The Ryan Report and Irish Catholicism One Year On

image In the recently published book, The Dublin/Murphy Report: A Watershed for Irish Catholicism? (Columba Press, 2010), Fr Enda McDonagh writes (p. 113):

‘Given the spate of commentary on and of proposals for Church reform which have followed the Ryan and Murphy Reports of 2009, there is bound to be little new to say or to write. Indeed, the time for saying and writing is long past. Now is the time for doing.’

So what has been done?

Today at the Aislinn Education and Support Centre in Dublin, eight child protection groups marked the one year anniversary of the Ryan Report. They believe there has been a lack of action on the part of church and state. They said that the recommendations of the Ryan Report have not been implemented (the Government has an implementation plan with 99 action points), and that there should be a referendum on children’s rights.

Christine Buckley of Aislinn told the Irish Times,

“There is no point spending million on a report or having an inquiry if you do not take positive steps to make sure that these atrocities are not repeated.”

For their part, church and state can point to some positive steps, such as Monday’s report of the National Board for Safeguarding Children (NBSC), which found significant improvements in child protection measures across most of Ireland’s dioceses.

Cardinal Sean Brady, while defending his decision to stay in office, said that he had requested the appointment of another bishop to engage with abuse survivors, and to promote healing and reconciliation.

Still, there is a widespread perception of an unresponsive church bureaucracy that is not handling the crisis well. The announcement, coming today, that the Irish Catholic Church is demanding €2 million in fees from Catholic primary schools is just another example of what can be perceived as insensitivity, arrogance, and a failure in responsibility to pick up the bill for the cost of the abuse scandals.

And as the BBC’s William Crawley points out, the request for another bishop to deal with victims flies in the face of the more collegial and lay-orientated vision of church promoted by Vatican II.

In contrast to the idea of appointing yet another bishop, McDonagh, in the same chapter in the Watershed book, says,

‘For almost twenty years now a national consultative assembly has been promoted by at least one bishop and a range of priests, as well as by theologians and lay members for the Irish Catholic Church, in response to the growing crisis. If it had been acted on years ago, as it might, the crisis would not have escalated to its present proportions.

No point in lamenting but there is point in learning that only the involvement of the whole believing and baptised community will help now. Such involvement will demand conversion of mind and heart, of relationship and activity in all Church circles.

As a Christian who does not belong to the Catholic Church, I am very much on the outside looking in.

But it seems to me that victims, survivors and many lay Catholics continue to feel that their pain and their concerns have not even been adequately acknowledged, let alone addressed.

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