A Catholic bishop this week said the Catholic Church had probably gone too far in its apologies but is in a better place now for the abuse scandals which destroyed so many lives.
Bishop Kevin Doran, who was appointed to the diocese of Elphin two years ago, gave an interview to the Irish Independent which was staggeringly tone-deaf and frankly breath-taking in its self-pity and self-regard.
He said: ”In the past, there was an overbearing influence on the part of the institution of the Church on society and perhaps in recent years we have tended to apologise too much for that and we’ve gone the other way.
“The whole child abuse controversies have been very painful for the Church. We are in a much better position now with safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults.”
Wouldn’t your heart go out to them all the same? Very painful for the Church. Presumably there is – buried somewhere under the Bishop’s sad Miserere for poor old Mother Church – an unspoken acknowledgement of the generations of children raped and maimed by agents of a Church which was only too happy to facilitate and cover up those crimes.
But anyway, let’s get back to the real victim here. The Catholic Church.
“The Church is probably now one of the safest places in society for children, because there is no way now that a child will be on their own with an adult,” said Bishop Doran.
“The hardest thing for us in some ways was to avoid backing off; maybe it affects some priests more than others, where some priests feel that the only way they can feel really safe themselves is to have nothing to do with children.”
Personally, I think that if a priest doesn’t feel safe around children, I for one would be delighted if they could be moved a suitable distance away from children. Off-planet, preferably. But then, what do I know? I’ve never raped anyone or worked for an organisation which for decades turned a blind eye – and that’s putting the kindest complexion on it – to institutionalised rape on what was a global scale.
I would, however, question Bishop Doran’s statement about the Church being so safe nowadays for children. Perhaps Bishop Doran – though himself a new enough bishop – is not aware that the Vatican is still advising its newly-appointed bishops that it is “not necessarily” their duty to report allegations of abuse to the local authorities.
The Vatican’s training document for new bishops does stress the need for bishops to be aware of “the state of civil laws of each country where reporting is obligatory” but says “it is not necessarily the duty of the bishop to report suspects to authorities, the police or state prosecutors.” Rather, a bishop’s only duty is to address abuse allegations internally. Because a bishop’s only obligation is to his Church. Not to vulnerable children, not to the laws of the land and certainly not to basic human morality.
They just don’t get it. After all the revelations, the Catholic Church still doesn’t get it. And if they don’t now, I think it’s fair to say they never will.
It’s been five years since the Cloyne Report. It was explosive and the newly-elected Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, gave a speech which excoriated the Church.
“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 republic… as 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 (was) 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…”
It was, I think, Kenny’s finest hour and to those with an ear to history, a timely rejoinder to Fine Gael Taoiseach John A. Costello’s 1951 declaration “I am an Irishman second, I am a Catholic first, and I accept without qualification in all respects the teaching of the hierarchy and the church to which I belong”.
Ireland’s most militantly conservative Catholics pretend the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act – which legislated reluctantly for the X case – was Enda Kenny’s greatest betrayal, but the truth is they can never forgive him for his Cloyne speech.
I live in the diocese of Cloyne. The final chapters to be published of the Cloyne Report featured a ‘Father Ronat’, against whom up to eleven allegations of child sexual abuse had been levelled. He faced only two charges in court but was acquitted on both. One curious detail of those cases stuck in my mind. The question was asked in cross-examination whether ‘Father Ronat’ had ever hypnotised his alleged victims.
I knew straight-away who ‘Father Ronat’ was. When I was twelve, in first year in Saint Colman’s in Fermoy, our career guidance teacher was Father Dan Duane. He was an odd man, permanently tanned and possessed of a rather unrealistic head of hair.
Hypnotism was Father Duane’s party piece and one day he took it upon himself to hypnotise our entire class. Twenty, thirty young boys, otherwise alone and unsupervised. The experiment failed because of two kids who proved immune to his charms and he got quite angry with those two kids. Father Duane told the two boys they were too stupid to hypnotise and they had ruined it for the whole class. I was one of those stupid children.
In 2013, Father Dan Duane was defrocked by Church tribunal. The Irish Examiner reported “scenes of joy and relief at the Nano Nagle Centre outside Mallow in North Cork as victims were brought in to hear the judgment”.
Given that child abuse has been such an existential problem for the Catholic Church for so long, you’d have to wonder why Bishop Doran might think the Church has come within a million miles of apologising enough, let alone that it might have apologised too much.
Given the moral bankruptcy on display from the Catholic hierarchy, you’d also have to wonder if there was any guidance at all available to Christians as to how their God might react to child abuse.
Well, I’m no Biblical scholar but it turns out that in three of the four Gospels (Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:42 and Luke 17:2) Jesus was – to my reading – pretty clear on the subject of child abuse.
Matthew 18:6: “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
But what would Jesus know?