There is a ring around the world
Today, the 50th Eucharistic Congress begins in Dublin. From the Catholic Free Press:
The Vatican official who will act as papal legate for the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin defended marriage based on the church’s traditional teaching and urged Catholics to use the resource of the family to confront the challenges of secularized societies.
That’s Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada, who’s head of the Congregation for Bishops as well as the Pope’s representative to this Congress in Ireland. (L’Association des Victimes de Prêtres, in Quebec, says that Ouellet has been consistently silent about the victims of abusive priests, despite repeatedly being asked to help repair the damage. Oellet is of course willing to speak out to protect “unborn” children. Once they’re born, though…)
It ensnares the little Ones
From the Irish Times:
In relation to the most painful of those issues, the sex abuse crisis, Cardinal Ouellet was unsure whether he would be meeting abuse survivors while in Dublin, saying it was a delicate, sensitive issue.
Recently, the Italian bishops’ conference affirmed that a bishop had no legal obligation to report a paedophile priest to police. But is there not a “moral” obligation?
“Regarding sexual abuse of children, the main concern of the church is the protection of children. For this reason, full co-operation between church and civil authorities is a moral obligation when concerning the protection of minors. This co-operation has to be developed according to the laws of each individual country.”
As these priests and bishops fall
Brendan Boland was 11 years old when he was sexually abused by Father Brendan Smyth. Back in 1975, he reported the abuse to Fr (now Cardinal) Sean Brady and two other priests, hoping to end the abuse of him and others. After giving evidence to them he was sworn to secrecy. Cardinal Brady signed two reports about the abuse of Boland and another boy and passed them on to his bishop, but the police were never informed. It was not until 1994 that Smyth was convicted of dozens of offences against children over a 40-year period.
The Church’s official response to this was that in 1975 “no State or Church guidelines for responding to allegations of child abuse existed in Ireland”.
Innocence comes to an end.
Brendan Boland says he gave evidence to an ecclesiastical court consisting of Seán Brady (canon lawyer, aged 36, tasked with investigating this as a “one-off”, he says) and two other priests. His father was in the building but not allowed into the room. He was made to swear a oath he would tell no one except “authorised priests” of the charges he was making against Brendan Smyth. Boland’s parents were assured afterwards that Fr Brendan Smyth “would not be allowed to associate with young boys or girls and that there would be no recurrence of the abuse”.
Cardinal Seán Brady would like you to know:
I had absolutely no authority over Brendan Smyth. Even my Bishop had limited authority over him. The only people who had authority within the Church to stop Brendan Smyth from having contact with children were his Abbot in the Monastery in Kilnacrott and his Religious Superiors in the Norbertine Order. As Monsignor Charles Scicluna, Promoter of Justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith confirmed in an interview with RTÉ this morning, it was Brendan Smyth’s superiors in the Norbertine Order who bear primary responsibility for failing to take the appropriate action when presented with the weight of evidence I had faithfully recorded and that Bishop McKiernan subsequently presented to them;
Born of woman born through pain
In other words, it is not his fault that the Church opted to inform none of the parents of the five children identified by Boland that Father Brendan Smyth had been sexually abusing their children. And it is not his fault that no action was taken to keep Father Brendan Smyth away from the children he had abused or to keep him from abusing more children afterwards.
In the shadow of a man
Brendan Boland, who is not a Cardinal, who was only a boy when in 1975 he had the courage to speak out in the hope of saving others, said that when he discovered twenty years afterwards that the promise made to his parents had been broken (apparently there are “no guidelines” in the Church about how to keep a promise, either):
“I was devastated by this revelation. I felt that I had not done enough, I felt responsible for the misery of Fr Smyth’s subsequent victims.” At the trial of Father Brendan Smyth, “I met other victims who were 10-15 years younger than I who would not have been abused if the assurances given to me and my family and the youth club priest had been honoured. This un-kept promise was a further abuse of me.”
You are in me I am in you
“Even according to the State guidelines in place in the Republic of Ireland today, the person who first receives and records the details of an allegation of child abuse in an organisation that works with children is not the person who has responsibility within that organisation for reporting the matter to the civil authorities. This responsibility belongs to the ‘Designated person’ appointed by the organisation and trained to assume that role. In 1975, I would not have been the ‘Designated Person’ according to today’s guidelines. As the Children First State guidelines explain (3.3.1)
Cardinal Ouellet told an audience of bishops and theologians that included Cardinal Sean Brady, Primate of All ireland, that
the Church must promote the family in this time of “unprecedented anthropological crisis … characterized by the loss of a sense of marriage and the family.”
In an address described by Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin as a “masterly synthesis” of the pastoral challenges faced by the church in terms of evangelization, Cardinal Ouellet explored the integration of the theology of communion with the theology of marriage, the development of the sacraments of initiation, the priesthood and the relationship between baptism and the ordained ministry and their significance in the life of the church.
The cardinal said one of the important tasks for theology in relation to pastoral practice was to integrate and reattach the manifestations of eucharistic piety such as adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, eucharistic processions and private Masses.
The Irish Survivors of Child Abuse plan to hold a protest today at the opening of the Eucharistic Congress. Abuse survivors have told the Belfast Telegraph that they will not be attending the Eucharistic Congress.
It’s not always easy to understand
From the Irish Examiner:
Spokesman John Kelly said the protest will be about the Vatican interfering with Irish sovereignty and its laws. “The Ireland of 2012 is not the country of 1932 when fear of and deference to the Church was the norm,” said Mr Kelly. “We are a sovereign nation and resent the intrusion of foreign powers and its operatives which view themselves above our laws and immune to the common rules of humanity.”
Strange Ways……God works in Strange Ways
So Cardinal Seán Brady can safely say, when asked if his presence casts a shadow,
“I don’t get any experience of that shadow here in these people [those attending the theology conference] I’ve made my position clear.”
Indeed, he has.
From the Catholic Free Press:
Cardinal Rodriguez defended the church’s discipline on clerical celibacy to reporters and rejected the suggestion that celibacy was to blame for the shortage of priests in the church. “It is not celibacy that is the problem. The problem is a life commitment. You see the same issue in marriage. Many people do not want to be married because they have a difficulty in committing for ever.”
From the Dallas Morning News, 2004:
Cardinal Rodriguez, who is 61 and a fast-rising star in the Roman Catholic hierarchy, has spoken as forcefully as any of his colleagues against telling police about abuse allegations.
“For me it would be a tragedy to reduce the role of a pastor to that of a cop. We are totally different, and I’d be prepared to go to jail rather than harm one of my priests,” he said at a 2002 news conference in Rome. “We must not forget that we are pastors, not agents of the FBI or CIA.”
Bless me father I have sinned
“I have no idea why they decided to bring it here. I don’t think it should be held here. I just wish it would go away because I hate it all.” One of Ireland’s most popular singing stars, Mr Moore is a long-time opponent of the Catholic hierarchy, who he has castigated in a number of his songs. “I’ve been writing about the church for 30 or 40 years. I have a song called ‘Strange Ways‘, it’s about the whole fucking lot of them. I hate it (the Catholic hierarchy) but I don’t think about it too much because it tends to make me angry.”
God the father of all things
The Church saw a choice between protecting its own reputation, and shielding young children from ferocious abuse, and it unhesitatingly chose to protect itself. Quite unbelievably, it did not even take definitive steps, within its own clandestine terms, to arrest the foul behaviour of Smyth.
All of which brings us to that word “authority”. The phrase “what would Jesus do?” is overused. But it doesn’t seem to me a bad question to ask oneself, particularly if one pursues a career soaked in scripture and moral exhortation. And whether one understands Jesus simply as an interesting historical figure, or as the Son of God, we can all surely agree on one thing: he cared nothing for earthly authority, or his own security, when fundamental questions of right and wrong hung in the balance. On what authority did he turn the money-changers out of the Temple, or prevent the gleeful mob from stoning an adulterous woman? His protective instincts were particularly strong on behalf of children: “And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.”
Even if one takes that millstone as a metaphor, I have every confidence that had Jesus been in the room when Brendan Boland stuttered out his agonising evidence, the subsequent consequences for Smyth would have been immediate and forceful. Jesus was not in the room, however: just a group of apprehensive men acutely conscious that their hierarchical institution might lose face.
You are my everlasting shame
Cardinal Sean Brady is far from being the only man who thinks he did nothing wrong. William Oddie of the Catholic Herald thinks that too. After all, to hold a man responsible for letting child abuse continue would be a witch hunt.
God works in strange ways
On Friday 8th June, looking forward to what was described as the “spiritual Olympics” of the Eucharistic Congress, Cardinal Seán Brady said the Catholic Church in Ireland needs a good week “after previous church scandals”.
I think it needs more than that….
Strange ways, God got owned in Strange ways
“Strange Ways”, Christy Moore: “I wrote this for the children”.