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A Hard Time to Be Roman Catholic

May 22, 2009. Just when you think the news is as bad as it can get (if you are a Roman Catholic), the hammer hits you from behind and wakes you up. You're seeing stars, but don't notice that there is no bottom to the abyss you're in. You're always looking up and seeing what you wish were there. If you weren't so blinded by your ecstatic delusions, you might see plastic christs on dashboards holding their sacred hearts behind their backs and statues of Mary weeping floods of omega-3 oil all over the sanctuaries of your churches. If there were a heaven, there would be a sign hanging on the door that says: NINA.

The news from Ireland is grim. It took nine years for Ireland's Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse to finish its investigation. The result is a 2,600 page document, called the Ryan Report, detailing thirty years of systematic abuse of more than 30,000 children by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Roman Catholic priests and nuns. But the rapists and tormentors don't have to hide in round towers or clochans perched on little islands off the Atlantic coast. The government officials who turned a blind eye for three decades don't have to hide behind badges or claims of national security. The commission doesn't name a single perpetrator or government official who protected the unnamed sadists. The Christian Brothers successfully sued the commission in 2004 to keep the identities of all of its members, dead or alive, unnamed in the report.*

The surviving victims and their families not only had to suffer the indignity of allowing the names of the abusers to remain cloistered, but they must also live with the fact that their government signed a pact with 18 religious orders that allows the Catholic Church to escape 90 percent of the cost of compensating abuse victims. In 2002, the orders agreed to pay €128m. Education Minister Michael Woods brokered that deal and recently said it was "as good a deal as the government could get at that time." He noted that he'd saved the taxpayers a lot of money. The victims wanted over €1bn. They did get an apology from the government but not from the religious orders.* Most leaders of religious orders have rejected the allegations as exaggerations and lies, and testified to the commission that any abuses were the responsibility of long-dead individuals.* The commission did recommend that a memorial be erected, however.

The commission was blunt in describing the horrors: the children were treated "more like prison inmates and slaves than people with legal rights and human potential." The report states that priests and nuns terrorized thousands of boys and girls in workhouse-style schools for decades and government inspectors failed to stop the chronic beatings, rapes, and humiliation. The "church officials always shielded their orders' pedophiles from arrest to protect their own reputations...."

What could be worse than a public humiliation that shames a whole nation? How about a bishop defending the pedophiles and rapists for their courage? Archbishop Vincent Nichols at Westminster archbishop vincent nicholsCathedral said that it took courage for religious orders and clergy to “face the facts from their past.” He couldn't name any of these courageous child abusers because they haven't come forward and, as already noted, the commission doesn't name a single tormentor. That's too bad. The Archbishop could claw his way deeper into the abyss by having a public ceremony honoring his courageous brethren from the ill-named Christian Brothers and Sisters of Mercy.

Nichols replaces Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor as archbishop of Westminister. Both Nichols and Murphy-O'Connor blame society's ills on secularism. Nichols condemns Richard Dawkins for castigating religion. He urges a "respectful dialogue" in which "we genuinely listen to each other, in which sincere disagreement is not made out to be insult or harassment, in which reasoned principles are not construed as prejudice and in which we are prepared to attribute to each other the best and not the worst of motives." The irony of his speech is lost on Nichols, I'm sure, but even an imbecile can see through the manipulative mind that tries to control the other side's hostility by claiming to take the high road.

Those of you who are waiting for the Roman Catholic Pope to chime in on the side of the abused, multi-celled, living human beings may have to wait for hell to freeze over. A small bit of light is coming through the crack in the fabric of faith, however. Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, issued what might be construed as a rebuke of Nichols, tepid as it might seem given the monstrous nature of Nichols's perverted delusion. He said Archbishop Nichols's comments were "unhelpful." Archbishop Martin said that his "thoughts and anger are entirely on the side of victims. They are the real heroes of this story by finding the courage to come forward."

The mild rebuke and the sympathetic thoughts of a lone priest, even an Archbishop of Dublin, will provide little comfort to the surviving victims and their loved ones. Perhaps the victims will be satisfied with the proposed permanent memorial. They could build it outside St. Patrick's cathedral in Dublin. On one side there could be a list of the names of the victims. On the other side could be a list of the names of the priests and nuns who did the abusing, and the government officials who had tea with the abusers before filing their reports. Finally, off to the side could be a statue of Michael Woods with the inscription: He courageously saved the taxpayers a lot of money.


update: May 25, 2009. BBC reports that Pope Benedict is going to discuss the abuse report with Archbishop Sean Brady, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland.

* update: May 27, 2009. The Christian Brothers, who ran the Daingean Reformatory in County Offaly, have announced that they will review how much more compensation they can offer to victims of abuse. More important, the order issued the following statement:

The Christian Brothers accept, with shame, the findings of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse.

The congregation is deeply sorry for the hurt we have caused - not just for the mistakes of the past, but for the inadequacy of our responses over recent years.

Mistakes? Interesting choice of words.

The change of heart by the order may not have been the result of having prayed on the matter, however. The Taoiseach (prime minister) of the Republic of Ireland, Brian Cowen, said orders must make more payments "in view of the moral responsibility they continue to hold in these matters." The Irish government will implement all 20 of the commission's recommendations and will meet with all of the religious orders to discuss how they can make further payments.

update: May 27, 2009. The Daughters of Charity and the Sisters of St. Clare issued public apologies to the abused. Several other orders have accepted the government's call to meet and discuss further compensation to the survivors.*

update: June 5, 2009. After meeting with Irish Prime Minister, Brian Cowen, the representatives of 18 religious orders named in the Ryan report have said they will pay victims further substantial compensation.* In 2002, the orders agreed to pay €128m. They are being told that €1.3bn would be a more proper penance.

update: November 26, 2009. A report into child abuse in the Dublin archdiocese has criticized the Catholic Church hierarchy for covering up the abuse. The "Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin" covered a period from 1975 to 2004. The report investigated how Church and state authorities handled allegations of child abuse against 46 priests.

It found that the Church placed its own reputation above the protection of children in its care. It also said that state authorities facilitated the cover-up by allowing the Church to operate outside the law.

update: 23 Dec 2009. Second Irish bishop resigning over abuse scandal report The Bishop of Kildare, Dr James Moriarty, announced he had offered his resignation to the Pope. Maeve Lewis, director of victim support group One in Four, said it was "immensely distressing and insulting" to survivors to be forced to listen as "one bishop after another justifies his position and attempts to hold on to power until he is shamed into resigning."

further reading

Cardinal Cormac: 'Atheism the greatest of evils.' (Ruth Gledhill, The Times Religion Correspondent, is not sure the cardinal knows what he's talking about.)

New1 Weakland says he didn't know priests' abuse was crime (Retired Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland says he did not comprehend the potential harm to victims or understand that what the priests had done constituted a crime. "We all considered sexual abuse of minors as a moral evil, but had no understanding of its criminal nature....[I] accepted naively the common view that it was not necessary to worry about the effects on the youngsters: either they would not remember or they would 'grow out of it.'")

New2 Passing the shame from victim to State (And then, Flynn did something even more extraordinary. He announced his decision not to proceed with his court case. “This is not my shame anymore,” he said. “It is yours.” He threw the file down, telling us that it belonged now, not to him but to “the State, the church, their servants and agents, and you the citizens.” He left, leaving the documents with us, to whom they now belonged.)

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