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ACP report on Yvonne Murphy investigation published

About eighteen months ago some priests of Dublin Archdiocese approached the ACP Leadership with the proposal that a study of Judge Yvonne Murphy’s Investigation of Clerical Child Abuse in the Archdiocese be conducted.
Retired District Court Judge from Hong Kong, Mr. Fergal Sweeney, was commissioned to do this work.
We here publish his report:
Commissions of Investigation and Procedural Fairness Report
(40 pages, PDF)
In conjunction with this, Fr. Pádraig McCarthy of the Archdiocese has just published a book on the same subject. This does not duplicate Fergal Sweeney’s work but includes further areas of analysis of the Murphy Report. Pádraig’s book, An Unheard Story (published by Londubh) will be available in most bookshops.

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  1. Con Carroll says:

    One should be encouraged to read this report I intend in doing this. But lets us repeat again and again: celibacy has nothing to do with pedophilia. Nor is the notion of Ireland or any other country being a secular state behind pedophilia

  2. I have read this review and I consider the following to be the salient Points
    1. The enquiry that led to the Murphy Report was carried out under the 2004 Act which was really guided by the Law Reform Commission Report of 2003. This report proposes a low key enquiry that would focus on the malfunction of the system not on the sins of the individual. It was viewed that such an enquiry would not attract the rules of constitutional justice precisely because the focus was to be on the system, not the individual. Two further recommendations of the LRC Report are pertinent: (a) the enquiry was to be held in private –again to protect the good name of the participants and (b) where a participant wished to comment on or disagree with the conclusions of the enquiry, such comments and/or disagreements would be included in the final report—in short both sides of the argument would be recorded. The Murphy Report does not meet the standards set out by the Law Reform because it names and blames individual clerics.
    2. The legislation itself could be viewed as flawed and the Dail debates at the time foresaw the possibility of a legal challenge. The legislation does not make provision for an enquiry that might find a reason to go beyond the remit of focussing on a system and start adjudicating of individuals. If it had done so, it would surely have written into the legislation the 4 minimum rights which the Supreme Court set down in its Abbeylara judgement–right to know the content of the accusation, to cross examine the accuser, to address the adjudicator through counsel and make a rebuttal. Instead the legislation talks vaguely about “fair procedures” without stating how these fair provisions might be implemented.
    3. The Murphy Report did not accord natural justice to the clerics who participated. Where there is a difference in the recollections of past events between clerics and professionals it resolves such differences in favour of the professionals and against the cleric and, most significantly, does not give any reason for doing so. The report does not give due consideration to any mitigating circumstances put forward by the clerics. This is particularly obvious in discussing the “learning curve”. The report dismisses out of hand that the clergy were on a learning curve when it came to child sexual abuse but freely acknowledges the existence of such a learning curve in the case of An Garda Siochana and Social workers—or indeed, psychiatrists.
    4. The LRC places great emphasis on the limitations of any form of enquiry or tribunal when it comes to the administration of justice. It states that an enquiry is not able to carry out a function which belongs to the courts—that of punishment and it warns against the danger of attempting to do so in times of a public outcry.
    This review of the Murphy report is not attempting to deny or minimize the wrong that was done to the victims of clerical child abuse. What the review is stating is that the clergy did not get natural justice. It is important to draw attention to this in a week when we have heard alot of concern about targeting any particular group.
    I find the silence of the named Bishops and of the members of the Law Reform Commission at the time of publication puzzling. I assume that the Bishops were terrified of savaging by the media. Why did not the members of the LRC not speak out?
    While reading the review I remembered a time when the Catholic Hierarchy did not give due process to Fr. Kevin Hegarty. The “removed” him from his position as editor of Intercom when that magazine printed an article of clerical child sexual abuse. I wonder if the Bishops had listened and reflected, even at that late stage, would we now have a different church?
    Finally, there is no substitute for a formal statement of complaint to An Garda Siochana in the event of sexual assault or any other crime.

  3. Margaret, thank you that synopsis. I read the Conclusion as I could not face trying to read the whole thing.

  4. Like you Paddy, I also could not read the report on the investigation. Again it takes a second class citizen (Jesus Weeps) within our church, to give us her synopsis. Thank you Margaret.

  5. Con Carroll says:

    Did anyone read the piece in Tuesday’s Irish Times by Patsy Mc Garry. Where does the anti clerical sentiment come in?. By the thinking of certain people who asked for a review to be done? Or do we have people who can no longer appreciate, that we don’t live in a Ireland of the 1930s or 1950 — which was in the hands of white male clerical control. Date and times have changed for the better. We have people been subjected to bullying, been told to be silent, accused of been disrespect to holy mother church and her prelates. After all, didn’t the good auld Sisters, and Brothers educated the illiterate children, feed and cloth them? Maybe we should have told people to stay in their places.

  6. Mary Cunningham says:

    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

  7. Joe O'Leary says:

    Mary, of course there was a learning curve from 1970s to 1990s — why would Dermot Ryan have a contemporary sense of the complexities of these issues when they almost never arose during his time as bishop? Why would Desmond Connell be an expert as soon as he was thrust into the role after decades as a professor of Metaphysics and a chaplain to enclosed religious sisters? Kevin McNamara’s insurance policy by no means exhibits an advanced stage on the curve. The Council of Elvira is chiefly notorious as one of the first attempts to impose celibacy. To say that it shows the Church was always versed is csa is silly — of course everyone knows there is such a thing as csa, but it was regarded very differently in the past, and the bishops of that remote time, insofar as we can guess what they thought, would probably see it in terms of scandal rather than think of the effects on the victim.
    Legal challenges in the courts are costly, and the ridicule greeting Abp Connell’s appeal to the courts at one point could only discourage them. The ACP has done well to commission a general legal survey, which prepares a more favorable soil for such individual legal actions.
    As to Canon Law, it is not a relevant consideration under Irish law, except if it can be shown to be an obstacle to Irish law (which despite Enda Kenny’s famous speech has not been clearly shown as far as I can see). The Republic of Ireland is a secular democracy, not a hybrid of church and state. The Code of Canon Law specifies child abuse as a crime in church law, not a “sin” — it hardly needed canon lawyers to tell us that! No bishop has ever denied that child abuse is both a sin and a crime. But remember that it is an instinct with priests to approach sinners, even murderers, with mercy, although the world sees this as collusion.

  8. Joe O'Leary says:

    I see from Padraig McCarthy’s book that the insurance taken out in 1987 had the derisory premium of 515 pounds — clearly indicating that the archdiocese did not think compensation claims for abuse of minors would be a major threat to its finances. So it rather proves than disproves the learning curve.

  9. Mary Cunningham says:

    Canon Law may be an obstacle to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, (1989).
    The Holy See ratified this Convention in 1990 with several reservations. The most pertinent one is below:
    (c) [The Holy See declares] that the application of the Convention be compatible in practice with the particular nature of the Vatican City State and of the sources of its objective law (art. 1, Law of 7 June 1929, n. 11) and, in consideration of its limited extent, with its legislation in the matters of citizenship, access and residence.”
    This is a convoluted way of saying, which obscures the meaning, that the Convention must be applied in a way compatible with the Vatican City State’s “sources of objective law”, which is principally Canon Law.
    While the ACP has every right to listen to the concerns of some its members regarding the Murphy Report, I would urge all concerned to study Chapter Four on Canon Law.
    This gives a clear picture of the utter confusion and ignorance on how to deal with reported cases of child clerical sexual abuse that existed in the Dublin Archdiocese.
    The all-pervading requirement of utter secrecy, dare I suggest, may be responsible not only for failure to deal adequately with offenders, but also contributed to blameless, good clerics getting caught up in its pernicious web.
    ps. For full facts on insurance, read relevant Chapter Nine in the Murphy Report link above.

  10. Joe O'Leary says:

    Is the law of Vatican City “principally Canon Law”? This does not seem to be the case: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_Vatican_City
    Reading through chapter 4 of the report, I think the provisions in Canon Law were quite sensible and that the diocesan officials made a good effort to apply them (and not that the Murphy Report itself is now under fire for the poor application of its legal remit). Canon Law is softer than what public opinion (but not civil law) would like to see done by bishops — e.g. no statute of limitation, immediate suspension of accused clerics etc. But I see no evidence that Canon Law clashed with state law in the handling of abuse cases. The complainants preferred to go to church authorities rather than to the police (understandably); Canon Law did not have the teeth in terms of punishment that state law may now be acquiring, but the authorities did the best they could to stop and punish wrongdoing, as the Canon Law sternly insists.

  11. Joe O'Leary says:

    Mary, what the link shows is that the Code of Canon Law (misleadingly described as the Church’s theology cast in legal form — but this points to the limits of its bearing) is incorporated into Vatican law. By the same token the canon law of the Church of England is incorporated into civil legislation in England.
    Basically, Canon Law seems quite unfitted to deal with child abuse, since its concern is mostly with the regulation of the sacraments (including matrimony) and with clerics and religious.

  12. Joe O’Leary #12
    “Basically, Canon Law seems quite unfitted to deal with child abuse, since its concern is mostly with the regulation of the sacraments (including matrimony) and with clerics and religious.”
    How do you square this, Joe, with your assertion in #10 that “the authorities did the best they could to stop and punish wrongdoing”?
    The fact is that they did not – that at least one auxiliary bishop in Dublin directly set out to prevent the criminal investigation of clerical child abuse by the Gardai. You seem to forget that clergy are also subject to the laws of the state, so that ‘the best they could to stop and punish wrongdoing’ was absolutely not confined to what was permitted by canon law.
    Frankly, Joe, your persistent attempts to airbrush from the record what the Irish Bishops’s Conference has itself admitted are astonishing. Please print the following out and pin it up in large type on your bedroom wall:
    “We are shamed by the extent to which child sexual abuse was covered up in the Archdiocese of Dublin and recognise that this indicates a culture that was widespread in the Church. The avoidance of scandal, the preservation of the reputations of individuals and of the Church, took precedence over the safety and welfare of children. This should never have happened and must never be allowed to happen again. We humbly ask for forgiveness.”
    (Statement from the Winter General Meeting of the Irish Bishops’ Conference
    9 December 2009)

  13. A learning curve? The heirarchy, the Vatican City State, Cannon Law, mighty institutions that have lost their way, Matt.18:5-7.

  14. Joe O'Leary says:

    Sean, there was no Irish law about mandatory reporting of allegations. The statement of the bishops’ conference reflects Abp Martin’s reception of the Murphy Report — but now it seems that there were many misperceptions here.

  15. Joe O’Leary #15
    So for you, Joe, an Irish bishop’s moral obligation to protect Irish Catholic children was always limited to what the penal civil law required of him?
    That fully explains why Irish Bishops didn’t get around to protecting Irish Catholic children until the very moment we discovered (1994) that they hadn’t been doing so.
    Be sure I will remember to point that out in my response to the consultation document on ‘Catholic teaching on the family’. Your argument and those bishops’ behaviour reduces the teaching significance of the magisterium to approximately that of Keepers of the King’s Ferrets.

  16. Sean, The bishops` trusteeship has many a long lifetime to come- long enough to see off a generation or so of disgusted or merely disgruntled parishioners and their short-winded and vexatious unhappiness. The plant -churches, cemetries, school buildings, halls etc.)- will remain intact in their stewardship until regroupment in the medium- term future, which can at that decent distance in time be done without loss of face. The only criticism they recognise has an address in a different part of the universe.

  17. I have been feeling uncomfortable and bothered from the moment I first became aware of the investigation by Mr. Fergal Sweeney into the Murphy Commission. I initially thought that perhaps silence was the best approach. However, I now have to say that I am completely with Sean O’Conaill, Mary Cunningham and Con Carroll who have had the courage to voice their opinions.
    So, we now know that there were errors in terms of correct process in how the Commission conducted its business. The Terms of Reference were not properly followed and so on. But surely, surely all of that pales into insignificance when placed beside the horrors that were inflicted on innocent, vulnerable children. Surely —-!
    Thank God for Diarmuid Martin and the words of common sense and even wisdom he spoke when they were most needed. The man continues to up in my estimation.

  18. Association of Catholic Priests says:

    I am surprised at your comment, Paddy. You seem to me to be saying that if the crime is sufficiently awful (as it was in this case) that fair procedures are no longer important, that peoples basic rights can be bye-passed. It seems to me that the implications of that for society at large are seriously detrimental.
    Personally I have fought my case against the Vatican on precisely this issue, – that their procedures were unfair and unjust. How could I possibly not support this critique when it is making the same case, and with considerable cogency, despite what Diarmaid Martin says.
    None of us are for a moment suggesting that terrible things were not done by priests in Dublin Diocese, but it is only if the investigation follows the proper channels that true justice can be obtained for all.
    And if we did not point out the weaknesses in this form of investigation, what profession would be next to be judged in this fashion?
    Tony Flannery

  19. I believe that children were abused sexually by priests within the Catholic Church and I assume that this happened in every diocese and religious congregation in Ireland. I feel it necessary to state this point clearly before condoning the work of Fergeal Sweeney. I believe that if due process had been followed–if the named bishops had been given the right to cross examine their accusers, been given the right to appeal etc–that the findings of the Murphy Commission would have been the same as what was published in the Murphy Report. But due process was not given. Archbishop Martin reminds us of the context of the report. I would remind him that the context of the removal of the Roma children was the fact that a child was found in the Roma community in Greece. This context did not justify the removal of the Roma children in Ireland. So, I believe that children were sexually abused in the Dublin diocese and I believe that the bishops were not given due process in the Murphy commission. These truths are not mutually exclusive. It would be good if we could hold both truths in our consciousness.

  20. Mary Cunningham says:

    The honesty and integrity displayed by Bishop Jim Moriarty in the statement below was a beacon of light at a dark time. It deserves reflection by all concerned with the Murphy report.
    22nd April 2010: Pope accepts Bishop Moriarty’s Resignation.
    “The decision to offer my resignation was the most difficult decision of my ministry. I did not anticipate resigning when I first read the Murphy Report, because I was not directly criticised.
    However, the Murphy Report covers far more than what individual Bishops did or did not do. Renewal must begin with accepting responsibility for the past. I served as an Auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese of Dublin from 1991 until my appointment to this diocese in 2002. I was part of the governance of the Archdiocese prior to when correct child protection policies and procedures were implemented.
    Again I accept that from the time I became an Auxiliary Bishop, I should have challenged the prevailing culture. Once more I apologise to all survivors and their families.
    When I announced before Christmas that I was offering my resignation to the Holy Father, I explained what I hoped it might achieve“ I hope it honours the truth that the survivors have so bravely uncovered and opens the way to a better future for all concerned”.
    The truth is that the long struggle of survivors to be heard and respected by church authorities has revealed a culture within the Church that many would simply describe as unchristian. People do not recognise the gentle, endless love of the Lord in narrow interpretations of responsibility and a basic lack of compassion and humility. This has been profoundly dispiriting for all who care about the Church.”
    Full statement available on:

  21. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    Seán Ó Conaill, #13:
    Seán, maybe you would supply the reference to where it is stated in the Murphy Report that: “at least one auxiliary bishop in Dublin directly set out to prevent the criminal investigation of clerical child abuse by the Gardaí.”

  22. Pádraig McCarthy #22
    Here is the relevant passage from part 1 of the Murphy report:
    Bishop Kavanagh
    1.52 Bishop Kavanagh was the longest serving auxiliary bishop (from 1972 to 1998). He failed to deal properly with (name redacted) even when he had pleaded guilty to child sexual abuse. He tried to influence the Garda handling of the criminal complaints against (name redacted) . He persuaded a family to drop a complaint they had made to the Gardaí in relation to Fr (name redacted).
    If I have substantively altered the meaning and import of this in my account, my apologies. I should, I suppose, have taken the trouble to quote the passage precisely.

  23. Sean O’Connaill @23
    In a recent comment Margaret Lee said ‘sometimes we find it hard to hold two truths in our consciousness simultaneously’ I think you have this gift .

  24. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    Thanks, Seán.
    Where the Murphy Report says that Bishop Kavanagh (December 1983) “failed to deal effectively with *** even when he had pleaded guilty”, the Report says (28.59) that the Probation Act was applied, and Bishop Kavanagh moved to get the offender to treatment in St Patrick’s Hospital. This is surely not failing to deal effectively, except for the fact that we know today the psychiatric treatment then would itself be ineffective; but it seemed at the time, 32 years ago, as the way to go.
    Where it says Bishop Kavanagh tried to influence Garda handling, 20.54 of the Report recounts that he wanted to ensure it was dealt with in a low-key way, which would be the case anyway in this type of case. We might say that he should not have been involved in any way, but that was the way things were done. The work of the Garda must be independent, but it did not, and does not, act in isolation from the rest of society. Rather it works with and depends on the cooperation of other organisations and individuals.
    When the Report says that Bishop Kavanagh in 1981 persuaded a family to drop a complaint (this is a different case), this again was so that the offender would be sent for treatment. The Dept of Health did not recognise child sexual abuse as a distinct form of abuse until 1987. The first programme of treatment in prison for sexual offenders in Ireland was in 1994. Sending the offender for treatment at the time was much more forward-thinking than would result from going to trial and imprisonment.
    Yes, the ways cases were handled then is not what would be best practice today, but they could not know that at the time.
    The Murphy Report is seriously defective in how it tends to assess failures in handling of cases as arising from reprehensible motives, whereas the fact is that there was no better way known at the time.
    It is important not to make the Murphy Report infallible and beyond question; we must look objectively at its statements, and keep in mind the knowledge and understanding of the time.
    There is more about this in Unheard Story, my book just published, which is available at the Book Shop link on the home page of the ACP website.

  25. @25.
    ‘The ways cases were handled then is not what would be best practice today, but they could not know that at the time’. This is not true.
    The Murphy Report pointed to the fact that there was ‘a two thousand year history of Biblical, Papal and Holy See statements showing awareness of clerical child sex abuse, the first denunciation dating from 153 AD. Also, the Vatican’s 1922 ‘Crimen Solicitationis’ document, updated in 1962, which addressed clerical child sexual abuse. First there was the abuse, then there was the way the abused were treated when they reported the abuse, which some said was even harder to take than the abuse itself, then there was the biggest crime of all, the policy of secrecy, “Ratzinger himself on May 18th 2001, sent a solemn document to all the bishops dealing with severe crimes in which cases of abuse were sealed under the ‘secretum pontificium’, the violation of which could entail grave ecclesiastical penalties”. The more you defend the indefensible the more the Church loses credibility.

  26. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    Yes, there was awareness in church and in society for a long time. This, however, is not the issue.
    The awareness and understanding 30 years ago of the effects of abuse, of how to help the abused person, and how to deal with the abuser, is not what we have today. There have been enormous developments in this field in the past 30 years. The church is part of society, and grows in understanding and development with society (or we hope it does!), while also, we hope, challenging society.
    I am not trying to defend the indefensible. The abuse was and is appalling. The handling of allegations was disastrous, as we know from the failures. But we cannot judge the actions of people 30 years ago as if they had the level of awareness and knowledge and understanding that have developed in the time since then.
    I have tried to document this in the book Unheard Story. There is far more there than can go here on the website.

  27. Pádraig McCarthy #25
    Thanks, Pádraig. I will be sure to read your book.
    What I find interesting in your account of Bishop Kavanagh’s dealings with these cases is that you do not explicitly surface and discount the possibility that fear of public shame to clergy generally could have influenced his choice of action, a choice that led in each case to the keeping of these instances of clerical child abuse out of the public domain.
    I am struck by the sentence: “Where it says Bishop Kavanagh tried to influence Garda handling, 20.54 of the Report recounts that he wanted to ensure it was dealt with in a low-key way, which would be the case anyway in this type of case.”
    Don’t we need to tease apart exactly why there was indeed this tendency to handle such cases in this ‘low-key’ way? I grew up in Dublin in the 1950s and early 60s and can vividly remember the long confessional queues on Saturday nights, and the heavy clerical investment in maintaining a climate of deep personal unease around sexuality, even around what were called ‘bad thoughts’ and ‘heavy petting’. We were being told, impressively, to share the details of our most intimate vulnerabilities with men who never surfaced their own in this area. For all we lay people knew back then they didn’t have any, and their ordination was part of the reason for that.
    Wasn’t this ‘mystique of clergy’ likely to have been very much part of the reason for the ‘low-key’ response both by clergy and Gardai to instances of clerical lewdness, and for the fact that the pattern of Bishop Kavanagh’s interventions, and, indeed, of all such clerical interventions, was to be effective in keeping these events out of the public domain? Mustn’t that have been part of the reason that it eventually took the anger of abused families in Belfast, and the different prosecutorial climate in Northern Ireland, to detonate this time bomb in 1994?
    I am not sure if the use of the term ‘cover-up’ has yet been subjected to close analysis. Thinking about it I feel we need to begin by acknowledging that the motivation of any individual in any given instance is virtually impossible to determine in detail. It takes a genius such as Shakespeare to uncover the tangle of motives we can be prone to in justifying what we do – and even then anyone is free to see such things quite differently.
    So it’s obviously a mistake to attempt to justify the term ‘cover up’ by imputing such an intention to any given individual in any given instance. However, can’t we begin to understand the impression that was likely to have been made by a visit from an auxiliary bishop to a Catholic family in Dublin on such a matter in 1981 – a family that may well have supposed that what had happened to it was very rare if not unique, a family that had probably been very well disposed to the church, and that could, by such a visit, be easily persuaded that the bishop’s solution was the best one available? And can’t we suppose also that Bishop Kavanagh was likely to have been well aware of the likely effect of such a visit? And can’t we then use the term ‘cover up’ simply to describe this tendency to deal with such cases in a ‘low-key’ (i.e. out-of-the-courts-and-media) way – without attributing an overriding intention to conceal criminality to any given individual?
    For us lay people it is the fact that this lightning struck so many families over such a long period – making the phenomenon known to so many clergy – plus the fact that in the end it was NOT our clergy who revealed this phenomenon to us, that makes it obvious that there was indeed a clerical cover up, and that the acknowledgement of this by our bishops in Dec 2009 was a welcome beginning to the honesty we need to maintain if we are to recover as a Christian community.
    So I would be deeply concerned if the objective behind the ACP review of the Murphy report was to deny a clerical cover-up, and to persuade our bishops to withdraw their acknowledgement of that . One of the great potential benefits of the current crisis is that we could together begin to discuss a balanced morality that has a balanced view of sexuality also, one that does not oblige us to maintain a misunderstanding of the meaning and effect of ordination – allowing us all to dialogue as morally vulnerable equals (i.e. sinners).
    I wish we could go there, rather than be held back by an interminable re-examination of a report that is so difficult to read that the huge majority of Irish Catholics will never have more than a ‘book blurb’ idea of it in any case. All heart-struck, could we not look forward, in mutual compassion, not backward in shame, bitterness or self-righteousness?
    We know already that the obligation of forgiveness cannot be avoided. The potential of meditation on the Easter story to help us deal with public shame is still unexplored. We could surely go there profitably also. Our difficulties with shame underlie our most serious dysfunctions, it seems to me – everything from criminality to addiction, depression and mental illness. I really do believe that Jesus knew that, and is truly with us, and with our priests, in the shamings of the present.

  28. Joe O'Leary says:

    Nuala, the point is that the currently approved handling of allegations of child abuse is very, very different from what it would have been throughout history, in families as much as in churches. To say that everybody knew that child abuse and clerical child abuse existed is not the same thing as to say they knew what we now claim to know about how it should be dealt with. As to Ratzinger’s letter of 2001, if it is such a “smoking gun” why is it publicly displayed on the Vatican’s website? http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20010518_epistula_graviora%20delicta_lt.html

  29. Kevin Walters says:

    Sean O’Conaill @28
    One of the great potential benefits of the current crisis is that we could together begin to discuss a balanced morality that has a balanced view of sexuality also, one that does not oblige us to maintain a misunderstanding of the meaning and effect of ordination – allowing us all to dialogue as morally vulnerable equals (i.e. sinners)
    We know already that the obligation of forgiveness cannot be avoided. The potential of meditation on the Easter story to help us deal with public shame is still unexplored. We could surely go there profitably also. Our difficulties with shame underlie our most serious dysfunctions; it seems to me – everything from criminality to addiction, depression and mental illness. I really do believe that Jesus knew that, and is truly with us, and with our priests, in the shamings of the present
    Are the Bishops to blame or is it just that we are all riddled with human frailty and sinfulness. Should we the Laity expect a holy Priesthood? The answer to this has to be yes we should, we expect them to practice what they have taught us
    But what do we mean by holiness?
    The antidote to human frailty and sinfulness is honesty (Truth) we bow down before the light. Honesty (Openness) leads to humility (Holiness). In humility we see ourselves as we are before our Father in heaven as in a badly cracked mirror, broken distorted and riddled with imperfections and sinfulness. When we carry this image (Picture) of ourselves within our heart we truly begin the journey home to our Father’s house in heaven. We look within and acknowledge our own sin, then we start to walk in Meekness, Humility and TRUST in the Holy Spirit.
    “Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart and you shall find rest for your souls”
    We need a Priesthood that walks in simplicity of thought (Heart/honesty) as Jesus taught.
    Honesty is the key, but will our Bishops lead and truly bend their knee.
    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  30. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    Seán, as you say I don’t discount the possibility that fear of public shame was a factor. How could I? It is a very common factor in many such situations – think bankers, politicians, etc. We are complex beings with complex motives.
    As regards low-key handling, think the in-camera procedures for various offences, which are currently being debated. The purpose, as I see it, is not to protect an offender from shame, but for the protection of the plaintiff.
    You write: “I am not sure if the use of the term ‘cover-up’ has yet been subjected to close analysis.” It is indeed a complex matter, on which I have a full chapter in Unheard Story. The Murphy Report uses cover-up as a charge in a very simplistic manner.
    I realised that in writing the book, it would be very difficult to find a balanced approach in a matter on which there are such strong opinions and feelings. You’ll have to judge for yourself to what extent I have succeeded. Clear communication in such an area is very difficult to achieve, since I can only haltingly try to control my side, and I have no control over how people will read it.

  31. Joe, Anything else I would say would be duplicating what Sean O’Connaill has said far more succinctly and intelligently than my writing skills. My internet cover is woeful so I tend not to bother trying to access much of the web addresses posted in the comments. My few reference books are survivors of the bonfire that was the result of me losing my faith in the Catholic Church. The survivors are getting a new lease of life since I started commenting on this website. I always thought Sean O’Connell was a priest until @28 above. If you read this Sean, I thought you were a very discerning priest with your finger on the pulse of many relevant issues.

  32. Mary Cunningham says:

    The programme below takes an incisive and considered look at the underlying problems which faced the Irish Bishops as they struggled to cope with clerical sexual abuse.
    The Vatican culture of self-protection and secrecy is inexcusable.
    The core of the cover-up is located here.
    (Scroll down to archival list no.4 January 17th 2011)

  33. Joe O'Leary says:

    “inexcusable” — or just of a piece with traditional common practice in all institutions and families? Hushing things up was a way of life and perhaps still is. It is easy to understand how mistakes were made, and by refusing to make any effort at understanding we make the scandal much worse.

  34. Clare Hannigan says:

    It is not the traditional common practice for families to cover up problems. Most parents who have concerns about their children seek help from people they trust – teachers, doctors, nurses and sometimes priests. They look to charities and counseling agencies for advice and support. Secrecy, manipulation and control are qualities of a culture of emotional abuse.

  35. Joe O’Leary #35
    So for you, Joe, we must simply get over the fact that almost all of our administrative Catholic clergy behaved as badly as some bankers, politicians, solicitors – in this case endlessly hiding the illicit clerical sexuality that endangered the children of the parents they were also calling every week to repentance and moral probity?
    If so could you tell us in less than 500 words why we should still respect the Catholic sacramental system – those doors to the sacred whose keeping all priests are consecrated for: why we shouldn’t simply forget about you all and form twelve-step friendship groups in which everyone gets a turn in confessing and saying sorry, and then faces squarely the challenge of reparation?
    That’s the way things are going in any case, of course. I’m just curious to see if you are entirely relaxed about that also.

  36. 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.
    You know, Joe, my view on these matters is well and truly settled and has been go a long time. I am sure that applies to many of us. Yet your attitude causes me to revisit this whole area when, in actual fact, I just want to move on now in the hope that we, as a Church, can begin to regain some trust and credibility. And, I do sincerely believe, Joe, that abuser priests are also victims themselves as Marie Keenan’s book makes clear.

  37. Joe O'Leary says:

    Clare Hannigan, by “hushing things up” I did not mean “to cover up problems” — I meant “not washing the dirty linen in public” — and “not reporting Uncle Jim to the police”. You are mixing up two different things.
    Sean O’Connell, I don’t agree that almost all bishops and administrators endangered children; they hushed things up as far as the public sphere was concerned in order to avoid scandalizing the faithful, but that does not at all mean that they did not deal with the incidents of sexual abuse along lines perhaps not very far from what Clare Hannigan recommends. I suggest that this not all that different from the way child abuse would be dealt with both within families and elsewhere. SNAP can think only in terms of public naming and shaming, jail sentences, etc; it is not clear if that has done any good to anyone; their ideology of “closure” through punishment is a modern American idea, ideologically charged.
    I do not need 500 words to defend the sacraments — just one: Donatism.
    Fr O’Hanlon thinks no other professional body tried to hide sex abuse of children among its members as the bishops did — if so, it is a difference in degree not in kind, and the reason for the difference is clear: unlike professional abuse by psychoanalysts, teachers, coaches, people in the entertainment industries, there is an effect of spiritual scandal generated by clerical sex abuse; hushing it up was not just as matter of cowardice or self-protection (as in the Jimmy Savile affair) but a matter of avoiding further spiritual scandal. I do not say the bishops did not make mistakes or that the basic policy was not mistaken; I say that it was understandable in the context of the times and that we might all ask ourselves if we would have handled the problems any better.

  38. I think Joe O`Leary@39 is disingenuous in the extreme. What should have been done was to report known offenders to the police and by that means ensure that other children would not be put in danger. Simple. We are talking here about crimes.
    And appealing to the idea that our ideas change with time doesn`t impress either- what we can see is evil now was just as evil, to anyone with any kind of moral sensitivity, thirty/forty years ago.

  39. Joe O’Leary #39
    How can you say that Clare Hannigan is ‘mixing up two different things’ in conflating ‘hushing things up’ and ‘covering up problems’?
    Have you been truly awake these past two decades – not to notice that the ‘problem’ of clerical child sex abuse was UNCOVERED not by Irish bishops but by infuriated and abused Catholic families? When are we supposed to believe our bishops would have gotten around to that of their own accord?
    The answer is NEVER if you are telling us now that the bishops were right all along – that there was no ‘cover up’ – that since there was no civil statute obliging reporting there was no obligation of any kind for bishops to tell their people even that this malignancy could sometimes occur – even while knowing that this innocence on our part made our children as vulnerable as if we had opened the gate of a lion enclosure in the Zoo and pushed them in.
    You miss my point about the sacramental system also. I am not disputing the effectuality of the sacraments for those who believe in them even in the event of the officiating priest being a monster. I am speaking of the problem of taking that system seriously if priests even beforehand tell us they never had any familial obligation to warn us of the possibility of harm from another priest.
    Let’s say you had been an auxiliary in Dublin in, say, 1985, and had, with colleagues, decided to send back into ministry a priest, on the basis of a report from a psychiatrist that this priest, Fr Zozzy, was unlikely to abuse another boy, but was not certain not to do so. Then later your sister tells you that she has decided to move to that parish, with a family including a son aged 10. Do you make any move to ensure that your nephew never falls under Fr Zozzy’s spell? If you don’t and the worst happens, how do you explain yourself to your sister? If you do, how do you justify not doing anything to prevent the worst happening to any other child in that parish?
    How can a priest who believes what you do preach with conviction and persuasiveness on John 15: 14-15 or Mark 3: 32-35? If the sacramental system and the homily cannot speak to the principle of the church as family of the Lord they are a priori empty of meaning – but you are claiming now that a bishop had no obligation to adhere to the familial obligations he was recommending to others, and you apparently don’t care a whit if everyone knows that.
    You state that the fact that within some families such matters are ‘hushed up’ makes it acceptable that they should be, and sets an example that bishops can justly follow? How is that different from stating that we need to accommodate ourselves to everything that people do, that there is no higher morality?
    There is – and it is the abused Catholic families of Ireland and the Murphy Report, not you (or the bishops you defend) who have called us to it. If those families can’t now believe in the sacraments how could God deny them grace by other means – and how could he deny the rest of us if we stood in total solidarity with them and stayed away too?
    That’s exactly what I will do if the Irish Conference of Bishops ever sets out to withdraw its admission of cover-up in the wake of the Murphy report. I will see that as final proof that God has finally abandoned the Constantinian clerical system and opened up for us other channels of grace.

  40. Joe O'Leary says:

    Sean, please read more carefully. What Clare prescribed in her posting, no 36, is quite compatible with refusing to go public, and probably quite close to the way priests and bishops reacted to incidents of child abuse. You say families who hushed things up were behaving immorally and that bishops should have had a higher morality. But at the time those families did not think they were behaving immorally.
    SNAP believes that anyone guilty of an offence against a child is bound to reoffend, so the only solution is imprisonment and lifelong surveillance. I would question the premise, but even if the premise were true, it was not the common understanding thirty to forty years ago. Lots of schools had teachers who were known to be iffy in their relation to the children, but there was not the same extreme anxiety about this, and while the teacher might be confronted in private (the way Patrick Pearse’s colleagues confronted him about his “little lad of the tricks ” poem or the way Monsignor Padraig de Brun was delegated to confront the physicist Schroedinger about his behaviour with little girls) few would have thought of reporting him to the police. So what retrospectively appears as a highly irresponsible cover-up would probably be close to normal policy at the time.
    Of course the bishops made mistakes, and the most disturbing aspect of this is that children were endangered. But the image of a conspiratorial cover-up is exaggerated at least. “Handle the problems quietly” was probably the norm in the past.The reporting of allegations and the immediate suspension of priests while allegations are investigated is a relatively new prescription.
    mjt, we all agree that what is seen as evil now should have been seen as evil then. But in fact it was of course seen as evil then. That is not the issue.
    The issue is how incidents of child abuse should have been handled. “What should have been done was to report known offenders to the police.” Certainly, but this was everyone’s responsibility, and they fobbed it off on the bishops; or rather expected the bishops to handle it without necessarily bringing in the police at all. I suspect that very few Irish families would report a “known offender” in their midst to the police. One offender, later convicted, was well known to be such in a Dublin school — yet did anyone in the school report him to the police?
    I don’t understand what Sean means about bishops ignoring the familial obligation they recommended to others. The whole problem is that bishops regarded the offending or suspected priests as members of the church family rather than, as SNAP would wish, first and foremost criminals or possible criminals; within families, offending relatives were handled similarly, since denunciation to the police was weighed against many other factors. SNAP considers that to even consider such other factors is immoral, and that “the higher morality” is clearcut: call in the cops! But perhaps matters are not so black and white when you are in the midst of a complex and painful situation (as Clare has suggested, I think). Perhaps the higher morality is to think of all the factors involved, even if it leaves one vulnerable to SNAP’s legalistic inquisition. I am not at all sure that SNAP zealots would have handled these situations any better than the bishops did.
    In fact about 12 Dublin priests have been sentenced on sex abuse charges over the last 50 years, so perhaps “known offenders” is a category not so easy to establish.

  41. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    Some of the discussion here seems to have veered away from the points of Fergal Sweeney’s document and of my book, Unheard Story.
    Neither work tries to take from the serious wrong involved in child sexual abuse. Neither work tries to exonerate diocesan officials.
    On page 38 of Fergal Sweeney’s document, in the Conclusions, he writes:
    “4.10 Today, with the benefit of hindsight, the response of the Catholic Church as an institution to allegations of child sexual abuse against their own priests can be seen to have been self-serving, hypocritical, cold and uncaring for the children concerned.
    “4.11 But does that mean that each of the clerics who appeared before the Murphy Commission and is “named” in their Report was guilty of those faults and so was wholly unmeritorious? I have no idea. I have not been able to get a fair reading of their case because the Murphy Report lacks nuance, balance and any understanding of the historical and sociological context in which these events took place. Further, the very nature of the Commission of Investigations Act 2004 precluded fair procedures to those clerics who were called to account for themselves.”
    On page 29 of Unheard Story, I wrote:
    “… Nor do I attempt to exonerate those with responsibility for handling the allegations of child abuse. I am in no position either to exonerate or to declare guilty. I am not here to defend bishops – I am often critical of their actions or lack of action – but they, like other human beings, deserve to be treated with truth and justice.”
    The point of both documents is that there was an extremely serious matter, child sexual abuse in the diocese, to be investigated. The Murphy Report does a good job in validating authoritatively stories of abuse which until then were hidden.
    The Murphy Report, however, shows evidence of so many defects in its arguments and assessments that it is not a reliable guide to the realities of the tragic subject. It is not the Report that we needed. To accept it uncritically does not do justice. As Fergal Sweeney further argues, the underlying legislation, the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004, constitutes a serious problem in addressing the issue.
    The various other questions raised so far in the discussion above can indeed be addressed, but it seems very clear to me that the Murphy Report does not help in this task due to its many defects.
    Perhaps the discussion here could be brought back towards discussion of the points of Fergal’s document and of my book, since this is the point of the initial posting.
    Or is it still heresy to question the Murphy Report?

  42. Joe O’Leary #42
    “I don’t understand what Sean means about bishops ignoring the familial obligation they recommended to others. The whole problem is that bishops regarded the offending or suspected priests as members of the church family …..”
    And then you go on irrelevantly about SNAP, without noticing that you have put your finger precisely on the problem: typically bishops protected their priests as brothers – and totally lacked the same sense of familial concern for the child victims. Do you understand what I mean now?
    (I think here instantly of Marie Collins, who, when she reported being abused as a child in hospital (by the chaplain!) was upbraided by her bishop for seeking to damage the reputation of the priest who had abused her: he had absolutely no concern for Marie – or for other possible victims of the same man.)
    Why did you dodge the situation I asked you to consider? If you as an auxiliary bishop in Dublin had been in a position to warn a sister that a priest recently appointed as curate to her parish could possibly be a danger to her ten-year-old son, what would you have done? If you did nothing and the boy was harmed, how would you later explain yourself to your sister? If you warned her, but no one else, and someone else was harmed, how would you justify not having warned everyone?
    I don’t think you’ll ever get it, Joe. I think you have a strange kind of colour blindness. SNAP is not the issue here in Ireland. The magisterium taught the Irish people to look to it for the Lord’s shepherding care in relation to the family (what else does the crosier signify). (Look at McQuaid’s officiousness over the mother-and-child scheme.) It also taught us to see it as having the church’s key role in moral leadership, and in moral education. Did any bishop, or any priest, ever tell us not to do so?
    Now you tell us that we should never have done any of that!
    If, by going on about SNAP, you are trying to put me in the frame ‘demoniser of clerical paedophiles’, you’re wrong. I know well that too many SNAP people do that, and that they shouldn’t. My uncle Tommy was a priest of the Derry diocese who died in 1995, heartbroken over the Brendan Smyth revelations. I know well he would be far more troubled over your argument that we should never have expected our bishops to take a lead in protecting our children and uncovering the whole problem of child sexual abuse.
    But you know what? Maybe you are entirely correct and we should take that lesson to heart right now. Let’s all stop looking to you all for anything evermore – even a grain of commonsense. Let’s set our expectations for all Catholic clergy where you set them. Our children have been right all along – you have explained to me why the Mass is usually boring – the priest probably doesn’t believe a word of what he’s reading and saying.
    I’ve always wondered what the local Quaker meeting is like anyway. Yes – you have convinced me. Right now is the time to find out.

  43. #43 Padraig McCarthy
    No, Pádraig. It’s not heresy to question the Murphy report. That paragraph of it that allowed media to conclude that a majority of priests in Dublin had turned a blind eye to abuse should by now have been withdrawn and rewritten. You show yourself unafraid to open a discussion on Murphy and the whole issue of sexual abuse – when most of us have never had the opportunity of such a discussion with any clergy. When I’m satisfied that I have fully grasped the case you have put in ‘Unheard Story’ I will summarise my conclusions here. Murphy is not an easy read!

  44. Joe @42.
    ‘Certainly, but this was everyone’s responsibility and they fobbed it off on the bishops or rather expected the Bishop’s to handle it without bringing in the police at all’. By ‘they’ do you mean the parents of the children who were abused? These parents would not and could not have fobbed off a Bishop. Bishops were held in the highest esteem, reverence and fear by ordinary lay people. Parents would have had to first go to their priest with the report of abuse. The priest would then have brought it to the Bishop. Bishops didn’t get to be Bishops without having attained the highest level of knowledge in areas relating to sin, guilt and the psychology of sin and guilt. Levels of sin, Mortal, Serious, Venial, occasions of sin, sinful thoughts. What I am trying to say is that the Hierarchy and the Magisterium were well aware of the nature of sexual abuse, they were highly educated and steeped in a two thousand year old moral tradition with heavyweights like Augustine and Aquinas developing the process. Their moral teaching was down to such a fine art that they could tell a married couple exactly what position to use when having sexual intercourse. There is a cross over in this discussion between Cannon Law and Civil Law and the Heirarchy, the Bishops, are using this dichotomy to hide behind. The moral teaching authority of the Church is deeply, consciously flawed. This is plain to be seen in the travesty of Humanae Vitae. Anyone who tries to defend such a flawed institution will be tainted by association.

  45. Joe O'Leary says:

    The question, Sean, is how typical and long-lasting were the Marie Collins and “Fr Zozzo” scenarios. As often happened in families, accusations were met with instinctive “denial” at the early stages of the famous learning curve. I do not deny that mistakes were made — particularly troubling, as I said in my above reply, when children were endangered. But the extrapolations from this to a vast cover-up conspiracy are exaggerated.
    By the way, it is not true, as you say in a post above, that I see a bishop’s responsibility to children as limited to what the civil law requires. I merely pointed out that the inquisitors are accusing the bishops of not reporting incidents as if that were a requirement of the civil. Because of the excessive focus on reporting to the police, the efforts of the authorities to deal with the problem on wider pastoral premises are not taken into account and credited. The Murphy Report, like SNAP, tends to see the bishops as concerned only to protect priests from the law, and refuses to take an all-round perspective on what the bishops tried to do to handle the problems.

  46. Joe O’Leary #47
    “But the extrapolations from this to a vast cover-up conspiracy are exaggerated.”
    The Murphy report does not speak anywhere of “a vast cover-up conspiracy” as far as I can see.
    In fact it says: “1.56 For most of the time covered by the Commission’s remit, there was nothing resembling a management structure in the Archdiocese.” It also says elsewhere that Archbishop and auxiliaries very seldom came together to discuss anything. About Archbishop Ryan it says:
    “1.39 As problems emerged, Archbishop Ryan got different people to deal with them. This seems to have been a deliberate policy to ensure that knowledge of the problems was as restricted as possible. This resulted in a disastrous lack of co-ordination in responding to problems.”
    So the cover up wasn’t organised, planned. Under ‘Cover Up’ the commission says:
    “1.35 As can be seen clearly from the case histories, there is no doubt that the reaction of Church authorities to reports of clerical child sexual abuse in the early years of the Commission’s remit was to ensure that as few people as possible knew of the individual priest’s problem.”
    So the commission looks at 46 case histories, sees that the pattern in the pre-1995 cases was for individual administrators to act secretly and concludes ‘cover up’ – i.e. administrators uniformly avoided any action that would put the phenomenon into the public domain. Why they did so? I’d simply say it was in the psychological DNA of every one of them that ‘you don’t let the team down – you keep this quiet’, ‘low key’ in Pádraig McCarthy’s wording.
    The report concludes that:
    “1.15 The Dublin Archdiocese’s pre-occupations in dealing with cases of child sexual abuse, at least until the mid 1990s, were the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church, and the preservation of its assets.”
    It’s fairly clear that it draws this conclusion not from any ‘smoking gun’ proof of a conspiracy, but simply from the uniform secrecy of the handling of cases in that period – and, I suppose, from the absence of any evidence that anyone ever blew a whistle to stay ‘Stop – there’s a better way!’
    That’s the tragedy for the Dublin clergy – it took the victims themselves to explode this culture of secrecy.
    As for Marie Collins, as late as 1996 Cardinal Connell told her that the 1995 Framework guidelines couldn’t trump canon law, so he could choose himself what parts of the guidelines to follow. (The priest assigned to support her took a note at this meeting to confirm this.)

  47. Joe O'Leary says:

    The common rhetoric on this topic is that of a vast, deliberate conspiracy of enablers of child abuse, bishops, whom people like Gerry Slevin want to see in jail. The actual texture of the mistakes made is in reality not vastly different from the “hushing up” common in families and other institutions.

  48. Kevin Walters says:

    When a serious complaint is made against a priest as my wife (now deceased) made over thirty five years ago the church can and does use its worldly power to protect its IMAGE against the accusation of the individual concerned. At the time of my wife’s complaint I went to see one of the parish priests, his words were “he is a good man (and with a faint smile) he would only lie if he had to” At the time his reply confused me, I did not realize the full significance of what he had said. I had forgotten about this incident until recently (2 years ago) when I read a comment on this site made by a young man who had been abused by a priest, when he complained the very same words were said to him. This malignant force in the church is protected by stone walling (refusing to speak the Truth) it appears to be used by all priests black or white. This shameful wall encircles the church and betrays Christ and all those who profess to love Him and cannot be justified by any teaching given by Jesus Christ.
    The devil (evil) and those who serve him fear truth as The Truth will not permit evil to hide itself.
    We are ALL sinners but been honest with ourselves and others permits us to walk in humility on the spiritual plane in friendship with the Holy Spirit (where no deception or lie is tolerated within ourselves or between each other). If our Bishops want to lead us on the spiritual plane, they must walk with the Holy Spirit, they must server the Truth (which is the essence of love.) Justification for past sinful actions will only cause further division within the Church and also from without as it will continue to be held in contempt by the world (Unbelievers) for its hypocrisy.
    A true act of contrition is needed to heal the church; authority comes with truth and those who serve it.
    In Christ

  49. Paddy ferry says:

    Seán, I so admire your continued patient reasoning, eloquently expressed, in the debate above. One sad aspect of all this is that for the first time, I think, there is a real divide between “them and us”— clergy and laity. On second thoughts, that is probably an unwise generalisation as the sample sizes are too small.

  50. Joe O'Leary says:

    Paddy Ferry, I have heard many laity decrying the witch-hunt against clergy and bishops.

  51. Joe @40.
    Both sentences in your comment are disingenuous. I do not believe anyone in this discussion wants to see a Bishop go to jail. Your second sentence is an example of the crossover between secular and Church Law. You compare the way ‘families and other institutions’ ‘hushed things up’ with the way the Church hushed things up. This is not a valid comparison. ‘Families and other institutions’ are made up of a myriad of different types of people who are both male and female and are subject to the civil law. The Church is made up of one type of person, a male celibate cleric. The Church adheres to another law, a morally superior, transcendent law and up until Ryan, Ferns and Murphy, the Church was a law unto itself and ruled by fear of hell-fire. For most of my childhood from the age of eight i lived in a state of ‘grievous mortal sin’ because I pretended to be sick one Sunday morning because I didn’t want to go to mass. I went to confession every week but I was terrified to confess it. So my mortal sin multiplied by the weeks by the months by the years until I eventually put it behind me, but I remember my fear of that dark confession box. Until the Magisterium, the Hierarchy, the CDF come down off their superior moral pedestal and embrace equality, and the world, it cannot not be compared to ‘families and other institutions’.

  52. There are some extra-ordinary comments here about cover-ups and the Church’s supposed long-term awareness of child abuse e.g. Nuala
    O’Driscoll @ 26
    The Murphy Report pointed to the fact that there was ‘a two thousand year history of Biblical, Papal and Holy See statements showing awareness of clerical child sex abuse, the first denunciation dating from 153 AD.
    However the Murphy Report is (as always) VERY understanding about the lack of awareness of NON-clerical experts. To quote Fergal Sweeney:
    At Para.6.53……”Social Workers told the Commission that awareness and knowledge of csa did not emerge in Ireland until about the early 1980’s. The HSE told the Commission that in the mid 1970’s 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”. [my emphasis]
    The Report sets out, at Paras.6.69 to 6.71, the contemporary Guidelines issued to social workers by the Department of Health on
    how to identify and manage non-accidental injury to children. In summary, neither the 1977 or the 1980 guidelines made any reference to child sexual abuse. When revised guidelines were issued in 1983,they included one brief reference to CSA but no elaboration on the issue. It was not until 1987, when a further revised version was issued, that the department’s official guidelines included a substantial section dealing specifically with child sexual abuse.
    In reporting on “The education and formation of priests” at Para.10.19……. “The Commission has concluded, on the basis of its
    investigations, that in the years 1970-1995, there was no structured training on matters concerning child sexual abuse by priests or others. It is not apparent that the issue of child sexual abuse was a matter within the contemplation of psychological assessors at that time” (who were assessing candidates for the priesthood in the seminaries).
    Fergal Sweeney comments:
    Contrary perhaps to the hindsight displayed by the Commission, little was then known of the long-term psychological damage caused
    to children by CSA or the manipulative, grooming and recidivist nature of the perpetrator and it was believed by the clergy that
    this was a mental health issue that could be “cured” by a psychiatrist.
    When someone says they did not know how to deal with the issue adequately back then perhaps they are telling the truth?
    ” [my emphasis]

  53. Joe O'Leary says:

    Nuala, maybe no one in Ireland wants Irish bishops in jail, but at the NCR site very many are calling for bishops to do jail time, led by Gerard Slevin, who used to comment on this website. To say that it is disingenuous to compare the clerical body with other institutions because it is all-male is not entirely convincing. The church is a law unto itself ruled by hell fire? i have not heard hell mentioned in a sermon since the 1960s. John Paul II (and perhaps Benedict XVI) urged that faith believes in hell but hope must hope that it is empty.

  54. I am wondering how many critics of the Church on this issue have actually read the report by Fergal Sweeney or even the Executive Summary. Margaret Lee at No 2 gives her own summary of the main points and I quote from it:
    The Murphy Report did not accord natural justice to the clerics who participated. Where there is a difference in the recollections of past events between clerics and professionals it resolves such differences in favour of the professionals and against the cleric and, most significantly, does not give any reason for doing so. [My emphasis] The report does not give due consideration to any mitigating circumstances put forward by the clerics. This is particularly obvious in discussing the “learning curve”. The report dismisses out of hand that the clergy were on a learning curve when it came to child sexual abuse but freely acknowledges the existence of such a learning curve in the case of An Garda Siochana and Social workers—or indeed, psychiatrists.
    Do Paddy Ferry or Sean O’Connaill or Mary Cunningham or Con Carroll see anything wrong with this procedure? I see that Paddy Ferry (at #18) congratulates the others “who have had the courage to voice their opinions”. What courage is he talking about? Can we please get rid of this adea that the Church is all-powerful (or has any power at all) in Ireland and that the laity criticise bishops in fear and trembling? There is hysteria surrounding allegations of child abuse in Ireland and it has long since ceased to be directed only at clergy e.g. the recent grotesque scandals invoving children been removed from their parents because they looked different from them. You cannot deny due process to Catholic priests alone and assume there isn’t going to be a knock-on effect in the wider society.

  55. Could I suggest that there is a strong case for similar investigations into the findings of of (A) the Ryan Report AND (B) Judge Murphy’s report on the Cloyne diocese. I know that the ACP are not awash with funds, but could you possibly encourage the religious orders and/or the diocesan authorities in Cloyne to commission independent studies of how Judge Sean Ryan and Judge Yvonne Murphy fulfilled their mandate in those Investigations. I have a strong suspicion that ANY independent reviewer will come up with similar conclusions to those arrived at by Mr Fergal Sweeney in the present case.

  56. Joe O'Leary says:

    Rory is very right about the “knock-on-effect in the wider society”. The myths and stereotypes and exaggerations gleefully rehearsed in the witch-hunt about clerical sex abuse feed into a wider panic about pedophilia (which ladders into areas far beyond pedophilia) and this panic can only be terrifically damaging to all, especially to minors.

  57. By far the deepest problem in the church is the inability of clergy, beginning with the episcopacy, to open a healthy and healing conversation on all aspects of sexuality – a conversation involving also those with parental responsibilities. It is only within that conversation that the ‘myths and stereotypes’ could be targeted and dealt with, and the ‘panic’ alleviated also.
    Skilled facilitation would be required for such conversations, of course. However, until they can happen, all talk of revising recent reports on clerical sex abuse will be mere wheel-spinning.

  58. Mary Cunningham says:

    This is worth a listen. Relevant piece to this topic is from about 14 minutes into programme.
    Marie Collins has hit the nail on the head. The core of the problem behind the Review is the clerical mind set that puts secrecy and reputation above everything else.
    Secrecy allows abuse and cover-up to continue and is to this day at the heart of Vatican policy.
    (See De Gravioribus Delictis July 2010 Article 30.1)

  59. Mary@60, thank you for the link. Excellent contribution from Marie Collins. I also completely agree with Tony Flannery on the urgent need for our Church to look again at the whole question of our human sexuality.

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