Thursday, November 26, 2009

In Dublin, a "Perversion of Power"

It might be Thanksgiving here in the States, but in Ireland, this Thursday's mood is one of stunned, furious sadness.

After a three-year state inquiry, today saw the release of the Murphy Report into clergy sex-abuse in the archdiocese of Dublin, which implicated the city's four previous archbishops in its conclusion that "no doubt" could be had over the presence of a decades-long cover-up of abusive clergy coupled with the mistreatment of survivors -- a state of affairs in which both the government and the police were complicit, and for which both quickly apologized this afternoon.

The nearly 700-page report's available in several parts... for summary purposes, though, let the lede on the national wire suffice:
The Catholic hierarchy in Ireland was granted immunity to cover up child sex abuse among paedophile priests in Dublin, a damning report has revealed.

Authorities enjoyed a cosy relationship with the Church and did not enforce the law as four archbishops, obsessed with secrecy and avoiding scandal, protected abusers and reputations at all costs.

Hundreds of crimes against defenceless children from the 1960s to the 1990s were not reported while gardai treated clergy as though they were above the law.

In a three-year inquiry, the Commission to Inquire into the Dublin Archdiocese uncovered a sickening tactic of "don't ask, don't tell" throughout the Church.

"The Commission has no doubt that clerical child sexual abuse was covered up by the Archdiocese of Dublin and other Church authorities," it said. "The structures and rules of the Catholic Church facilitated that cover-up. The State authorities facilitated that cover-up by not fulfilling their responsibilities to ensure that the law was applied equally to all and allowing the Church institutions to be beyond the reach of the normal law enforcement processes."
Meanwhile, at the start of an intense press conference full of heated questions and outraged questioners, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin made a statement, here snipped below:
It is difficult to find words to describe how I feel today. As Archbishop of a Diocese for which I have pastoral responsibility, of my own native diocese, of the diocese for which I was ordained a priest, of a Diocese which I love and hope to serve to the best of my ability, what can I say when I have to share with you the revolting story of the sexual assault and rape of so many young children and teenagers by priests of the Archdiocese or who ministered in the diocese? No words of apology will ever be sufficient....

The Report of the Commission gives us some insight into the crimes that took place. But no report can give an indication of the suffering and trauma endured by the children, and indeed the suffering also of their family members.

Many survivors have not yet been able to speak about abuse they experienced. For them the publication of the Report must be truly traumatic. I urge them to turn to some trusted friend, to a counsellor or counselling service of their choice, to the health services, to the Gardai [police] or if they so wish to the Diocesan Child Protection Service....

The sexual abuse of a child is and always was a crime in civil law; it is and always was a crime canon law; it is and always was grievously sinful.

One of the most heartbreaking aspects of the Report is that while Church leaders – Bishops and religious superiors - failed, almost every parent who came to the diocese to report abuse clearly understood the awfulness of what has involved. Almost exclusively their primary motivation was to try to ensure that what happened to their child, or in some case to themselves, did not happen to other children. Their motivation was not about money or revenge; it was quite simply about that most basic human sense of right and wrong and that basic Christian motivation of concern for others. The survivors of abuse who courageously remained determined to have the full truth heard by all deserve our recognition and admiration....

How did those with responsibility dramatically misread the risk that a priest who had hurt one of those whom Jesus calls “the little ones” might go on to abuse another child if decisive action was not taken? Excuses, denials and minimisations were taken from priest abusers who were at the least in denial, at worst devious in multiple ways, and decisions were taken which resulted in more children being abused. Efforts made to “protect the Church” and to “avoid scandal” have had the ironic result of bringing this horrendous scandal on the Church today.

The damage done to children abused by priests can never be undone. As Archbishop of Dublin and as Diarmuid Martin I offer to each and every survivor, my apology, my sorrow and my shame for what happened to them. I am aware however that no words of apology will ever be sufficient.

The fact that the abusers were priests constituted both and offence to God and affront to the priesthood. The many good priests of the Archdiocese share my sense of shame. I ask you to support and encourage us in our ministry at what is a difficult time. I know also that many others, especially parents, feel shocked and betrayed at what has been revealed. I hope that all of us - bishops, priests and lay persons - working together can rebuild trust by ensuring that day after day the Church in the Archdiocese of Dublin becomes a safer environment for children....

The hurt done to a child through sexual abuse is horrific. Betrayal of trust is compounded by the theft of self esteem. The horror can last a lifetime. Today, it must be unequivocally recalled that the Archdiocese of Dublin failed to recognise the theft of childhood which survivors endured and the diocese failed in its responses to them when they had the courage to come forward, compounding the damage done to their innocence.

For that no words of apology will ever be sufficient.
A statement of regret likewise came from Cardinal Desmond Connell, Dublin's top prelate from 1990-2004.

The last of the archbishops implicated in the cover-up, the 83 year-old cardinal took his successor to court early last year in an attempt to keep privileged documents from being handed over to the inquiry, defying Martin's policy of transparency on the part of Archbishop's House (the Dublin curia).

After a two-week drubbing in the papers which only did further damage to perceptions of the church's response, Connell dropped his complaint, and the 5,000 files were released.

Two decades after the first revelations of abuse began shaking Irish Catholicism to its foundations, today's release is the third devastating chronicle of its failures to drop just this year: May's Ryan Report detailed similar patterns of misconduct by religious communities in their operation of the country's residential schools, and January's Cloyne Report led to the effective removal of Bishop John Magee, a former private secretary to three Popes.

SVILUPPO: The Isle's Cardinal-Primate -- Sean Brady of Armagh, likewise the president of the Irish bishops -- reacted in a similar vein:
I am shocked and ashamed by the abuse of children described in the Report of the Commission of Investigation into the sexual abuse of children by priests in the Archdiocese of Dublin, published today.

I want to apologise to all those who have been hurt and their families.

I also want to apologise to all the people of Ireland that this abuse was covered up and that the reputation of the Church was put before the safety and well-being of children.

I am deeply sorry and I am ashamed.
PHOTO: "Papal Cross," Phoenix Park, Dublin/AP(1); Reuters(2)