The cumulative effect of scandals has a devastating impact on the Church
Even though I am currently in Indianapolis on sabbatical, even at a distance of 4,000 miles it’s impossible not to feel people’s shock at reports of what may be a mass grave of children and infants in the grounds of a home run by nuns in Tuam, Co Galway, up to the 1960s.
The story has reverberated around the world, including to Indiana. Hopefully, the investigations that are promised will proceed quickly, because the full truth needs to emerge, about this and other similar homes.
When a story like this breaks, it’s like deja vu all over again for the Irish church. One had hoped that after all the inquiries of recent years, the church’s dirty linen had been exposed, and it could begin the process of recovery.
Then another storm erupts, and it’s as if we’re plunged back to the beginning – except it’s worse now. The cumulative effect of all the scandals means that each new one has a more devastating impact than the one that went before.
Anger is the predominant emotion. People are angry at the church. They wonder how these things could have been allowed to happen; how such a culture could develop in the church and nobody said stop.
Church people are angry too. It’s easy to say that was then and this is now, that society was different 50 years ago, but one expects the church to operate to a higher moral standard, irrespective of time or place.
Church people are also angry that this story has been spun in a sensationalist way that presents the church in the worst possible light.
There is also the gleeful anger of those presented with another opportunity to crucify the church. They are genuinely outraged by the Tuam revelations, but they are thrilled that the church is on the defensive again. Comments on social media reveal the depth of their antipathy.
No one doubts that a growing anti-Catholic element exists in Irish society. But the church has provided its enemies with weapons of mass destruction. It has no one to blame but itself.
For church people like myself, there is also a tremendous feeling of shame.
It’s the shame of being an official representative of the institution caught up in yet another storm. The shame of seeing church leaders once more having to express regret; of outside agencies once again stepping in to uncover truths about the church’s past.
There is also self-pity. The home in Tuam closed before I was born. The scandals of the last two decades had nothing to do with me. The abuse and cover-up were not my fault. The culture of moral rectitude and dark secrets that facilitated such behaviour can’t be blamed on anything I did or said.
Fr. Gerard Maloney
Readers may also find of interest;
Jacky Jones writing in her column Second Opinion in the Health supplement of the Irish Times. Perhaps we could all question, as Jacky Jones does, what lessons have been learned from the past that we are applying now to our current society.
Brendan O Neill in Spiked

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  1. I find it a challenge to live with the joys and sorrows of being Catholic every day. I would never have dreamed as a child to have discovered how corrupt the Church is, even with the Good. The corruption is no small matter, and I wonder, wonder, wonder, What is in the Mind of God for this Roman Catholic Church, wherever it is….is it renewal?, is it reform?…or is it meant to wither and die? so that God can build again? What is in the Mind of God about this Church?

  2. I have a further thought to the one I provided above……We may have known what was in the Mind of God for the Church…if it is understood absolutely that St. Francis was directed by the Lord to “Repair My Church”. I wonder if the message is different today…I wonder if the message is….”Rebuild My Church.”
    Finally, a third addition to my reflection above. I believe Vatican II was/is in the Mind of God. However, as a result of the council, we have at least three distinct groups in the Church….1. Those who want the Church to stay as is, or revert back to pre-Vatican II…2. Those who accept Vatican II and want some changes, a few minor tweaks…and 3. Those who accept Vatican II and who want substantial change. Now, what is in the Mind of God regarding these groups? I’ll take the liberty and suggest that “substantial change” is in the Mind of God. Now, what would those changes BE in the Mind of God? More to observe and ponder…serious contemplation, would you say? We have to contemplate, what is the substantial changes that God has designed and ordained?…We know the scripture…”If the Lord Does Not Build The (a) House, then in Vain Do the Builders Labour”.

  3. Con Devree says:

    Each of us slides along the spectrum from complicit stone-thrower to caught adulteress.

  4. Colin Markham says:

    Darlene, your thoughts and sentiments match mine exactly. God never abandoned his chosen people, the Israelites, despite their frequent unfaithfulness. That truth applies to each of us with our frail, erring humanity, and we have the Cross of Christ to convince us of God’s unfailing love and forgiveness. The Church is in a parlous state, but like those ancient people whose folly led them into turmoil, I am sure God will not wholly abandon the Church but instead desires to rescue it and bring renewal. For that to happen there need to be substantial changes. The problem with this aspiration is that a Church that regards itself as infallible is, by definition, practically incapable of change. Even if Pope Francis were to proclaim the kind of changes that many want, the old guard will be obdurately opposed to their implementation. This would merely perpetuate the post-Vatican 2 confusion we still endure. It really boils down to how deep the malaise and corruption goes and how far removed the Vatican hierarchy are from reality and any real, meaningful vision for the Church’s future. If change does not come the Church will remain fractured and eventually atrophy and the faithful will continue to vote with their feet. The Church is truly at a crossroads. It is decision time.

  5. Wow….I truly, truly, appreciated your words and response Colin !How wonderfully astute and accurate you are about the Church’s present state. I would welcome the opportunity to continue our discussion…Thank you…Yours truly, Darlene Starrs….and to think, today is the Feast of Corpus Christi! I should add that I think the malaise and corruption goes very deep, to the degree, that I surmise that the Vatican is now built on sand. Hopefully, Pope Francis is able to salvage what ought not to be lost and is able to create some kind of new foundation for the future. I maintain, that the renewal or rebuilding of the Church will come from Ireland.

  6. Colin Markham says:

    Well Darlene, I don’t know that I can add much to what I’ve already said. I certainly can’t look to England for the impetus for change. I know there is a lot of disillusion with the Catholic Church in Ireland and that is understandable so, as you say, that may prove to be the nucleus for change. But then again, it depends what you mean by ‘change’. I am no liberal, nor am I a ‘traditionalist’ Catholic wanting to go back to pre-Vatican 2 times. Implementation of Vatican 2 was bungled and we are still living with the ensuing mess. Pope Francis could well be the last chance saloon for my continuation in the Church, so I am biding my time to see what he will do. I would like to see the Church get back to basics, but that is an unrealistic dream. There’s too much distance to travel to reach New Testament base!
    I post Bible passages and other quotes on LinkedIn if you want to catch up with me there.

  7. Rory Connor says:

    Fr Maloney,
    The tone and title of your article are somewhat misleading and add to the sense of gloom – at a time when the Tuam atrocity story is falling apart. You give a link to Brendan O’Neill’s article on Spiked-Online but it would have been useful if you had quoted from it. The heading is “The Tuam Tank: Another Myth about Evil Ireland” and the subheading “The Obsession with Ireland’s Dark Past has Officially Become Unhinged”.
    I posted a couple of comments on the ACP article on Tuam (and on Brendan O’Neill’s article and several others). I pointed out – inter alia – that a Sunday Independent journalist had two atrocity articles that contradicted each other in the same edition and that the heading in a Daily Mail online article was contradicted in the main text. The lies are being exposed so fast that the journalists are having to “correct” their stories on the wing. Why do you feel ashamed about this fake scandal? Is the Church supposed to be ashamed about the libels directed at (former Sister of Mercy) Nora Wall or at Fr Kevin Reynolds?
    When the official investigation into Mother and Baby homes produces its report, my fear is that it will completely IGNORE the specific charges against the Bon Secour nuns in Tuam i.e. that they dumped the bodies of babies into a septic tank, refused to have the children of unmarried mothers baptised and allowed babies to starve to death. Instead the Report will denounce the “reactionary” attitudes of 50 years ago and accept as true any allegation that the nuns cannot PROVE are false. That is precisely what the Ryan Report did in relation to claims that the Sisters of Mercy and the Christian Brothers deliberately killed children in their care. Those allegations were simply omitted from the Report.
    If people like yourself persist in your “I am deeply ashamed”, attitudes it will facilitate an official cover-up of an anti-clerical witch-hunt that is the “liberal” equivalent of an anti-Semitic one. The Church needs to insist that the people who published the fake atrocity stories are held responsible for their actions.

  8. Rory Connor says:

    Regarding the last sentence above, I posted the following in America magazine – an article by Kevin Clarke entitled “Galway Gothic: When Headlines Attack”:
    In addition, an article in The Sunday Times (Irish edition) on 8 June entitled “Hidden History” includes the following:
    In the Dail (Irish Parliament), Catherine Murphy, an independent TD (Member of Parliament) suggested that the Tuam grave should be made a crime scene. In the Seanad (Senate), Hildegarde Naughten of Fine Gael said what occurred in Tuam was manslaughter.
    I have no problem at all with a police investigation into alleged criminal behaviour at Tuam. I am aware that the Gardai are sick to death of these periodic outbreaks of public hysteria – which are probably the Irish equivalent of Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) – but the politicians and media people will probably force the issue. HOWEVER Incitement to Hatred is also an offence in this country and maybe a few criminal prosecutions for THAT offence will bring these SRA type outbreaks to an end!
    I might also have quoted an article in the Irish Independent entitled Fr Brian D’Arcy: Tuam mass baby grave ‘an incredible, awful, unchristian and unsocial thing’
    He has called for those responsible to be brought to justice.
    It’s not just a sinful approach to life it’s also a serious crime. This seems to have been self-imposed and cruel and ruthless and therefore needs investigated. I presume some of the people from that era are still alive and need to be brought to justice for that.
    I too, support bringing to justice the people responsible for this atrocity! They should NOT be allowed to get away scot free.

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