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.
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