Cardinal Sean Brady, and the Irish Catholic Church, have claimed that it is ‘not fair to judge him by the child protection standards of today.’
Amid the cries that Brady should resign, the Irish Catholic Church has issued a statement ‘clarifying’ his role in the sex abuse case in which he was involved in asking two young boys to sign oaths of secrecy.
A BBC report summarises the latest statement:
The church said that at the end of both interviews, the boys were "asked to confirm by oath the truthfulness of their statements and that they would preserve the confidentiality of the interview process."
The statement said the intention of the confidentiality oath was "to avoid potential collusion in the gathering of the inquiry’s evidence" and to ensure that the process was "robust enough to withstand challenge by the perpetrator, Fr Brendan Smyth".
The statement said that a week later Fr Brady passed his findings to Bishop McKiernan and in turn the bishop reported the findings to the local head of Fr Smyth’s religious order, the Norbertines.
I don’t think that appealing to people’s sense of fairness is going to win Brady or the Irish Catholic Church much sympathy.
Was it ‘fair’ for children to be treated as they were? Is it ‘fair’ that the Irish Catholic Church continues to put its own institutional interests before those of the victims of clerical sex abuse?
On his blog, BBC presenter William Crawley says that 80 per cent of the text messages the BBC received yesterday during Talk Balk’s discussion about Cardinal Brady were hostile.
In today’s Irish Times, Patsy McGarry’s commentary is headlined: ‘Church in Ireland sinking as rot goes right to the top.’
McGarry’s analysis is harsh and incisive:
But whether Cardinal Brady resigns or does not is really a moot point. Similarly with the resignations, offered or otherwise, of bishops Moriarty, Walsh, Field, Drennan or Murray. It doesn’t matter anymore. It is too late.
The Catholic Church in Ireland, as we have known it, is seriously damaged and probably beyond repair. It is sinking and sinking fast. And, as indicated from recent revelations on the European continent, the Irish Catholic Church may have company on that journey down.
And what seems to be missing in this process of decline and fall is any awareness of the truly great damage all of this is doing to Christianity itself, whether in Ireland and abroad.
Like McGarry, I am amazed that the leadership of the church continues to seem so oblivious to the damage that it is doing to Christianity – whether that’s Christianity in the form of the young Christian victims, the Christians who are currently struggling to come to terms with what their church has done, or the Church institutions themselves … from which many people are simply walking away.
Yesterday, in a comment on an earlier post on my blog, Tim Moore, wrote:
Many people have made up their mind about the Catholic Church. Whether it’s active rejection of the Church altogether, a defensive position, or a demand for change in the Church, new stories and comment in the media now have less power to inform people’s views, be it strengthening resolve or changing minds, because the Catholic Church has so far managed to avoid further major action resulting in change. Resignations of various figures have yet to show that the church has visibly removed its clericalist “culture of secrecy”.
As Moore rightly observes, the Irish Catholic Church’s endless reams of statements, expressions of condemnation, and promises of repentance mean little if most people think that the Irish Catholic Church hasn’t changed.
McGarry also notes that the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has been curiously silent since Christmas. Archbishop Martin is one of the few men in a position of high clerical authority in Ireland who still has some measure of moral authority because of his previous statements on abuse.
McGarry speculates that Archbishop Martin has been deliberately sidelined and says,
He must rediscover his mojo. Otherwise the Irish Catholic Church has no future.
I don’t agree that the future of Irish Catholic Christianity hinges on one man. I think there are plenty of lay Catholics and good priests out there with a vital, active faith, who love Jesus, and who believe with all their hearts that the justice that is at the centre of the Christian message will ultimately win the day.
With or without one particular man’s leadership, those Catholics can shape the future of their church.
But with each passing day, the leaders of the Irish Catholic Church lose a little bit more of their flock’s respect.
By the time the Pope gets around to writing his pastoral letter to the Catholics of Ireland, will there be anyone left to read it?