Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Clericalism as Culprit: At First Irish Outing, Rome's Visitor Gets an Earful

Following up on the earlier update on the now-underway Apostolic Visitation to Ireland, earlier tonight saw the first public dialogue between a member of the Vatican-appointed investigation team and a local church when the retired archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, held the initial "town meeting" of four planned for this week in the Isle's primatial see, whose roots date to St Patrick, himself.

Unlike the bulk of the Visitors' information-gathering -- which was envisioned to take place one-on-one -- the session was open to the press... and according to an Irish Times brief, the roughly 100 attendees were ready to rip:
PROBLEMS “of arrogance, or power and feelings of superiority’’ of priests, the ‘’architecture of hierarchy’’ in Irish society and “the disenfranchisement of women’’ were among explanations offered by speakers in Drogheda for the clerical child sex abuse problem in Ireland and elsewhere in the Catholic Church.

In approximately 70 minutes, 12 people spoke briefly in an atmosphere which was always frank and open, occasionally robust but never hostile.

One woman suggested that “the Pope should stand down as an act of atonement to those who were abused’’ while a man pleaded on behalf of priests who no longer can “engage in any meaningful way with children”. “My son’s godfather is a priest. He can’t even take him to the pictures,’’ he said....

The cardinal [and his team] addressed the meeting briefly at the beginning. As summarised by Msgr O’Toole, they were there to listen and garner “what was there in the past in the church in Ireland that allowed this abuse scandal”.

Acting as MC he said the visitors also wished to determine whether safeguarding practises which currently apply were “robust enough”, what people’s hopes for the future of the church were, and what were their expectations of the visitation.

Of the 12 speakers, three were women and three of the 12 chose to give their names.

Pat Clinton insisted on the importance of the visitation taking on board academic studies, such as one undertaken at Stanford University, on the uses of authority and how this could lead to ‘’the engineering of a false consensus’’ that allowed Nazi officers to listen to classical music after a day’s work in a concentration camps.

Michael Hickey said that one common thing the last 10 years in Ireland had illustrated was that “the archtiecture of hierarchy was unfit for purpose right across the board”.
In a letter to the Armagh church before embarking on the tour, Murphy-O'Connor -- named a member of the Congregation for Bishops after his 2009 retirement -- revealed that, "conscious that some individuals may find it difficult to meet with me or another cleric," a laywoman psychiatrist would be among the members of his Visitation team, alongside the rector of Westminster's Allan Hall Seminary, Msgr Mark O'Toole.

PHOTO: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times