(Originally Published on Corkstudentnews.com in February 2010)
Over the last few weeks I have been asking myself if I am really living in Ireland. The norm over the last decade was to ignore “minor indiscretions” that may have taken place. That, thankfully, seems to be changing. It seems that in the midst of an economic downturn, sins committed long ago are now coming to light on a regular basis. This applies to no other person or group more aptly than the Catholic Church.
Once again we are forced to listen with horror and disgust as we find out about crimes committed by the church onto innocent and helpless children. We are forced to listen to completely useless, vacuous, self serving apologies and statements issued by the Church as it struggles to defend itself, in whatever way it can, from what it sees as undue and unfair criticism. For the last week we have all had to listen to the various incarnations of Catholic apologists campaigning for “understanding” and blasting the media for their “unfair portrayal of the Church”. Yes, because calling the Church out on its past of systematic and institutionalised child abuse is “unfair”. Even the much anticipated Papal letter of apology fell far too short of addressing the crimes that were carried out. One of the possible reasons given for the abuse was “the rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society”. This shows just how completely and utterly the Church’s head is up in the clouds. However, now we have a chance to change and/or dismantle the Church’s grip over Ireland once and for all.
First of all, a thorough and complete investigation of the Church and any accusations against it needs to be carried out and it needs to be carried out in a succinct fashion. Now is not the time to be forced to listen to the Church try its best to weasel its way out of the ever tightening noose around its neck. All it has to offer are excuses and nothing more. No more reports. No more independent commissions. What we need is a proper criminal investigation of the organisation. People such as those like Cardinal Sean Brady, who was present at a meeting with two children in 1975 where they were made to swear an oath of secrecy regarding their own accusations of abuse against Fr. Brendan Smyth, a notorious paedophile, need to at the very least be forcibly removed from their current positions of power and at most, they should be prosecuted for taking part in crimes against children. Brady has so far ignored calls for his resignation and it seems that Pope Ratzinger has tried to ensure that Brady won’t have to.
Secondly, the Church must be made to pay for its crimes in both the financial and social sense. The tax payer should not have to foot the bill for any settlements the Church has to or will have to pay out. The Catholic Church, not only in Ireland but overall, is far from being financially strained. Just to prove my point even further, consider the fact that since the 1950s, the Church has paid out 2.6 billion dollars in the United States alone in compensation and costs related to abuse cases. Their coffers are far from empty.
Socially, they must be made realise and admit that what they have done is nothing short of a criminal act committed against the children of the State. Canon law does not supersede Constitutional or Legislative law, although we currently have clerics who believe otherwise. We have heard enough complete and utter nonsense come from the Church in recent weeks. All they have to offer are empty and pointless statements where the issue of paedophile priests is blamed on a “breakdown of faith”. It is far from a “breakdown of faith”. What it really is, and this is something that they don’t seem to be able to comprehend, is a breakdown of common human decency. Child abuse was effectively encouraged within the Church. It was completely covered up for decades and paedophile priests were moved from diocese to diocese where they continued to carry out their vile acts without fear of reprisal. The only thing those monsters weren’t given by their superiors was a score card to keep tally.
Thirdly, and my final point; the people who fill up the pews in the Churches every week need to be made realise just how corrupt, ethically, the organisation that they are propping up really is. During the week we had mass goers coming out in support of Cardinal Brady and his involvement in the silencing of the two children mentioned earlier. The media was once again rolled out and blamed for the “unfair” portrayal of Brady and that he was being unfairly hounded. He was even applauded by the people attending his St. Patrick’s Day mass. These people need to be sat down and have it explained to them exactly, in detail, what happened. The Murphy Report and its predecessors should be distributed free among the people of this country, so that we can all begin to get our heads around the magnitude of the levels of abuse carried out by the Church.
Nothing will ever be able to take back what happened to the hundreds of children systematically abused by the Church in this country and nothing will ever heal the very open wounds which the survivors still carry with them to this day. However, what we can begin to give them is some real and fair justice where the guilty are prosecuted and are forced to pay for their sins. There can be no distinction made between the abusers and the people who covered it up; none whatsoever. Fr. Brendan Smyth and Cardinal Sean Brady are one in the same person. One man abused children for decades and the other made sure it was hidden from public view. The Nuremberg Defence is not a valid excuse. Prosecute those who sat idly by and watched children be violated and dismantle the organisation in whose name this was carried out. If Ireland really is to survive as a Nation, we need to get back some basic common decency and one of the ways to do this, is to remove the Catholic Church and its institutions where even a single ounce of decency does not reside.