Friday, July 22, 2011

For "Catholic Ireland," Does Enda = "The End"?

Even if the domestic press has largely spent the last few days parsing the church-state perspective of the latest high-profile appointee on these shores, as the Catholic presence in the public square goes, this week's dominant Anglophone development has instead come from Ireland, where last week's publication of a fourth civil inquiry on the church's handling of abuse cases has pushed public fury to a new boiling point.

In the wake of the three-year inquest into the diocese of Cloyne -- which found the Irish bishops' own protocols for reporting allegations and the treatment of survivors neglected as late as 2009 -- early hopes for a papal visit to coincide with next June's International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin have reportedly been derailed, a prominent ad intra call has been made for the resignation of all still-active Irish bishops named before 2003, and legislation has been proposed that would see priests prosecuted for failing to report crimes they learned in the confessional, irrespective of the obligation of the sacramental seal.

As Benedict XVI himself said in his 2010 Letter to the Isle's church, the decades-long scandals "have obscured the light of the Gospel to a degree that not even centuries of persecution succeeded in doing" in a place once widely seen as the global church's staunchest daughter and -- in terms of the missionaries it exported -- the faith's most fruitful of outposts.

Along those lines, the picture at top shows the father of modern Ireland, Eamon de Valera -- in his time both the country's Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and President -- paying the customary obeisance of an earlier era to the then-archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid. Yet in the latest blow to the long tradition of reflexive public deference, Wednesday's response to Cloyne in the Dáil (Parliament) by the current Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, has quickly come to be viewed as a signal tear in the deteriorating link between the church and the Irish state -- a bond historically held as so inviolate that it was enshrined in the Republic's first constitution.

Either hailed for his fiery candor or viewed as an exemplar of "overheated" and "almost complete hysteria," Kenny's "unprecedented attack" included the following (quoted as written)....
It's fair to say that after the Ryan and Murphy Reports Ireland is, perhaps, unshockable when it comes to the abuse of children.

But Cloyne has proved to be of a different order.

Because for the first time in Ireland, a report into child sexual-abuse exposes an attempt by the Holy See, to frustrate an Inquiry in a sovereign, democratic little as three years ago, not three decades ago.

And in doing so, the Cloyne Report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism....the narcissism .......that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day.
The rape and torture of children were downplayed or 'managed' to uphold instead, the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and 'reputation'.
Far from listening to evidence of humiliation and betrayal with St Benedict's "ear of the heart"......the Vatican's reaction was to parse and analyse it with the gimlet eye of a canon lawyer.

This calculated, withering position being the polar opposite of the radicalism, humility and compassion upon which the Roman Church was founded.
The radicalism, humility and compassion which are the very essence of its foundation and purpose.
The behaviour being a case of Roma locuta est: causa finita est.
Except in this instance, nothing could be further from the truth.

Cloyne's revelations are heart-breaking. It describes how many victims continued to live in the small towns and parishes in which they were reared and in which they were abused... Their abuser often still in the area and still held in high regard by their families and the community. The abusers continued to officiate at family weddings and funerals... In one case, the abuser even officiated at the victim's own wedding...
There is little I or anyone else in this House can say to comfort that victim or others, however much we want to. But we can and do recognise the bravery of all of the victims who told their stories to the Commission.
While it will take a long time for Cloyne to recover from the horrors uncovered, it could take the victims and their families a lifetime to pick up the pieces of their shattered existence....

I believe that the Irish people, including the very many faithful Catholics who - like me - have been shocked and dismayed by the repeated failings of Church authorities to face up to what is required, deserve and require confirmation from the Vatican that they do accept, endorse and require compliance by all Church authorities here with, the obligations to report all cases of suspected abuse, whether current or historical, to the State's authorities in line with the Children First National Guidance which will have the force of law.

Clericalism has rendered some of Ireland's brightest, most privileged and powerful men, either unwilling or unable to address the horrors cited in the Ryan and Murphy Reports.
This Roman Clericalism must be devastating for good priests.... some of them old... others struggling to keep their humanity....even their they work so be the keepers of the Church's light and goodness within their parishes...... communities... the human heart.

But thankfully for them, and for us, this is not Rome.
Nor is it industrial-school or Magdalene Ireland, where the swish of a soutane smothered conscience and humanity and the swing of a thurible ruled the Irish-Catholic world.
This is the 'Republic' of Ireland 2011.
A Republic of laws.....of rights and responsibilities....of proper civic order..... where the delinquency and arrogance of a particular version..... of a particular kind of 'morality'..... will no longer be tolerated or ignored.
As a practising Catholic, I don't say any of this easily.
Growing up, many of us in here learned we were part of a pilgrim Church.
Today, that Church needs to be a penitent Church.
A church, truly and deeply penitent for the horrors it perpetrated, hid and denied.
In the name of God. But for the good of the institution.
When I say that through our legislation..... through our Government's action to put Children First.......those who have been abused can take some small comfort in knowing that they belong to a a democracy......where.... humanity......power...rights...... responsibility..... are enshrined and enacted .....always....always.... for their good.
Where the law - their law - as citizens of this country, will always supercede canon laws that have neither legitimacy nor place in the affairs of this country.

This report tells us a tale of a frankly brazen disregard for protecting children. If we do not respond swiftly and appropriately as a State, we will have to prepare ourselves for more reports like this.
For purposes of context, remember well that this is the country where, by law, the pubs are closed on Good Friday, the state broadcaster traces its establishment to a Eucharistic Congress, and the national evening news doesn't begin until "Six-One" -- 6.01 -- as the Angelus still runs over the RTE's radio and TV airwaves at the top of the hour.

For his part, having voiced "anger" as his dominant reaction to the findings of the same commission that previously investigated the capital church he leads, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin took to the airwaves following Kenny's speech to say he was "impressed" by the Taoiseach's "emotion," and -- given the Holy See's 2001 instruction on abuse cases -- to ask rhetorically how the "cabal" of Cloyne's diocesan leadership could "still refuse to recognize the norms of the church."

At the same time, Martin chided Kenny for ignoring the failure of the civil authorities to exercise due oversight in prior times by their permissiveness for the church to handle the complaints internally.

The Cloyne revelations have come as a particular drubbing for the Cork diocese's now-retired head, Bishop John Magee. A former private secretary to Popes Paul VI, John Paul I and II, the 74 year-old prelate was stripped of his authority by Rome in 2009, remaining in office in name only until his resignation last year.

Found by the inquiry to have engaged in improper conduct toward a young man discerning a vocation to the priesthood, Magee has been in an undisclosed location since before the report's release.