THIS EVENING… “Abuse and Cover-up in the Catholic Church” – Thomas P. Doyle

“Abuse and Cover-up in the Catholic Church” – Thomas P. Doyle

We Are Church Ireland Zoom presentation

Mon, 28 February 2022

19:30 – 21:00 GMT

Tom Doyle is a priest and long-time supporter of justice and compassion for clergy sex abuse victims

About this event

Thomas P. Doyle sacrificed a rising career at the Vatican Embassy to become an outspoken advocate for church abuse victims. Since 1984, when he became involved with the issue of sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy while serving at the Embassy, he has become an expert in the canonical and pastoral dimensions of this problem – working directly with victims, their families, accused priests, bishops, and other high-ranking Church officials.

He has interviewed 2,000 victims of clerical sexual abuse in the U.S. alone, and has been the only priest to testify in court in over 200 cases as to the legal liability of the Church. He has developed policies and procedures for dealing with cases of sexual abuse by the clergy for dioceses and religious orders in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

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  1. Soline Humbert says:

    Abuse and Cover-up in the Catholic Church – Thomas Doyle

    The coverup continues…

    Also, two of the main priests speakers at the symposium are among those who tried to discredit the recent findings of the French Commission of investigation into clerical sexual abuse (CIASE). Tony Anatrella benefitted from very high level support and total omerta for decades. The Dominican priest, Philippe Lefevbre, who acted as chief whistleblower for the victims of Anatrella, was repeatedly threatened and blocked. Obviously, Anatrella still has much support in clerical circles in France and in the curia.

  2. Joe O'Leary says:

    Abuse and Cover-Up…Thomas P Doyle:

    In the controversy about same-sex marriage in France, though its opponents called for ‘dialogue’, I came across no serene and mature discussion of the issue in Catholic circles during my stay in Paris at the height of the controversy (Oct. 2012-Mar. 2013), apart from a few dissenting articles in La Croix. Instead, there was a certain amount of manipulative propaganda, as in the promotion of Philippe Ariño’s strange book on ‘the truth about homosexuality’; a conflicted gay man, Ariño declared that gayness is about rape fantasies. The book was taken up by parishes, used in adult education, and received a rosette from the leading Catholic bookshop, La Procure, though its account of Catholic teaching is a caricature. A religious sister in the Institut Catholique instructed a group of lay people on the topic, citing Ariño copiously and having them meditate on Satan’s temptation of Jesus: Change these stones into bread! Every day the profile of the church as dead set against gay marriage was highlighted.

    Fr Tony Anatrella, consultor of the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Pontifical Council for Health, wrote as follows: ‘The will to contest the norms and invariants of society in the name of homosexuality shows clearly that it is a social solvent. Homosexuality cannot be a political matter as currently suggested, except as a suicidal demagogy in a depressive society that has lost its fundamental bearings’ (La Documentation catholique, 21 September 2003, 810). ‘We have reached an absurd situation in which homosexuality is not only made a norm, but in which in some demand that homophobia be made a criminal offence. This fluid and perverse concept ensures that it will no longer be possible to express a criticism or make a joke about homosexuality without being charged with homophobia, recognized as a legal fault when it is above all a projective interpretation’ (811). ‘We are faced with an anthropological “heresy” comparable to Arianism and a new conflict of ideas that will be more costly than Marxism’ (805-6). ‘The banalization of homosexuality is all the more disturbing in that it concerns a minority and marginal phenomenon… We are in a society of appearances, which claims, in the name of tolerance and the prevailing superficiality, that everything has the same value and the same meaning’ (806).

    This jaundiced vision has less to do with theology than with a summary Freudianism that one critic, Philippe Lefebvre OP, characterized as ‘brutal’ (‘Le sexe du prêtre: affaire de divan ou de divin?’ Lumière et vie, 269 [2006]:101-9.).

  3. Paddy Ferry says:

    Voices of Faith

    Abuse is sexualised violence against children. But abuse is also exclusion, cover-up and turning a blind eye.
    Father Klaus Mertes, Jesuit and former rector of the Canisius College in Berlin, sharply emphasised these connections during a lecture at the Catholic University of Münster. The systemic extent of the abuse, however, only became clear to him in contact with those affected.
    In 2010, three former students had contacted Mertes. The ex-alumni wanted to prevent the invitation of two former teachers to the celebration of their graduating class of 1980 and explained to Mertes why. “At that time, the inner meaning of a persistent rumour structure unravelled for me,” the Jesuit recalls. “It went click, click, and suddenly I understood.”

    Rumours about “Father Pavian”
    For decades, participants at alumni gatherings had gossiped about “Father Pavian”. “I didn’t know much, the crucial thing was new to me,” Mertes recalls of the conversation where he learned about the deeds. Father Pavian was notorious among the pupils for his excessive beatings on the bare buttocks, followed by nursing and kissing the wounds.
    However, Mertes was prepared for the resistance that followed this exposure. By a completely different context, namely that of his confrere Ralf Klein. Klein had confessed his homosexuality years ago at a synodal meeting in front of 300 participants. An announcement with devastating consequences. Mertes remembered Klein’s outing well: “Afterwards I experienced how the violence started, against him and all those who showed solidarity with him. There was a complete rupture of relationships and friendships.” People had wanted to throw the confrere out of the order, he said. “Everyone saw the violence and the exclusion. And they said nothing. It was unbelievable.”

    What does poverty have to do with abuse?
    This experience had “electrified” him. After the conversation with the three ex-pupils, he immediately sent a letter to the approximately 600 alumni of the affected years of the Canisius College. One addressee turned to the press. Mertes himself, as a representative of the institution, had deliberately refrained from doing so. A “self-dramatisation as an enlightener” was out of the question for him.
    But what does poverty have to do with abuse? “The poor are victims,” says Mertes. Jesus did not see himself as the advocate of the rich. He gathered tax collectors, prostitutes, the homeless and the sick around him. “Jesus does not like everyone,” he adds.

    Affected person has a story to tell
    He himself used to be an opponent of liberation theology, considering it a form of communism. It was only in contact with Latin American religious that he understood what it was all about. That the Church must change its perspective and take the side of the poor. He felt the same way in his contact with those affected by abuse. “Without contact there is no understanding,” he says.
    “Victims of abuse have a story to tell that no one wants to hear. The stories call for faith.” He says he did not take the neutral position of presumption of innocence after hearing these stories, nor did he adopt the strategy: “Now I have to hear the other side first.” “Believing a story of abuse is an existential act,” the Jesuit explains. It inevitably leads to a change in one’s own field of relationships.

    Church belongs to the side of the perpetrators
    Often, the Church has simply assumed that a perpetrator means only one victim. The idea that there could be others was ignored. In the case of the Canisius College, 130 victims came forward. Mertes assumes that there is an estimated number of unreported cases. “Abuse is not an isolated act, it takes place in a context.” Confreres had lived next door to the children’s tormentors. It is unlikely that they did not notice anything.
    The Jesuit speaks of “a watching system”. Covering up, turning a blind eye, exclusion, silence are also elements of abuse. This is also true of the many half-hearted attempts to come to terms with sexualised violence in the church. The victims questioned the traditional helping role of the church. They demanded law and justice instead of help. Therefore, the church must finally recognise that it belongs on the side of the perpetrators and not on the side of the victims. The “discourse of lamentation” must come to an end. There is no coming to terms with the past without fundamentally changing the system.

  4. SeanO’Conaill says:

    “Abuse and Cover-up in the Catholic Church” – Thomas P. Doyle.

    #3 “ Therefore, the church must finally recognise that it belongs on the side of the perpetrators and not on the side of the victims.”

    ‘Belongs on’ sounds like a mistranslation. Would ‘adheres to ’ or ‘clings to’ better convey the true sense of what Klaus is saying there – that while lamentation is abounding the church system still doesn’t enable solidarity with victims or permit proper accountability on that and other issues?

    That squares with the Irish situation. Deliberately our episcopal administration has hidden behind canon law protocols and civil legal advice to deny victims the opportunity to meet together within a church setting to tell their stories as injured members of the people of God. We are left with a disastrous non-communicating triangle of clergy, the faithful remnant and victims.

    ‘Synodality’ is now offered, but how could victims risk involving themselves in that when our hierarchy has no record of any persistent effort to prepare the ground for that – e.g. by gathering reliable data on the ‘healing’ supposedly achieved via ‘Towards Healing’ and the attitudes towards the church that victims are then left with.

    On that as on other crucial matters our ‘leaders’ studiously avoid all public research, so ‘synodality’ is happening in a transparency vacuum. In a very real sense the Irish Catholic Church has already collapsed, as most of its leaders continue to duck the most important responsibility of a missionary church: to ‘get real’ on the missionary challenge, by measuring the scale of the alienation that their church system has itself caused.

  5. Paddy Ferry says:

    “Abuse and Cover-up in the Catholic Church” – Thomas P. Doyle.

    Yes, Séan, that sentence must obviously be a mistranslation.

    Your final point @ 4 is very significant, I think,

    “….the scale of the alienation that their church system has itself caused.”

    Now, I am really stirring myself and mustering up as much enthusiasm as I can for Synodality. In our parish if I had not been sharing information over the last number of months on Francis’ great initiative I don’t think many would even have been aware of Synodality.

    However, even if it turns out to be a great success I still wonder — fear, in fact, — if our church can ever really recover because of “….the scale of the alienation that their church system has itself caused.”

  6. Paddy Ferry says:

    “Abuse and Cover-up in the Catholic Church” – Thomas P. Doyle.

    And, Séan, let’s not forget that the bishops are not the only ones culpable in this.

    I cannot forget the attempts that were made to discredit the Murphy Commission Report into clerical child sex abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese.
    Diarmuid Martin, to his great credit, refused to let himself get involved in that.

  7. Tony Flannery says:

    “Abuse and Cover-up in the Catholic Church” – Thomas P. Doyle.

    In response to Number 6, where Paddy suggests that there was an attempt to “discredit the Murphy report”.
    In the interests of transparency, let me reveal the following. The group that Paddy refers to included, along with a number of Dublin priests, representatives of the ACP, namely Sean McDonagh and myself,, and was chaired by Marie Keenan.
    As we were well aware at the time, the points about the Murphy report that we were trying to make were not listened to amid the understandable frenzy of condemnation that was going on..

    There were aspects of the process of the Murphy Commission that were less than fair and just; it was extremely complex, and a person would need to read our final report, with a very open mind, in order to begin to understand the points we were trying to make, and the damage that was done to certain people. For us, the key defect in the Murphy Report was the fact that those against whom allegations were made never had an opportunity to cross examine, or have cross examined, those who made the allegations, and this is a key principle of natural justice, as I have learned to my cost with the Vatican.

    But I noted with great interest that in her recent report on the Mother and Baby homes, Judge Yvonne Murphy made a clear distinction between the narratives of those who were residents of the homes, and that of those who operated the homes. The narratives of the residents was not included in the final report, which they found distressing. The reason given, as I understand it, was that the residents narrative have not been cross checked in any way, and therefore did not warrant being included in the final report..

    I know that in pointing out these matters some of us have been branded in certain quarters as deniers of clerical child abuse, which we are not. It would be difficult to classify Marie Keenan as such.

  8. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Thank you again, Tony, for stating the real position. I’m sure Pádraig McCarthy would once again support that. My former classmate, Bishop Martin Drennan (Dublin Auxiliary at the crunch time, Bishop of Galway etc when the Murphy Report appeared) had almost to go to law before Diarmuid Martin was forced to read the Report more carefully and apologise to Martin, his episcopal colleague.

  9. Paddy Ferry says:

    “Abuse and Cover-up in the Catholic Church” – Thomas P. Doyle

    Tony, as you know I admire and support the ACP and feel that we all owe those of you who brought it into being a real debt of gratitude. I myself have gained much, I think, certainly in terms of my education in the affairs of the church, from the discourse and conversations we have had on the this site, for example.

    However, the one and only time I felt my heart sink on opening the ACP site was the morning I read that the Association had funded a review by a retired High Court judge into the Murphy Commission of Inquiry into clerical sex abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese. I immediately thought that this is a major error of judgement on the part of the then leadership team of the ACP and I still believe that today.

    An initiative, funded by an association of Catholic priests to seek to undermine –well, what else could you think?–the credibility of a commission of inquiry that had looked into child sexual abuse by Catholic priests. At the very least it presented a very poor PR image.

    However, at the very core of all this is the fact that whatever injustice those who had been “named and shamed” had suffered, that is, those who had not dealt well with the complaints, that injustice completely pales into insignificance when compared to the life changing –indeed life destroying — injustice suffered by those children who had been sexually violated by priests. It was estimated that 500 children had suffered such abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese and it now recognised that such estimates in this particular area do not ever accurately reflect the true extent of the crime.

    Now, I would never suggest that those senior clerics who had failed to deal in a proper way with the victims of abuse and their families were “bad men”. The only Dublin bishop I ever knew personally was Bishop James Kavanagh. Jim was a close friend of a family member who had been a senior civil servant in Dublin and who had built a holiday home in Donegal. The summer before I went to Dublin Jim and his friend, Fr. Val Rodgers came to Donegal to visit and it was then I first met and got to know him. The big news in our family that summer was my imminent move to Dublin to study at UCD. Jim was then Professor of Social Science in UCD and during that first year in Belfield he was someone I could always turn to if I needed to. He was such a lovely man, a really genuine person and I greatly admired him.

    Now, when he was Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin not only did he do nothing about abuser priests, he actually went to the Garda station when he was PP in Whitehall to get the guards to drop a charge against one of the archdiocese’s most notorious abusers. I now cannot remember if he succeeded or not but, obviously, he was wrong to do that. Yet, I still remember him with fondness and I still feel fortunate to have known him.

    Only Bishop Moriarty had the honesty and sense of honour, in my opinion, to hold up his hands and admit that “we were all guilty because of our negligence”

    Going back to senior clerics not dealing well with abuser priests and their victims, I never did read the Murphy Commission report from cover to cover. However, I did read Feargal Sweeney’s review from beginning to end. I wasn’t very impressed especially when he stated –and I commented on this at the time on this site –that no senior cleric would through neglect knowingly put innocent children in danger. We all knew that the most senior cleric in the land did exactly that when he failed to act on the information shared with him by Brendan Boland which allowed Fr. Brendan Smyth to continue his heinous crimes against innocent children for another twenty years.

    I certainly have never, and would never, think of people like yourself, Tony and Seán McDonagh as deniers of clerical child sex abuse. And, the same applies to Marie Keenan. I have read her excellent book, “Child Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church. Gender, Power and Organizational Culture”. I had read her address to, I think, the first AGM of the ACP and was impressed. Her book is very much an academic read and I spent two weeks of a summer holiday some years ago studying it. I felt I really needed to do that as I, like so many of my ilk, had been innocently and naively devout for most of my life and could not understand how priests could commit such heinous crimes.

    It is sad, Tony that we are still having these discussions so late in the day. I had grown sick, sore and tired of seeing the wagons being encircled every time this subject was brought up. Thankfully, we have seen less and less of that recently.

    Tony, I will continue to admire and support you as one of our genuine modern prophets. We will continue to agree, I am sure, on all issues of note except this one particular issue which, sadly, we will simply have to agree to disagree on.

    Goodnight and God bless,


  10. Eddie Finnegan says:

    “Abuse and Cover-up in the Catholic Church” – Thomas P. Doyle

    Paddy@9: “It is sad, Tony, that we are still having these discussions so late in the day. I had grown sick, sore and tired of seeing the wagons being encircled every time this subject was brought up. Thankfully, we have seen less and less of that recently.”

    Did Tony raise this discussion out of the blue?

    Paddy@6: “I cannot forget the attempts that were made to discredit the Murphy Commission Report into clerical child sex abuse in the Dublin Archdiocese.” etc

    Paddy, why raise a discussion, even in a postscript, if you don’t wish to give right of reply? Audi alteram partem.

  11. Sean O'Conaill says:

    “Abuse and Cover-up in the Catholic Church” – Thomas P. Doyle

    #10 How does Paddy’s response to Tony’s post constitute denial of a right of reply?

    To Tony’s correct insistence that the ACP has never denied the reality or the wrongness of clerical child abuse Paddy has merely replied to clarify his own misgiving as relating to something else: the ACP’s defence of those bishops who, when in service in Dublin had not ‘challenged the prevailing culture’, as acknowledged by Bishop Moriarty.

    As I recall there was here also resistance to the use of the term ‘cover up’ by the Murphy report – even implicit criticism of the Irish Bishops Conference for accepting and using the term in its response to the Murphy report (Dec 2009). As there was no obligation in civil law to report abuse to the civil authorities, Dublin bishops could not be faulted for not doing so, even if this had helped to maintain the dangerous culture of silence and ignorance of the issue – a culture challenged years earlier by Kevin Hegarty when it was very definitely dangerous to do that: that was the argument advanced here.

    This is all old ground, re-covered again now be me to stand with Paddy in my own recollection of it as not the ACP’s finest hour.

  12. Tony Flannery says:

    “Abuse and Cover-up in the Catholic Church” – Thomas P. Doyle

    The entry of Sean O’Connell into this exchange brings back memories for me.
    It was 2014, and I had been invited by a group of reform movements in the United States to come and do a speaking tour. I agreed, and an extensive tour, covering about twenty locations, was duly organised.
    Not long before I was due to depart for the States Sean wrote an opinion piece in the Irish Times strongly criticising the ACP for its involvement in the effort to critique the Murphy Report. Sean was then the Irish head of Voice of the Faithful. His article was quickly picked up by the U.S. branch of the same organisation, who spread the word that a leader of the ACP who were, as they understood it,‘soft on pedophiles’ was coming to speak. SNAP (Survivors Network for those abused by priests), got involved. They contacted the organisers of the tour, threatening to publicly campaign against me, and organise protests at the speaking venues. This led to a very anxious Skype call from the main organiser, explaining the situation to me, and asking me to issue a statement clarifying that I did not in any way support or approve of clerical child abuse. They hoped that would clear the way for my tour to proceed. I was hypersensitive about this at the time. This request for “clarification” had too many similarities to my experience with the Vatican – it smacked of a demand for orthodoxy, a restraint of freedom.
    I refused, saying that I would stand on my record, and if that was not acceptable I would happily stay at home. (I wasn’t long after recovering from a mild stroke at that time, and I was a bit nervous of all the travel, and the strain). Things were eventually smoothed over at the American end, SNAP withdrew their threat, and I went.
    Washington was the beginning of the tour, and when I arrived there I first met with representatives of the main support movements. The issue of the negative publicity about me was brought up, and I was alerted to the possibility that there might be protests. I was told of the most likely possible places for such to happen.
    Happily, nothing of the sort occurred , and the tour went off very well. It was a great experience for me, and I was grateful to those who invited me, and organised it so well.

  13. Sean O'Conaill says:

    “Abuse and Cover-up in the Catholic Church” – Thomas P. Doyle

    #12 Having reviewed that Irish Times article of 2014, I find nothing in it to regret. It recorded the hopes and successes that followed the formation of the ACP in 2012, and then the questions that arose over its reaction to the Murphy report and other issues related to the safety and safeguarding of all vulnerable members of the church.

    It follows that whatever difficulties arose for Tony Flannery in the USA in 2014 were also a knock-on effect of the questions that arose out of the ACP’s own decisions in the wake of the Murphy report. Had the latter been as sensitive to the hurts caused to the many victims of clerical silence and abuse as they were to the hurt caused to clerics critiqued by the Murphy report, those difficulties would not have arisen.

    That 2014 article ended not with a condemnation of the ACP but with a question:

    “Can the ACP part company with a clericalism that exploited the vulnerability of those for whom clergy had a duty of care? Can it build a durable alliance with lay people who have had a surfeit of high-level clerical double standards?”

    Brendan Hoban’s account of the Killala ‘synodal’ process is proof that it can do – and has done – so, but as yet we know nothing of the scale of alienation still felt by the survivor community. That too is a critique of our church system. Tom Doyle’s coming Zoom talk to WAC on Feb 28th may tell us more. Full marks to the ACP now for flagging it up, and for continuing to provide this forum.

    There is no need to sacrifice the future to endless recrimination, as all of us are victims – to a varying extent – of a church system in need of radical change. I have typed these comments solely to record that Paddy Ferry was not alone in his dismay at those events following the Murphy report of 2009, but do not want to go on endlessly about that.

  14. Eddie Finnegan says:

    “Abuse and Cover-up in the Catholic Church” – Thomas P. Doyle

    Far be it from me to aggravate Paddy’s occasional sickness, soreness or tiredness @9. Even farther be it from me to try to compete with Seán’s occasional global reach, however unintended @12&13. But since both Seán and Paddy have been insisting that “it’s time to move on – nothing more to see here” since 2013 or thereabouts, I felt the need to refresh my memory on ex-Judge Fergal Sweeney’s Review of the Murphy Commission Report, the 61 Comments thereon, followed by a further half-dozen related discussions over 2014, 2015, 2016. I was slightly intrigued to find that my advice to Paddy@10 (Audi alteram partem) had been used in 2015 by Bishop Eamon Walshe as he commended the soul of Bishop Dermot O’Mahony to God, but in the light of the Fergal Sweeney/ACP Review of Murphy, and of Diarmuid Martin’s recurrent attempts to shame long-serving Dublin Auxiliaries whom Murphy had merely named and blamed.

    Tony’s patient response to Paddy @7 on the context and remit of the Sweeney/ACP Review was something he had said to Paddy twice or three times in Comments here over the years. It didn’t sway Paddy then and it clearly hasn’t swayed him now @9. Paddy was a reluctant reader of Fergal Sweeney’s Review on its publication in 2013 but he says he has read it from cover to cover. I have now done likewise for a second time but nowhere can I find the statement Paddy attributes to him: “I wasn’t very impressed especially when he stated – and I commented on this at the time on this site – that no senior cleric would through neglect knowingly put innocent children in danger.” Maybe I did nod off momentarily, though I’m pretty sure I read every word, so where in the Review did Sweeney make that statement, and where in the several discussions from 2013 to 2016 did Paddy comment on it?

    As I said to Paddy on another topic, life’s too damn short for all this stuff. If someone can point me to the Sweeney quote and Paddy’s comment thereon I’ll gladly move along smartly. Meanwhile, nothing to see here.

  15. Paddy Ferry says:

    “Abuse and Cover-up in the Catholic Church” – Thomas P. Doyle.

    Séan @11, thank you for coming to my defence though, in fact, I had decided not to dignify Eddie’s bizarre accusation with a response.

    Eddie, I hope by now, on mature reflection, you have come to realise that any thought that I would want to deny Tony a right of reply, or indeed anybody that right, is completely ridiculous. The right of reply has been crucial to the many excellent discussions we have had on this site.

    Something that is beginning to puzzle me, Eddie, is that on some occasions, at least, in situations like this you are inclined not to focus on the salient point but, rather, on something not quite salient.

    The following, I think, is the crux of matter we have been discussing:

    “However, at the very core of all this is the fact that whatever injustice those who had been ‘named and shamed’ had suffered, that is, those who had not dealt well with the complaints, that injustice completely pales into insignificance when compared to the life changing – indeed life destroying — injustice suffered by those children who had been sexually violated by priests.”

    It would have been good to have had your opinion as to whether I had made a reasonable case or not.

    Likewise, in your most recent post@14, you quote me:

    “I wasn’t very impressed especially when he stated – and I commented on this at the time on this site – that no senior cleric would through neglect knowingly put innocent children in danger.”

    Yet, you omitted the final part of my paragraph@9:

    “We all knew that the most senior cleric in the land did exactly that when he failed to act on the information shared with him by Brendan Boland which allowed Fr. Brendan Smyth to continue his heinous crimes against innocent children for another twenty years.”

    Is that because you are challenging the veracity of that too, Eddie?

    Going back to one of the main points in your post@14, I did not reread the Sweeney review of Murphy last night and you must have a lot of spare time on your hands, Eddie to have reread it yourself, all 44 pages, I think. I don’t have lots of spare time. Once was definitely enough for me.

    However, you did cause me to lose a good hour and a bit of my life last night searching for that comment that I said I had made and which I feel you thought I never had. Now, I don’t have an easily accessible archive of the comments I have made on this site. In fact, I don’t have any kind of archive. But, my hour and a bit was, I suppose, well spent because as well as finding my comment – you must have dozed off, Eddie, – I also found other interesting things too.

    Going back to your inability to find anything in Sweeney similar to what I referred to, I must confess that the passage of time has clouded my recollection of the actual words used. I knew I was not quoting Sweeney verbatim as I had not gone back to read the actual text when I wrote the post.

    However, I believe the substance of my point remains.

    I now share with you, below, the piece that I read on this site and my subsequent comment. Sadly, you cannot now read the full Editorial by clicking in “here”.

    Murphy report is reviewed in latest ‘Studies’

    The Winter issue of Studies is entirely dedicated to ‘revisiting the Murphy Report’, the Commission of Investigation: Report into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin, chaired by Judge Yvonne Murphy and published in 2009. The commission, according to the document’s introductory paragraph, ‘was established to report on the handling by Church and State authorities of a representative sample of allegations and suspicions of child sexual abuse against clerics operating under the aegis of the Archdiocese of Dublin over the period 1975 to 2004’ (1.1).

    This review of the Commissions of Investigation Act, 2004, in relation to the work and report of the Murphy Commission, as it became known, accepts and acknowledges that grave injustice and suffering were inflicted on young people and their families by the sexual abuse of children perpetrated by clerics in positions of trust, operating under the aegis of the archdiocese of Dublin.
    The full Editorial can be read here

    ACP News, Articles, Safeguarding children

    Paddy Ferry
    March 3rd, 2014 at 12:24 am

    I have read Fr. Bradley’s article and I have to say I found it a very reasonable analysis though it doesn’t really help me dispel my sense of unease which began when I first became aware of the Judge Fergal Sweeney critique of the work of the Murphy Commission.

    However, leaving that aside, the statement that jumped off the page/screen as I read Fr. Bradley’s piece was his quotation from Judge Sweeney – ”It goes without saying that to be publicly condemned by the Commission as someone in authority who could have prevented further instances of child sexual abuse, yet knowingly turned a blind eye to same, was always likely to bring a lifetimes work down in shame and ignominy”.

    The case I have in mind was not part of the Commission’s work nor did it involve the Dublin Archdiocese. Yet the rest of the quotation above from Sweeney does apply precisely to “someone in authority”, the highest cleric in the land, in fact, yet it does not appear to me that he is living “in shame and ignominy”.

    So, that is my comment Eddie on March 3rd, 2014. Now, I am pretty certain there should be at least one other comment as Seán did also reply to me. But Seán’s comment is no longer there.

    Eddie I will now look forward to your apology for questioning my honesty and impugning my integrity.

    So, to the other interesting stuff I found during my hour and a bit last night. I either didn’t realise or, perhaps more likely, I had just forgotten that a slightly different leadership team of the ACP were already casting doubts in July 2014 on the newly established Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes led by Judge Yvonne Murphy even before it started its work.

    Joe and Pádraig were, of course in full flow supporting this pre-emptive strike as, indeed, were you Eddie. You may remember you started your comment, “The interesting Opinion piece by Vincent Twomey in this morning’s Irish Times….”

    Sean, as always, was excellent in responding to this ongoing, rearguard action as were some excellent women like Nuala O’Driscoll, someone we have not heard from for a long time. Nuala in her post below spoke, in my opinion, for the overwhelming majority of ordinary, decent Irish Catholics.

    Nuala O’Driscoll

    July 20th, 2014 at 11:42 am

    Here again we have the Catholic Church rushing to defend its good name by pre-empting the investigation of the Mother and Baby story. This article is trying to muddy the waters before the investigation even gets off the ground. It is an arrogant article written by clerical male celibate men trying to deflect blame from the Church. In trying to deflect possible inaccurate blame from the Church it puts itself above the real victims, the Mothers and the Babies. The Church did not mind treating the Mothers in this story as sinners and blameworthy. The Mothers and Babies in this story were defenceless, weak, vulnerable and at the mercy of the powers at the time, Church and State.

    In his comment @1, Pádraig McCarthy tries to deflect scrutiny from the Church by shifting the attention on society and ‘how society dealt with ‘non-marital’ children and their mothers’. Pádraig McCarthy, whom I think is a priest, can not even speak about these women and babies without labelling them. Society, political, educational, medical, judicial, all ‘cravenly deferred’, to the Church and Church leaders.

    If Pádraig McCarthy wants society to accept equal share in the blame of how the Mothers and Babies were treated he should also take into account this ‘craven deference’ society had to the Church and how the Church demanded this deference. Do not let us forget that for Catholics, the Church holds the promise of eternal life. The Church can withhold this promise if its laws are broken. As John A Costelloe once said, ‘I am an Irishman second; I am a Catholic first’.

    I think that says it all.

    Nuala, I didn’t say it at the time but I would like to say it now – very well said, really excellent!

    Eddie, having recently watched “The Missing Babies” on STV, I am now not just sick, sore and tired, I am actually angry.

    Then I rediscovered another excellent comment by Mary Cunningham during the initial Sweeney/Murphy debate here in 2013. Mary is also a woman who always would contribute in a very enlightened way to conversations on this site. She also is someone we sadly don’t hear from anymore.

    Mary Cunningham
    October 30th, 2013 at 3:54 pm
    May I respectfully ask a few questions in relation to Fergal Sweeney’s report?

    1 Was there any legal challenge to the fairness of the procedures in the courts?
    If not, why not?

    2 A learning curve, how can this be when there is historical evidence going back to the Council of Elvira 306 AD, that the sexual abuse of minors was a serious problem for the Church?

    3 Why was indemnity insurance taken out by the Dublin diocese in 1987? This is proof that knowledge of child sexual abuse was seen as a potential major cost to the Archdiocese. This is inconsistent with the view that Archdiocesan officials were still “on a learning curve” at a much later date. (Chapter Nine Murphy Report)

    4 Why was the essential Chapter Four in the Report on Canon Law ignored by Fergal Sweeney? “I have also ignored Canon Law as I do not know enough about the subject to pass comment.“(Ch. 3 p.24?)

    5 Is it not of the utmost importance that any grievance claimed by any clerical person is examined in the context of the laws to which they subject?

    Brief timeline:
    1917 Codification of Canon Law in which abuse of children was specified as a sin.
    1922 First Instruction on the Canon Law procedures and penalties for this offence.
    1962 This was re-issued to all bishops in the papal instruction ‘Crimen Sollicitationis’.
    1983 Canon Law revised.
    2001 Crimen was revised where clerical sex abuse delicts were reserved to the apostolic tribunal of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.
    2010 De Gravioribus Delictis reinforced the 2001 instruction with some additions.

    The critical instruction pervading these laws is as follows:

    ‘Cases of this nature are subject to the pontifical secret.’

    While some priests may feel aggrieved, focus on the Murphy Report, may be misplaced.

    The hierarchical Church reaching right up to and including the Vatican has serious questions to answer.

    Mary Cunningham

    Mary makes the point of the “learning curve” defence being defective because the Church was aware of this problem since the Council of Elvira 306 AD. This is what I always thought too.

    However, I think we will most likely hear from Fr. Tom Doyle on Monday night that it goes back much further than that as it was revealed in the Didache (pronounced Did-a-k. I had never heard of it until Tom mentioned recently on his Scottish Laity Network presentation) and I do hope you tune in on Monday night, Eddie and listen to what he has to say. The Didache is a document from 96 AD and shows how this phenomenon was a problem even in the early, fledgling church.

    I also came across in the debate in 2013 comments where Pádraig, in responding to Seán, actually tried to make excuses for my old friend, Jim Kavanagh!!

    Another comment I rediscovered last night was one I made in 2013 during the original Murphy/Sweeney debate in which I mention Fr. Joseph O’Hanlon who was a regular letter writer to The Tablet and someone I greatly admired for his honesty.

    “Fr. Joseph O’Hanlon, from Canterbury in the south of England, has frequently made what I regard as a very pertinent point and that is that the abuse of children by priests is ‘qualitatively different’ from the abuse committed by other professions. Fr. O’Hanlon bases this view — I am sure you are all familiar with his letters to the Tablet – on the fact that priests have used all that is holy — their ordination, the sacraments, the innocent trust people had placed in them, and so on — to seduce and violate children. He usually makes the additional point that he is unaware of any other professional body trying to hide the crimes of its members the way bishops have done in the past.”

    I think that also says it all.

    Eddie, you also mentioned @14 Tony’s patient response to me over the years with regard to this issue. Well, have we not got the right to point out error when we see it and as we see it and to continue to do so? There are surely no statutes of limitation on conversations here. Your mentality is very much of the clericalist church which I thought you had no time for.

    I did say it was late in the day which I presume you took to mean that I wanted to deny Tony his right of reply. How you came to that conclusion, Eddie, baffles me.

    However, it is late in the day, in fact very late in the day. But now I more and more fear this day will never end.

    After all the investigations into this horrible phenomenon at home we then had the Australian Royal Commission. More recently there was a similar commission of investigation in France which discovered mind blowing evidence of the extent of clerical child sex abuse there. More recently still the failings of Pope Emeritus Ratzinger were laid bare – Fr. Tom Reece forgives him and he hopes we all can too!! Now a similar body of investigation is under way in Spain and there is growing pressure for one in Italy as well.

    So, this will go on and on and on adding more and more to “the scale of the alienation that their church system has itself caused” which Seán referred to @4 and which started this whole discussion we have been having since@4.

    My worry has always been that even if Francis’ ideal of a synodal church becomes a reality and achieves everything he hopes for can our church ever really overcome that “alienation”?

    My family tells me – sympathetically – that my clinging onto the hope that our church can recover and renew and regain credibility is bordering on the delusional. Do you think are they right, Eddie?

    One final thing, Eddie – and I hope you have all managed to get to the end of this long, arduous essay – another hour and a bit lost from my life – you said @14 that Seán and I have been saying “it’s time to move on, nothing more to see here”.

    Well, I don’t think so, Eddie. I have certainly never said that.

    So, nothing at all to see here!

  16. Joe O'Leary says:

    “Abuse and Cover-up in the Catholic Church” – Thomas P. Doyle.

    ‘a slightly different leadership team of the ACP were already casting doubts in July 2014 on the newly established Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes led by Judge Yvonne Murphy even before it started its work.

    ‘Joe and Pádraig were, of course in full flow supporting this pre-emptive strike as, indeed, were you Eddie.’

    Paddy, you might do me the courtesy of quoting what I allegedly said. I am pretty sure that I am not into preemptive operations. Presumably you took exception to positive remarks I made about the 2013 McAleese Report and interpreted them as above?

    I also read Pádraig McCarthy’s Untold Story and considered it quite a convincing book. He does not deserve to be pounced on in this style.

  17. Paddy Ferry says:

    “Abuse and Cover-up in the Catholic Church” – Thomas P. Doyle

    I will do that, Joe. Just give me a day or two.

  18. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    “Abuse and Cover-up in the Catholic Church” – Thomas P. Doyle

    Some comments on the discussion above (since my name has been mentioned several times!).
    1. We need to remember that the Murphy Report on Dublin diocese was mandated to investigate the handling of allegations by Diocesan and State authorities. In the course of this, the Commission did an excellent job in setting out the allegations. The Commission (Report 2:18) was able to make good use of diocesan records, whereas the HSE records, insofar as they were accessible, offered much less (6:62). This means that, whereas if the Report investigated the diocese and the State equally, it should have been possible to compare how well allegations were handled. However, the Report is overwhelmingly about the diocese, without a “control” case of the State to make such comparisons. That detailed examination of the State records still remains to be carried out. To a large extent focus was on the diocese alone; this was reflected and amplified in media coverage, and so lacked the balance of knowing how the State handled matters.

    2. That media coverage projected a picture of almost universally disastrous handling by the diocese. Is that your recollection of the Report? In fact, however, the Report on the 46 cases gives approval in varying degrees to diocesan handling in 26 of the cases. In 19 cases there are varying degrees of criticism. The one remaining case (Ch.49) involved inappropriate behaviour rather than abuse. Further, in the 19 cases where the first complaint was made between 1960 and 1988, in only one case the Report says the diocese dealt with it properly. In the 26 cases from 1988 to 2002, the Report says the diocese or religious order handled it badly in just 4 cases. This is surely clear evidence that there was a learning curve in the diocese.
    We need, however, to look deeper at the conclusions drawn in the Report. Take one example from 1978, that of Patrick McCabe. The Report (Ch.20) says the handling here “encapsulates everything that was wrong.” However, read Ch.20 for a detailed account of what the diocese did to try to remedy the situation. The problem is that none of it worked. Patrick McCabe was laicised in 1988. The diocese had spent about £29,000 (about €37,000) in treatment and ancillary costs on him (Report 20:58). The diocese was far ahead of the State in its handling – the State did not have a treatment programme for sex offenders in prison until 1994.

    3. Given these facts, it is clear that we need to examine the Murphy Report with a clear head, and not accept it lock, stock and barrel. This is not to “discredit” it, but to be factual in our assessments. Not to do so is a “major error of judgment” (#9).

    4. One of the most serious errors in the report (1.14) is where it rejects the claim by diocesan authorities to have been on a learning curve. This is simply not historically correct. The whole of society, as well as other professions (medical, legal, Rape Crisis Centre, etc.), was on a learning curve. Yes, sexual abuse of children goes back a long way, not just in the church but in society. To know about it, however, comes in a variety of dimensions. We have far greater knowledge now of the extent of child sexual abuse in society around the world. We have realised better the gravity of the effects of the abuse on the child and its consequences in adulthood. We are still learning to grasp the mentality of those who abuse and their modes of operation. We are still trying to find effective ways of assessing offenders and of devising treatment. Think too how things have changed in the past 40 years in regard to safeguarding children and vulnerable adults. Devising ways to get a variety of agencies to work together on the matter is a challenge.
    We must realise how little public awareness there was. According to the Murphy Report (6:53), the HSE told the Commission that “in the mid 1970s there was no public, professional or Government perception either in Ireland or internationally that child sexual abuse constituted a societal problem or was a major risk to children.”
    A book was published in 1982, “Outgrowing the Pain: A Book for and about Adults Abused as Children”, by Eiana Gil of California, whose “practice specializes in working with child and adult victims of abuse and in training professionals in the field”. It’s a short book of just 88 pages. There are just ten lines on child sexual abuse. In 2004, Prof B.J. Cling of John Jay College of Criminal Justice (New York) wrote: “It is time and well past time to integrate child abuse and trauma studies into mainstream university curricula and professional training programs.”

    5. The question of insurance taken out by Dublin diocese is raised (#15). This was taken out in March 1987. The initial premium was £515, with a limit on any single claim of £50,000 (report 9.6). With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that neither the archbishop nor the insurance company had any realistic understanding of how serious the issue would be.

    6. There is much more to be said. In 2013 I wrote a book about the Murphy Report: “Unheard Story.” It was ignored by media. It is still unheard. I have spare copies. If you would like to read it, you are welcome to a copy for free.

    7. Paddy Ferry (#15) writes in relation to the investigation into Mother and Baby Homes: “Joe and Pádraig were, of course, in full flow supporting this pre-emptive strike.” Sorry, Paddy, but I did no such thing. What I wrote was from a submission I sent to the Commission, suggesting areas of social and historical context which would be helpful to keep in mind in their investigation. Where the Dublin Report failed lamentably in these respects, the Mother and Baby Homes Commission at least did have a member appointed specifically for expertise in those matters.

  19. Soline Humbert says:

    Abuse and Cover-up in the Catholic Church…
    For those interested:
    The English version of the FULL Report of the French Commission of Investigation into Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church (October 2021) is now available on their website
    It contains an in depth analysis and far reaching recommendations.

  20. Paddy Ferry says:

    “Abuse and Cover-up in the Catholic Church” – Thomas P. Doyle.

    First of all I want to thank Colm and Soline and the others for making tonight’s Zoom meeting with Fr. Tom Doyle possible. It was, as I knew it would be, really excellent. And, Soline’s vote of thanks at the end was so powerful.

    Joe, as promised @17, I now share with you below the comments you made following the statement by the ACP upon the setting up of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes chaired by Yvonne Murphy.

    I need to say first of all, Joe that I wasn’t aware of any comments you made about the McAleese Report in 2013. So, that did not figure at all in the reasoning behind my comments @15.

    Having reread the two comments you made at that time I suppose I do have to say they were reasonably mild but, Joe, in my head your reputation had preceded you. And, of course, you did not concur with Nuala O’Driscoll whose comment really hit the nail on the head.

    I have also shared one of the comments Seán made at that time too where he mentions the “clerical circling of wagons” which I thought was a phrase I had coined on this site but Seán, it seems, had beaten me to it. Sadly, I have to say that I had always regarded you and Pádraig as two of the main exponents of that activity on this site.

    But, I also regard you and Pádraig with the utmost respect and admiration for the great contributions you have both made on this site. That is the only way I know you both. Fr. Tom did not mention by name tonight Vehementer Nos, Pius X’s encyclical, just the “encyclical” which I am sure you noted, Pádraig. But he did refer to it by name on the Scottish Laity Network presentation a few weeks ago. And, it was you, Pádraig, who first introduced me to Vehementer Nos on this site many years ago now. I think you are the best of men. So, it vexes me when this issue comes up and it always seems to me you both position yourselves on the wrong side of righteousness.

    It was good to see you tonight, Pádraig and to put a face to the name. And, on my screen you were actually sitting side by side with Seán.
    Thank you for the offer of your book but I don’t think I will be reading it.


    Joe O’Leary
    July 21st, 2014 at 11:50 am
    What one would like to see in a new Murphy report is a deeper sense of historical perspective, setting the work of the sisters who ran mother and child homes, Magdalene laundries, etc., in the context of the demands of society at the time. Even the shaming and shunning of unmarried mothers alleged to be a uniquely Catholic outlook could be put in perspective — unmarried mothers were not viewed benignly anywhere. As Fintan O’Toole points out, the vast amount of secret abortions that is our current solution to unwanted pregnancies bespeaks similar attitudes which have not gone away even though no longer connected with Catholic notions of guilt and sin. And it would also be nice if the next Murphy report recorded also the positive things people had to say about the sisters. If demonizing indignation is allowed to set the tone of the new report, as it in part set the tone of the Dublin and Cloyne reports, it will only undercut its reliability as work of historical reference.

    Sean O’Conaill
    July 21st, 2014 at 12:44 pm
    My first reaction to this ACP statement was one of ‘more clerical circling of wagons’. However, on reflection, there is indeed also a danger of engaging in an endless excoriation of the role of Catholic clergy and religious in ‘shaming the unfortunate’ in Ireland in the last century – when the priority for all of us should surely be to put right whatever may still be wrong in our Catholic Christian witness in Ireland today.

    With that priority in mind I am wondering why the ACP failed to report here the call made earlier this month by Vincent Twomey – for Irish Church leaders ‘to appoint an expert panel to review what went wrong in Irish Catholicism to cause the prevalent culture of abuse’.

    Fr Twomey believes that the Church missed an opportunity at the time the Ryan Report was published in 2009 to ask deeper questions about Irish Catholic culture in the 20th Century. This is a belated echo of the call made at that time by Bishop Noel Treanor: “We have to examine why this happened …. so that we have the best anthropological and scientific analysis available to try and understand”. It is still a mystery why the Irish Bishops’ Conference did not act on that suggestion five years ago.

    Now Vincent Twomey’s echo of that call is a welcome acknowledgement that irrespective of what any future state-sponsored inquiries may reveal there must indeed have been serious failures of Irish Catholic leadership and spiritual formation when the political clout of the church was at its zenith in Ireland in the last century – and an overwhelming need to understand those failures and put them right.

    So will the ACP support Vincent Twomey’s and Bishop Treanor’s call? If no…..

    Joe O’Leary
    July 24th, 2014 at 6:15 am
    The main plank of SNAP and other critics of the bishop concerns the system of Mandatory Reporting. The Vatican gave clear signs of being against it and even now only says grudgingly that bishops should comply with the law in their respective countries.

    Is drunken driving an offense covered by Mandatory Reporting, and if not, why not?

  21. Joe O'Leary says:

    “Abuse and Cover-up in the Catholic Church” – Thomas P. Doyle.

    My ‘reputation’ seems a complete fabrication of one person.

    ‘Thank you for the offer of your book but I don’t think I will be reading it.’

    And there are several other documents he has refused to read.

    I urged him to read the dissenting opinion in the George Pell appeal (which failed, but was fully vindicated after the man had spent a long time in unjust imprisonment). It is a classic document of justice in action. I do not think he read it, and I think he never apologized for his false judgement on Pell and his sneering attitude to Pell’s defenders such as myself.

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