We still haven't the guts to put the wicked in the dock
Nothing will change until the Catholic Church is removed from the education system, writes Emer O'Kelly
By Emer O'Kelly
Sunday December 06 2009
There was a man on trial in Munich in Germany last week. He was a pathetic sight, unable to sit up, his head supported by a special rest, his mouth hanging open, his 89-year-old body quivering. His name was John Demjanjuk and he was accused of having helped to murder thousands of Jews in Sobibor concentration camp in 1943. It has taken half a lifetime to bring him to justice.
Is there to be no end to his suffering, asked his defence counsel? Yes, says the rule of international law: when he has paid the full price for his heinous deeds. Only then. There are still some survivors of Sobibor, that hell on earth; pathetically few. But they will give testimony on behalf of the dead and tortured thousands. And Demjanjuk will pay, finally, all these years later.
Evidence has been given on behalf of the tortured in Ireland, and judgment has been delivered. But we still haven't the guts to put the torturers and their protectors in the dock. We haven't even stripped them of their awesome power. And dear god, our victims were children. We love children in Ireland. We will protect them. We will cast out those who harm them, not mercilessly, but in justice.
If only we would, or could.
Yes, there has been outrage expressed over the behaviour of the senior churchmen (and women: the Good Shepherd Sisters as well as the Rosminians came out only last week and said they had no more money to contribute to the compensation fund for the abused).
A decade ago, in the aftermath of the furore over the sexual abuse of children which was triggered by the Brendan Smyth affair, I called the senior churchmen of this country arrogant, wicked men. Many people congratulated me, but, they said, things would change now: it was all in the open, and the churchmen were humbled. And there were now "procedures" in place which would "ensure" that children were protected and that those who were a danger to them and who wore clerical collars would be handed over to the civil authorities. Others wrote to me (usually anonymously) and called me a hate-filled, bigoted bitch who wanted to destroy everything decent in Ireland. To that group I would have replied, if I could, that I would indeed welcome the destruction of all the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland stood for, including the culture which used helpless children as labourers and objects of sexual fulfilment. And the people who protect the perpetrators instead of handing them over to the law are equally guilty; they too are predators, I would have said.
And I told those who said things would change that they were naive to the point of stupidity. As John B Keane said to me shortly before he died: "The Church is still running this country, and they're getting away with more, because they've conned the people into thinking that they're not in charge any more."
They are in charge because they control the education system. The members of the Dail and Seanad, of the judiciary, and of the Garda, have been educated by them. Our lawmakers and law enforcers have been inculcated with the same moral ethos as the men and women who have destroyed thousands of children, and who are still refusing to bow their heads in shame.
Church thinking is twisted by hundreds of years of power and convoluted theological precepts, not least of them the requirement for clerical celibacy, with the depraved, sick and perverted results we have seen. At the time of the Smyth affair, we saw the distinction being made between the truth and Canonical truth. Now we hear Desmond Connell, a Prince of the Church, who presumably has the ear of the man Catholics are encouraged to call the "Holy Father", speak of "mental reservations".
At least Connell was condemned by Dr Vincent Twomey, the former professor of moral theology at St Patrick's College Maynooth. And Dr Twomey has also allowed his sense of justice and humanity to override theological mumbo-jumbo, and has forthrightly called for the resignation of all the bishops shamed by Judge Murphy's findings.
I am not holding my breath, because the mere fact that they demand "reflection", "examination" and "process" proves that they are in denial. The report is the reflection, examination, and process. The churchmen's reservations are an effective rejection of the report. These men will not change unless they are forced into humility and banished from all power. But they have trained their supporters well, with Bishop Donal Murray, whose conduct Judge Murphy found to be "inexcusable", being given forthright support by a group of 80 people in Limerick, presumably none of whom was ever raped as a child. Murray's excuse was that he didn't have "expertise" in the area of child abuse. He and his fellows, by definition, have no expertise in the area of adult sexuality either, but it has not prevented them from pontificating on it.
The Taoiseach in the Dail pathetically defended of the gross impertinence of the Papal Nuncio, who had the effrontery to think that a solemn judicial investigation on behalf of the abused should be subject to some bloody protocol. Cowen should have denounced this diplomat who is supposed to head the diplomatic corps in Ireland. And he should instruct Batt O'Keeffe as Minister for Education to begin a legislative process that will remove the Roman Catholic Church and its ethos from all of the schools in the public system as well as confiscating its property in the name of the sovereign state.
Removing its priests as patrons of the schools would be merely an empty and useless gesture. The abuse of power would continue, because the warping of minds would continue. Just as the sexual abuse would continue, as would protection for the abusers. And people would still talk of the "good" being done by "individual priests and nuns". But "good" priests and nuns are part of the ethos of power and corruption.
I exempt Dr Vincent Twomey from this catalogue of shame. And if I believed in god, I would pray for that good, courageous and lonely man Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, who has spoken out in the name of the god he believes in. He seems to be the only senior churchman who believes in a god of justice and mercy. He must be living in torment. But in his agony and anger lies our only spark of hope.
- Emer O'Kelly