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Comment on Irish Times Cartoon

Despite the fact that protests about criticism in the media of Catholic
priests in Ireland can sometimes be self-serving and counter-productive, and
despite the fact that cartoons of their nature tend to be edgy and
provocative, the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) believes that the
publication of the Martyn Turner cartoon in The Irish Times (April 16th,
2014) is gratuitously insulting to Irish Catholic priests, many of whom are
readers of that paper.
The cartoon’s resonances of sectarianism and bigotry have no place in the
pages of a newspaper which prides itself, as it does, on fairness and high
standards in its coverage, not least its awareness of the bigger picture. It
would be difficult to imagine a similar publication of such an offensive
cartoon in regard to the clergy of any other denomination or faith.
On behalf of our 1000-plus members and other Catholic priests, the ACP
protests in the strongest possible terms at this unacceptable slur on the
Irish priesthood.

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  1. I suggest that you stop reading that paper. Money talks. It’s what I do.

  2. Joe O'Leary says:

    I missed the cartoon and now the Irish Times have removed it from their website.

  3. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Indeed, the least the ACP should be demanding is a full apology at editorial level – as asked for by Fr Philip Curran of Kilnamanagh yesterday. Irish priests have put up with enough gutter insults, though usually more urbanely expressed.

  4. Margaret Trench says:

    A serious misjudgement on behalf of the editor.
    But hopefully the force of reaction and objection to it will make a statement whereby a lesson will have been learned.
    Priests deserve the same respect -no more and no less- than any other group in society today.

  5. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Good, it is an apology and given some prominence, I suppose. But I don’t buy this feeble cliché that “Sometimes, things fly in under the radar.” Unfortunately, if all who recognised the licensed insult in the cartoon’s publication had followed Fr Iggy O’Donovan’s most un-Iggy-like counsel of caution in this morning’s IT Letters, there would have been no apology and the cartoon – worth much more than a thousand weaselly words – would have been allowed to stand.
    I think both the ACP and Breda O’Brien (interesting bedfellows, what!) are much more on the ball. My own response, which ‘Sir’ in Tara Street didn’t feel he needed to use, ran:
    “I am in full agreement with Fr Colm Kenny and Fr Philip Curran in their reaction to Martyn Turner’s obscene attack on a whole class of Irish citizens to whom generations owe so much that is best in the culture (Cartoon, 16 April). You, Sir, are responsible for publishing Turner’s hang-ups, so the least and best we can expect from you before the end of Holy Week is the editorial apology Fr Curran requested. A period of suspension might do your cartoonist’s imagination a world of good, while protecting your paying customers’ intelligence from such gross inanity.”
    Well, Sir met half my demand before the deadline! But no, Fr Iggy, this was no ‘kerfuffle’, or making a molehill into a mountain. As for your caution against inviting opposition onto ground where priests are vulnerable, do you really believe that? You are a member of the Association of Catholic Priests: shouldn’t you be part of the “voice for priests”, and not just in those areas of protest where you choose to blaze a trail?

  6. Ned Quinn says:

    The apology in today’s Irish Times is welcome. Many friends and parishioners told me how offended and shocked they were by Martyn Turner’s so called cartoon. But Fr. Iggy O’Donovan, in the same issue, thinks that the ACP and other letter writers are “making a mountain out of a molehill” and that we should remain silent. The editorial does not agree. It interprets the cartoon as suggesting that no priest can be trusted with children. I hope Iggy also read Breda O’Brien’s article today which was headed: “Where is the political outcry over cartoon attacking priests.” There is a time for silence, Iggy, but surely this was a time to speak out.

  7. Sean O'Conaill says:

    “I gave My back to those who struck Me,
    And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard;
    I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.
    “For the Lord God will help Me;
    Therefore I will not be disgraced;
    Therefore I have set My face like a flint,
    And I know that I will not be ashamed.”
    (NKJV Isa 50:6-7)
    There are many places today where Christians, and especially Christian ministers, are subject to gratuitous insult and much worse. But doesn’t that ‘go with the territory’ – from the very beginning?
    Ireland’s case has to do with a continuing reaction against the immense prestige and power of the clerical Catholic church from 1922 to c. 1992. That the Irish Times could casually publish that Martyn Turner cartoon indicates a fairly mindless editorial trope – but it also publishes Breda O’Brien’s reaction to that.
    When satire of any kind lampoons the powerful, it is the cartoonist who needs to flinch. Martyn Turner really needs to ask himself if he is not now the power-wielder in relation to clergy, as it is the secular media that are now the dominant brokers of honour and shame in Irish society. Has he ever cartooned himself, with egg on face?
    Those who serve us as well as most Catholic clergy can also set their faces as flint here. This episode also has to do with people not really knowing what they are doing – and humility always wins in the end.

  8. Joe O'Leary says:

    Breda O’Brien writes: “The only major Irish research we have, the Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland Report , says just over 3 per cent of sexual abuse was carried out by priests and religious. That statistic is often misread as stating that more than 3 per cent of priests are abusers [this sentence is confusing]. In fact, because abusers of children tend to have many victims, it is probably much less than that.”
    Since priests and religious would make up about .3% of the population this would mean that they are responsible for ten times more than the usual quota of abuse. Surely there is something wrong with this picture? Has anyone any light to shed on this?
    The SAVI report seems to work with a limited sample.

  9. Isabel Sinton says:

    Dear Priests: Please stop acting like a wet hen. There is s serious problem with the man made rule( that Jesus never heard of) the secrecy of confession. People who abuse children are absolved of their sins, told not to do it again, and go and abuse another child. The Confession system isn’t working. As an Irish-American once said in 1964 ‘ “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem’ (John F. Kennedy)
    Stop focusing on the petty issue of having your feelings hurt and think of the children. WWJD?

  10. Suzanne Sears says:

    That priests are taking the time to complain about a cartoon, when they could be using that time instead to figure out how to build a case against their Superiors who covered up abuse is disturbing.
    And you wonder WHY many are leaving the Roman Catholic church? Now you have an inkling of what it’s like to be a victim – a silly cartoon in a newspaper doesn’t compare to years of rape by a Roman Catholic priest.

  11. Paddy Ferry says:

    Sean@8 hits the nail right on the head as he always does — ” Ireland’s case has to do with a continuing reaction against the immense prestige and power of the clerical Catholic church from 1922 to c 1992″ and, I would say, the fact that the faithful,(we) accepted it all with such docility. When will the reaction end? — I think we still have quite a bit to go.

  12. Joe O'Leary says:

    Paddy, surely the “nail” that people are hitting, not only in Ireland but in many other places where the church did not enjoy such hegemony as in Ireland, is the scandal of clerical child abuse? The reactions of Isabel and Suzanne above suggest that Fr Iggy was right in his advice.

  13. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Surely it is possible for thinking people to hold two distinct, though related, ideas of justice in mind – alongside one another or even simultaneously? In this case, while the overarching idea must be the continuing excavation of and reparation for the scandal of clerical child abuse as a (?small) part of universal child abuse, the more immediate idea last week was (once again)whether Irish priests as a body of men who have done the people and children of the state more than a little service – many for fifty, sixty or seventy years – should just roll over dumbly or cower behind a parapet in the face of a blanket insult with the added power of a pictorial caricature spread prominently across 24 column-inches.
    No, Isabel and Suzanne, this is not a case of cotton-wooled clerics unable to take satire in their stride, or of their non-clerical supporters rushing in to support them as a group. It’s about fairness and justice. And, Joe, I’m sure that the reactions of Ned Quinn@7 and the priests who wrote to the Irish Times are at least as representative of Irish justice as are those of Isabel and Suzanne. I still feel Fr Iggy has grown exceeding mild since moving from Drogheda to Limerick!

  14. Isabel Sinton, Welcome to Easter 2014! I hope you had a good one!

    Confession is a sacred Sacrament of the Catholic Religion, and, in the interests of your core values of tolerance, diversity, and pluralism, you are called upon to respect and hold in great esteem our profound beliefs. Anything less would be a failing on your part to the creed which you presumably hold dear.

    There is zero evidence (as you might expect) of anyone confessing the sins of sex abuse and then going on to do it again, but in any case, if Confession was no longer sealed, then nobody would take the risk to confess sex abuse, and so you’d be no further on: nobody would have confessed sex abuse, you’d have none of your ‘intelligence’ and souls would be lost through non-confession of sins and the guidance to find one’s way out of the grave situation one is in and has created for others.

    You need to let go, and let God, and please, tend your wet hens on this beautiful, sunny Easter Monday! Because as we all know, there’s nothing worse than a wet hen. I hope the weather in America is every bit as nice as it is here in Ireland.

  15. Clare Hannigan says:

    The Gospel teaching on truth and justice sometimes appear to be in conflict with the laws of the Church. In the book Click Click, June Kavanagh describes making her first Confession in Ballyfermot in 1969. She describes confessing the abuse that she and her sisters were experiencing at the hands of their father. The Priest questioned her about what was happening to her and said he wanted to talk to her father. He then gave her a penance of three Hail Marys, five Our Fathers and a decade of the Rosary. Afterwards she did not say anything about the abuse as she was terrified her father would find out what she had done. The abuse continued for years. I wonder is this God’s will. Does canon law take precedence over the Gospel Commandment to love God and love our neighbour as ourself. If a child were to go to a Priest in confession today and confess her experience of sexual abuse at the hands of her father and if that Priest decided that in order to follow his conscience and protect the child he must defy canon law ought he be excommunicated.

  16. Joe O'Leary says:

    I am still stunned by Breda O’Brien’s statistic that priests and religious are responsible for 3% of child sexual abuse in Ireland. If true, it means that a priest is about ten times likelier than any other adult to abuse children. What do you think of this perception, Eddie? Is it incorrect and if so how can it be corrected?

  17. Paddy Ferry says:

    Yes, Joe, I think I am inclined to agree with Fr. Iggy on this one.

  18. Clare @ #16, the seal of confession binds the priest, but the child is free to say whatever they like to anyone. So the priest could try to convince the child to go to a trusted and reliable adult, or indeed offer to accompany the child. It is a very difficult situation to be sure. The priest can guide the child on what to do best, and I am hopeful that the advice given today would be good. I’m not a priest so I don’t know what advice they might give. Perhaps those who are priests can offer their suggestions.

  19. The statistics : priests may be 0.3 per cent of the total population. However, if that is correct they are likely to be closer 0.6 per cent or 1.0 per cent of the adult population who get reported for sexual abuse. However as has been often said, a lot of sexual abuse does not get reported.
    The selection of candidates for ordination is said to be more rigorous now. The whole business however doesn’t reflect well on the so-called process of “formation” for priestly life which suggests preparing (manipulating) people to live a life that will do violence to their nature, a way of life that may it seems be abandoned.
    I buy the London Times myself. I consider it a better paper with a better cartoonist (Peter Brooks) and I consider it better value for money at only 90 Cents. Another thing, you get good coverage of world news and you don’t have to read every day about Irish politicians.

  20. In respect of Martyn Turner’s cartoon; I have seen it and would like to add my voice to all who condemn it as grotesque. I am an ex-pat, having left Ireland forty years ago, at age 16, so some might say I have little right to an opinion in the matter. I would counter that, however, based on personal experience of Church authority.
    Turner’s bad taste nothwithstanding however, and I say this with every respect for those who might read this, and with no intention to offend, posits an inescapable question; which authority, State or Church, takes precedence in the matter of child welfare in Ireland today?
    I was not sexually abused as a child, but in my primary years I knew the authority of the leathair, a crude form of physical and psychological abuse, the application of which I will assume in today’s Irish primaries would constitute criminal abuse.
    About the time I was being “taught the bible”, under threat of the leathair if I failed to correctly recite verbatim, children were in fact being sexually abused under the aegis of said church. Where was law then?
    Today many might regard me as no longer resident Irish and therefore no longer with a right to comment, but I would ask mother Ireland – who now takes precedence in the matter of child welfare in Ireland – Church or State?
    Turner’s appalling bad taste posits the serious and inescapable question – can the Irish Catholic Church now state openly that it deferrs entirely to State law? Certainly the leathair is no longer tolerated, but will the Church now comply unequivocally to State law in respect of child welfare?
    Say it – and say it publicly – when a priest is known to have abused even one child, that priest will be subject to State law, and not “processed within the church” – as erstwhile – moved around different dioscees to go on to abuse others, or sent on “retreat for a period of reflection”.
    I speak with the authority of a child who was several times attacked by religious persons with a vicious piece of purpose-made cow-hide. I say Turner’s question – however provocative – stands. Does the Irish Catholic Church now defer to State law in its entirety?

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