Friday, February 26, 2010
For those of you following this story, the commentary in this week's The Tablet is worth a read. Available in full here. An excerpt:
Too little, too late, again
Irish abuse scandal
The Irish hierarchy’s meeting with Pope Benedict last week raised huge expectations in Ireland. But the outcome has done nothing to calm the anger felt by many towards the Church following the publication of the Murphy Report on abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin
Exactly what was discussed at the two-day meeting between the Pope and Vatican officials and the Irish bishops is not clear. What we do know is that its immediate aftermath turned into a PR disaster of considerable proportions.
The disaster began with the lunch-time publication on Tuesday last week of a statement summarising some of what was discussed at the meeting. It described how the meeting discussed “the serious situation which has emerged in the Church in Ireland” and “the failure of Irish church authorities for many years to act effectively in dealing with cases involving the sexual abuse of young people by some Irish clergy and Religious”.
It spoke, correctly, of the “thousands of trained and dedicated lay volunteers at parish level” who help to implement the Church’s now robust child protection policy. It urged the bishops to “face the present crisis with honesty and courage”. But the victims, and the assembled Irish media, were not to be placated. For example, the statement was attacked as “a cynical exercise” by a prominent abuse victim, Colm O’Gorman, now head of Amnesty International Ireland.
It was condemned because it contained no word of apology from the Pope himself, no acknowledgement of a “cover-up”, and no forced resignations of further Irish bishops. By mid-afternoon, when Cardinal Sean Brady headed a press conference in Rome organised by the Irish bishops, the media narrative was already set in stone. The victims were angry, they felt betrayed, the Church had let them down, yet again. The questions from the assembled Irish journalists reflected this mood. . . .
Perhaps this shows that the Vatican was still underestimating the extent of public anger in Ireland. It could hardly be under-estimating it now. The mood is so bad that it is now common to find calls in Irish newspapers, and on the airwaves, for the Government to sever diplomatic ties with the Holy See, and not only because of the scandals, but also, for example, because the Vatican is “misogynistic”, in its ban on women priests.
The Vatican has been described by respected commentators as a “foreign dictatorship”. Another commentator in all seriousness called on the Government to establish a panel that will oversee the appointment of bishops. Even the kissing of the papal ring by the bishops when they are greeted by the Pope has been viewed negatively, much as an old-style Irish nationalist might view bowing to the Queen of England. In fact, it might be said that in Ireland “Church-bashing” has become the new “Brit-bashing”. . . .