The Murphy Report, Chapter 19: The Worst Case Yet?

The 19th chapter of the Murphy Report on clerical abuse in the Dublin diocese was published today, more than a year after the release of the original report. The publication of chapter 19 was delayed because it concerned former priest Tony Walsh, who was facing legal proceedings.

Eleven days ago Walsh was sentenced to 16 years in jail, clearing the way for chapter 19 to be made available to the public. I had recently begun to wonder if people on this island could become desensitised to the scale and severity of clerical sexual abuse. But Chapter 19 makes for still more harrowing reading; to the point that the Murphy Commission describes Walsh as the “most notorious child sexual abuser” it encountered. That’s saying something.

People already had a sense of Walsh’s crimes due to extensive media coverage of the court proceedings, including a particularly disturbing depiction of his abuse written by Patsy McGarry in last week’s Irish Times.

Today’s Irish Times report summarising chapter 19 is a sordid litany of serial abuse, coupled with details of how church authorities and the Gardaí conspired to protect Walsh and thus neglected their duties to protect children. Even after Walsh got psychiatric help, which he clearly needed, he was not closely monitored and was able to abuse again.

It has been a difficult year for the Catholic Church. These difficulties have been of its own making and the inability of most church leaders to demonstrate convincing sorrow and shame about the sexual abuse scandals has not helped matters.

But some voices from within the Catholic Church, such as Fr Enda McDonagh, have attempted to provide guidance on how the church might move forward in terms of healing people within its own ranks. These have included a 12-step recovery programme for the Catholic Church, published in March in the Irish Times, and further reflections in his book, Theology in Winter Light.

McDonagh has argued that the specific details of the abuse, as outlined in the Murphy and Ryan reports, should be required reading for clergy in their daily devotions and incorporated as reflections into liturgies at the parish level. He thinks this could produce solidarity with the victims and survivors, leading to repentance (on the part of those who need to repent) and much-needed acknowledgement and affirmation for the survivors.

Similarly, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s response to chapter 19 is frank. He said,

Chapter 19 provides additional specific evidence to the already horrendous narrative of the Murphy report. It reports the tragic and shocking story of how a devious, predatory paedophile used the priesthood to gain access to young children and abuse them and how no-one stopped him for years.

Over the last few days I have read and re-read this chapter of the report. What struck me particularly was the way in which parents came forward with no sense of vindictiveness towards the church, simply asking that the abuse stop, decisively and definitively. They weren’t out to “get the church”, but the church they loved and respected failed them.

… Chapter 19 adds to the Murphy report but does not bring it to a complete conclusion. One more chapter remains incomplete. The report chronicles a frightening moment in the history of the church in Dublin. As I have said on other occasions, in many aspects the Church in Ireland had allowed itself to drift into a position where its role in society had grown beyond what is legitimate.   It acted as a world apart.  It had often become self-centred and arrogant.  It felt that it could be forgiving of abusers in a simplistic manner and rarely empathised with the hurt of children.

The first step on the road to renewal is for our Church to recognise what went wrong to honestly acknowledge with no “buts” and no conditionality the gravity and the extent of what happened.

I think McDonagh’s recommendations are sensible, even inspired, but I have not heard of many cases were they have been implemented. Nor do I see much evidence that the rest of the church is ready, along with Martin, to ‘acknowledge … the gravity and the extent of what happened.’

  • Alias

    “A single being focussing evil? That is the ego driven man who limits love by defining “I, me, mine” as good and everybody else as evil. That’s what God was saying about the Israelites in the Old Testament.”

    The Word, I admire Christian values and moral teaching for the most part, seeing them as a beneficial influence on people, but I don’t have the same regard for the theological aspects of religion. A bit like masturbation, it should be practiced only in the strictest secrecy. The Christian values that I have lesser regard for is the shifting of personal responsibility for wrongs done to others onto a higher power and the view that forgiveness is required from the higher power but not from those wrongs and not from those wronged. In contrast, the Jewish view is that only those wronged can forgive, and that the higher power cannot be used a proxy for those seeking redemption when troubled by a guilty conscience or expediency. If a Jewish person is asked for his forgiveness in good faith then he must give it. I find that more a satisfactory moral code since it forces reconciliation between wrongdoer/wronged and where no remorse or forgiveness is shown then the wrongdoer is not forgiven and not allowed into a position to do further wrong. I really don’t see how forgiving those who are not repentant is in any way a beneficial moral code or social practice. Jesus/Yeshua was an Israelite (one of the 12 tribes, Judah/Yehuda) and the bible, as others have pointed out, is mostly plagiarism.

  • Nunoftheabove

    I don’t understand this wishy washy morally vaccuous principle about forgiveness; ‘unforgiveable’ is a word that shouldn’t be used lightly but the concept does exist and certain acts and circumstances fit it. No-one has a right to be forgiven in all weathers and at all hazards or to have any reasonable expectation of acceptance of an apology.

    It’s yet another morally lame aspect of most mainstream religions and leads on from the contemptible parts regarding compulsory love of one’s enemies. Like so much of the taken-for-granted ‘motherhood and applie pie’ religious teaching many societies are still conditioned to – NI among them – it doesn’t survive collision with decent standards of human morality and conventional ethics.

  • pippakin

    How can there be forgiveness where there is no repentance? and in the case of both the Murphy and Ryan reports there is very little if any sign of repentance.

    The idea that a Catholic can go to confession to repent his sins and is forgiven is arrogant nonsense . It suggests the victim is of no importance or relevance.

  • joeCanuck

    And the Pope yet again, yesterday, shows that even he, like the Word, still doesn’t get it.

    All you need is love…

  • The Word

    Alias

    Christian morality, that is morality derived from Jesus Christ and his teachings, is a morality of the heart. It is very much based on individual responsibility, the individual being a social being, predisposed to love rather than hate. In the Christian way no limit can be put on love and therefore forgiveness, as an act of love, cannot be limited.

    You suggest the Jews have no role for God in dealing with sin and evil, but this is perfectly consistent with what I have been saying about the Old Testament – that their God is a man-made creation who, somehow mysteriously even perfectly swings towards the increasing justification of evil.

    Christianity is of God, deriving from natural empathy (but unlimited that) humankind have for each other by design in the process of sharing the burden of God-given pain and suffering in evolution, and therefore it will naturally see a role for God in forgiveness.

    Individual responsibility without God tends to be what people follow when they define their moral code as ordered by money. Christians can only be ordered by love.

  • The Word

    Nun

    “I don’t understand this wishy washy morally vaccuous principle about forgiveness; ”

    Maybe one day you’ll be glad to know that somebody does understand this expression of love for the sinner.

    Pip

    If there is no repentance there is not supposed to be any forgiveness in confession.

    I’ve heard he takes it all very badly, Joe.

  • pippakin

    The Word

    You do realise the criminal making the confession could have been confessing his sins to a paedophile.

    The main thing is its not the job of a man in a frock to forgive any sin on behalf of any victim. Not unless he is specifically instructed to do so by the victim.

  • Mark

    Pippakin ,

    Re your point about confession – very true and then to think people can be ” put in limbo ” or ” sent to purgatory ” ?

  • The Word

    Pip

    “criminal” – Yes, as in the sinner, as we are all sinners.

    Jesus said that it was the disciple’s duty to forgive sins and to retain sins if necessary. It may be seen as a formal expression of the duty of the Christian to forgive, as he is forgiven (by God’s representative and thus God). The intention is to remove sin from mankind by replacing the Old Testament approach based on “an eye for an eye” which, of course, makes sin spread more widely.

    Mark

    I don’t think anybody has ever been “put in limbo” or “sent to purgatory” after confession.

  • pippakin

    The Word

    “Jesus said that it was the disciple’s duty to forgive sins and to retain sins if necessary. It may be seen as a formal expression of the duty of the Christian to forgive, as he is forgiven (by God’s representative and thus God). The intention is to remove sin from mankind by replacing the Old Testament approach based on “an eye for an eye” which, of course, makes sin spread more widely.”

    Yeah,And if there is the slightest chance we could meet the likes of Walsh in the afterlife. I say we should save time and hang the bastard/s now,

  • Alias

    Not quite, The Word. It is that sins against G-d can only be forgiven by G-d, whereas transgressions against man can only be forgiven by man. In other words, if you insult your mother-in-law and your conscience is troubled by it, you can’t use G-d as a proxy for the forgiveness that you should seek from your mother-in-law. Your transgression is against her, not G-d. You must also make atonement and be genuinely remorseful; and if you are, and she’s a good Jewish mother-in-law (mine’s a Catholic, alas) then she must forgive you. Christians, on the other hand, don’t have any dynamic that compels them to seek reconciliation through repentance and forgiveness with those they have wronged since can be delivered more conveniently through a third party, thereby eliminating the need to humble one’s self before the wronged party. Also, the wronged party Is encouraged to forgive the wrongdoer without repentance, so that simply leaves the unapologetic blackguard in a position to do further wrong. That’s why Jewish marriages and other social relationships tend to last longer. 😉

  • joeCanuck

    Focus folks.
    Otherwise the Devil’s minion may succeed in his mission to divert the thread from the discussion of terrible crimes unto hocus pocus stuff.

  • andnowwhat

    Far too often, forgiveness is the only power a victimn has.

    No amount of gaol time or financial compensation can take the tiniest bit of what happened away.

    A paedophile takes a living life. Forgiveness gives back that life in a way that retribution never can.

  • Nunoftheabove

    The Word

    Why would it be the intention to remove sin from mankind, sure didn’t God invent the concept of sin and give mankind the capacity for it (in your head) ? Do you actually enjoy imagining that you’re a lucky bag joke, a mere plaything, an inconsequential worm in the eyes of someone/something who/which you’re commanded to love, perpetually grovel to, praise into eternity and are at the same time compelled to fear ?

    The christian position on sin – and the forgiveness for it – is, in human terms, utterly immoral. And not in the least relevant to this thread and in particular to your continuing unwillingness to feel any sympathy for the victims of these rapist priests and to have every conceivable brotherly love and understanding for the verminous perpetrators.

  • pippakin

    andnowwhat

    Forgiveness is good but revenge is better. I say hang the bastard – and then forgive him.

  • andnowwhat

    So the paedophile is relieved of guilt and the victim is left stiill assaulted Pip?

    Maybe that is what victims do want. It is not for me to say

  • Alias

    Joe, a lot of that hocus-pocus forms the basis for this thread. For example, many of the parents of the children abused by Walsh were led by the Church to forgive the abuser, thereby allowing him to remain in a position to abuse other children. Had they instead secular held the view that a crime was committed and that only the state could deliver justice for the victim of it then Walsh would not have been in a position to abuse other children. Likewise, he would not have been in a position to abuse other children if the Catholic Church was not guided by its own warped teaching on morality.

  • Alias

    Typo: “Had they instead held the secular view…”

  • The Word

    Pip

    Someone once said that “Judge not, lest you be judged.”

    Alias

    All sin is against God.

    Jesus said that you must forgive your brother, not seven times, but 77 times, if he repents each time. Repentance and reconciliation is central to Christianity. Love your enemies – is intended to expand love to all. Confession deals with your relationship with God, who in the Christian tradition is not the Almighty, but your “brother, sister, and mother(-in-law)”.

    Again I suggest that your model is ordered without God, or of a meaningful model there of. I think your model is heavily influenced by notions of “civility” and “formality” which in themselves are ordered through outward expressions of love done to please man and not God.

    Love in this manner tends to be limited and then reverts to the Old Testament position that we are good but everybody else is evil. We have it right, as you suggest, but everybody else is getting it wrong. You’re saying that we’re suppressing evil but Christians are letting it grow.

    That position is in your explanation based on the notion that God or love can be limited. Jesus said effectively said that all men are good. Love is the natural in-between for social beings. He may have made the odd provocative remark about the Jews of his time, “you belong to your father, the devil”, but only for effect when they were denying his truth.

    I admire the Jewish family centred religion. In many ways the Catholic tradition is like it. Especially the Irish Catholic tradition which shows much lower levels of divorce than other countries because of the emphasis on family. I don’t know if Israeli levels of divorce are lower but I would attribute the low numbers of Jews in countries and their tendency to marry in to the longer relationships.

    Of course, the issue of empathy being ordered through suffering, particularly psychological suffering, would suggest that the Irish, through historic oppression, has much in common with the Jews of Jesus’ time. Higher levels of empathy than normal.

  • pippakin

    andnowwhat

    An abused child does not recover because he/she forgives, they remain wounded, sometimes for the rest of their lives.

    Forgiveness can be another weapon: if the victim does not forgive they are made to feel guilty. It becomes their ‘duty’ to show gods love and forgive their abuser. No, they are entitled to know that the pervert will not be able to hurt anyone else.

    I understand the concept of forgiveness giving the abused the power of release but I don’t think it works that way very often.

  • The Word

    Alias

    “Likewise, he would not have been in a position to abuse other children if the Catholic Church was not guided by its own warped teaching on morality.”

    Of course, the morality has a blind spot for this evil, trying to reason it away, unlike your secular views, which define all men as potentially evil, and therefore essentially evil, (except us, of course). Justice is an eye for an eye and that just makes the world more evil.

    But the dogma tends to serve man, and not God, in that it allowed the Israelites to carry out genocides in the name of God, convenient for us “good” men, and then a man came along and told the Jews that the logic could be used against them. This tends to be all man’s logic rather than God’s purpose which is for us to continuously expand love so that no person or people is exempted.

    I maintain that this man was ill and he manipulated others to cover for his abuse. The Church hierarchy were found wanting because they confused the lawful Old Testament version of man with the empathetic New Testament version of man, because they confuse the meaning of the Bible in their desire to see themselves as the successors to the Jews rather than the departure from Judaism.

  • joeCanuck

    Alias,

    Fair point about the hocus pocus but the fact is that this character (troll?) is trying diversionary tactics. He continues to let the mask slip occasionally like in his 10:32 comment where he tries to blame others lack of morality for these terrible crimes and maintains that Walsh was ill and needed us to love him. Then he would have stopped. Makes me want to curse and swear.

  • andnowwhat

    Pippa, I always recall a paedophile in NI who was not wanted, for obvious reasons, in the area that the justice system returned him to.

    The man himself wanted to go back to gaol saying that he knew he would re-offend. I am sure there are many on here that remember the case.

    Whether prison or somewhere else is the right place for them, I do not know. I am not intelligent enough to know.

    I went out with a clinical psychologist and heard her discussing the issue with her colleagues. It seemed that nothing was as black and white as we may wish.

    Ihave to say, I am with the movie director Johnathan Waters when he condemns the institution that protected paedophies more than the paedophiles themselves.

  • pippakin

    andnowwhat

    Macabre humour (mine) aside I completely agree. In many cases possibly even Walsh, the abuser was himself abused as a child. I don’t know what the answer is I do know the RCC is not it. Ryan and Murphy prove that.

  • The Word

    No, Joe, I say that if the Church was totally focussed on New Testament love it would never have accepted the bona fides of this man. He would never have been a priest.

    Alias is saying we should allow all men to be judged by the law and the law will sort everything out. As is patently the case in this case, the law sorts things out long after the evil has been done, and is thus a nonsense. It stopped nothing.

    In fairness to the Catholic Church, no other major Church has made any real headway in the empathetic stakes, which is difficult to do in our societies with the weight of legal infrastructure defining an eye for an eye as the way.

  • joeCanuck

    Eamonn Mallie tweeted “Does the Pope take us for fools?”
    Unfortunately, Eamonn, the answer is yes. And that makes him the biggest fool of all.

  • Nunoftheabove

    joeCanuck

    Oh come come – that nice elderly man ? Surely not….

    Re. the Brendan Smyth case, can someone explain to me why – as far as I’m aware – Sean Brady hasn’t yet been arrested and questioned (in two states, for that matter) in relation to:

    (i) witholding evidence; and/or

    (ii) obstructing – and/or perverting the course of – justice over a long period of years ?

  • pippakin

    The Word

    You remind me of someone who commented here not so long ago. Its not important everyone is entitled to their opinion and to their alias but I do wonder.

  • Nunoftheabove

    The Word

    “…secular views, which define all men as potentially evil, and therefore essentially evil, (except us, of course)”.

    This is just more mindless piffle and you know it – scarecly a word of truth or sense in that. Christianity, let’s also bear in mind, labels human beings guilty of original sin literally from the moment of their birth. Always in shame, always groveling for apology from the celestial father/son/mother, always sorry, always wrong, never quite able to cleanse that awful wrong from their conscience. What a cruel principle. What a cheap, tatty immoral code you subscribe to – you’re a confidence trickster’s dream is what you are.

    All human beings do have the capacity for wrong-doing, I just simply do not see how that’s even arguable whether you’re a person of faith or not. Religion invents pretexts for and definitions of wrong-doing that are as malevolent as they are ridiculous and should at the very best be humored by decent societies, they certainly shouldn’t be tolerated as representing a humanist code of ethics or form the basis of any legal platform in and of themselves – to the contrary.

    Legal or constitutional deference to sinister superstitions and a massively authoritarian and arrogant insistence on interference in public life and in particular in the lives of innocent children (and on the taxpayer’s dollar, mind) is however something up with which commonsense non-believers of average morality will not put. Get used to it.

  • The Word

    Nun

    You’ll find that the basis of Christianity (New Testament) is to lift the burden of anxiety, guilt, mortality and so on. Every part of it from baptism is designed to confirm that man is one, the good creation of a good God. You’re confusing this with the Old Testament, the secular view, if you like, that defines by implication man’s nature as essentially evil, by seeing things through the “us and them” moral lens of the Israelites. It says “we’re good, everybody else is evil” and that is why we’re allowed to commit genocides et al.

    Hitler proved that morality to be nonsense. In any case, it’s still quite prevalent in our criminal justice system, and you may appreciate the kind of anxiety the notion that such rules apply cause for people. Many of our people live in fear these days despite the existence of massive infrastructure to deal with crime.

    Delegating responsibility for crime to the state has undermined the individual responsibility to be good by seeing good in all people and created a new class of “evil” people for us to judge, convict and imprison. And again the notion grows from this assertion that man is essentially evil because once you conceed the view that one man is evil, then soon all are evil (except I, me, mine, who can judge others all he likes).

    Me, using an alias? By the way, where is Alias? Gone to get Mossad, no doubt?

  • pippakin

    The Word

    “Me, using an alias? By the way, where is Alias? Gone to get Mossad, no doubt?”

    Believe it or not that was pure, unfortunate fluke. I couldn’t remember how to spell pseudonym. I was having trouble with my b/b and it was not on my spell check (trust me it is now!) so I used ‘alias’ instead.

  • joeCanuck

    There cannot be much doubt about who will be the front runner for this year’s Gobbledygook Champion User New Testament category.
    Might even be an igNobel nomination.

  • The Word

    Shuks, thanks, Joe.