Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Pope 'visibly upset' at horror uncovered by Ryan inquiry
By ED CARTY and JOHN COONEY, Tuesday June 09 2009. Irish Independent

POPE Benedict was "visibly upset" by horrific revelations of sexual, physical and emotional torture of children uncovered by the Ryan inquiry, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin revealed yesterday.

The Pontiff also told Ireland's two most senior Catholic clerics that the victims of abuse must get justice.

In a Vatican meeting with Cardinal Brady and Archbishop Martin last Friday, Pope Benedict reiterated his call for the Church hierarchy to make amends to the thousands of children who suffered at the hands of abusive priests, brothers and nuns.

"He (the Pope) was very visibly upset to hear of some of the things told in the Ryan report and how the children had suffered from the very opposite of the expression of a love of God," the Archbishop said.

Cardinal Brady and Archbishop Martin briefed the country's bishops in Maynooth on the 45-minute meeting with the Pontiff and on separate talks with seven cardinals in the Holy See last week.

The two archbishops outlined to the Catholic leaders the devastating findings of the report along with the subsequent fallout and criticisms of 18 religious orders.
Cardinal Brady said: "He (the Pope) listened very attentively, very sympathetically to what we had to say and he said in reply that this was a time for deep examination of life here in Ireland and the Church."

The Cardinal, Primate of All-Ireland, said the Pope also discussed the steps needed to respond to the harrowing catalogue of abuse.

"Establish what is the truth of what happened -- and the Ryan report is an important part of that -- to ensure that justice is done for all; and put in place the measures that will prevent these events ever happening again with a view to healing -- healing the hurt suffered by survivors," the cardinal said yesterday. (No mention of the clerical institutionalism which desperately tried to save itself from this exposure?)

"He (Pope Benedict) listened very attentively to everything we had to say."

The Conference of Religious in Ireland was briefed on the Vatican meetings last night.
"The message again we bring back with us, we have to listen to the victims, we have to listen to the survivors. They are the ones who have gone through this," Archbishop Martin said.

"It is to listen and learn from what's in the report and do a little bit of deep soul searching of what way the Church will look in Ireland in the years to come."

The Archbishop also signalled talks with senior Vatican officials on the damning Ryan inquiry will continue.


Listening is good, seeking justice is good, enacting child protection strategies is good, but if it's all designed to leave the real problem in place--an absolutist non transparent Church institution-- then it's all a good smoke screen.

Pope Benedict can not possibly feign ignorance of this situation. A number of the documents used in the Ryan report with regards to some of the congregations came directly from the Vatican. As Cardinal Ratzinger he was in charge of dealing with cases of religious sexual abuse in the two and a half decades he served in the CDF. A lot of this information had to cross his desk, and although he never said a word about the victims, the perpetrators continued in ministry, usually in other dioceses or even countries.

I can't help but wonder how much of his disgust is with himself, and the system he led, which allowed this to go on for so long. I hope he understands that calling for justice for victims and for a deep examination of the Irish Church and culture may lead to the necessity for change in how the Church does business. In may further lead to the admission that in this kind of institutional abuse, the mission of the Church itself has been consistently co opted by the society in which it operates and which it help formulate.

The further I delve into the Ryan report, the more I wonder if this isn't really about institutionalized class warfare just as the abuse in Native residential schools was institutionalized racial and cultural warfare.

The commitment statistics seem to indicate the real crime committed by the vast majority of these children was poverty. The crimes committed against them were all too often perpetrated by individuals from the same impoverished background who were given no formal education by the orders they joined to escape their own poverty.

"The section on Artane notes reasons for committal between 1940 and 1969: 1,374 children were committed for “improper guardianship”, 1,045 for bad school attendance, 720 for destitution, 227 for being homeless, 220 for larceny, 90 for other crimes."

Not a whole lot of violent crime in those statistics, but a whole lot of collusion by the courts and the child welfare system to get these kids off the streets and to pay the Church to do whatever it took to keep them off the streets. This does appear to be a case of Church and State aligning against the poorer classes. This was not about Christian love, it was about good old fashioned societal fear.

The US has done this very same thing, not only to our Native children, but also to our mentally ill and mentally retarded. Those massive institutions prior to the 1980's were warehouses staffed by questionably educated people who all too frequently took advantage of their 'patients'. I toured a number of them in the 70's and left them in tears, far beyond disgust.

Later when I worked with a number of smaller group homes I found that some of this population was completely misdiagnosed and were now institutionally retarded, almost incapable of living on their own. That's not surprising when you consider some of them had been living in underfunded institutional settings for thirty or forty years. Prisons, it seems, come in many shapes and sizes and for many kinds of 'unacceptable' people. They exist in all societies.

But here's the difference, the entire mental health system was revamped in order to clean up and find a more humane approach for the mentally ill and the developmentally disabled. It was a huge undertaking, took a lot of soul searching and a lot personal honesty. There was never a question that the system had to be changed and that meant from the courts right down to the qualifications of the lowliest employee. The system was forced into accountability by the people it was supposed to serve--families, patients, and other providers.

I don't see where Catholicism under it's present form of governance is willing to under go the same process. It's hard to imagine an unaccountable hierarchy forcing itself to be accountable unless the people it exists to serve, the laity and those clerical members of integrity, insist on real change. Until that happens, the privileged inmates will continue to run this particular asylum and the abuses will continue to occur.


  1. They're just angry about being caught. Makes their job tougher.

  2. yes the whole thing starts to look more and more like what happens when people are marginalized and institutionalized. Here in the US we had Willowbrook and now the feds are investigating the notorious Anchora in NJ.

  3. I've probably stated this before but I have two siblings in two different group homes. The mental health changes that have taken place since the 1980s is really commendable.

    It did take a lot of soul searching to change the attitudes and thinking and develop humane treatment of the handicapped and mentally ill. It took doctors, nurses, teachers, all staff levels, parents, everyone involved in their care to make real and thoughtful changes. It took people to be educated and trained to understand how to care for their individual needs for each patient. It meant getting rid of the old institutions that were allowing abuse and then covering it up. It took transparency.

    This same sort of abuse is probably still going on in many countries.

    It is not good enough for the Church hierarchy to say they are sorry and listen to the abused victims and read a report, although that is a start. They need to get up to speed on how to truly care and love others. They need to make sure that priests and nuns and laity have properly formed consciences that do not resort to abuse in its many forms against those who are vulnerable and different and poor or discarded by society. They need to also find out where abuse exists and expose it and get rid of it instead of enabling it to go on and on.

    Besides theology they need to learn about psychology as well. Most of all, they need to get honest with themselves and their abusive tendencies and where that comes from and get rid of it. Enforcing celibacy on all priests is just more continued ignorance and abuse on people and making unnecessary demands on them and causes a priest shortage and men unable as priest to relate to people or address their own issues that keeps them immature. It's a warped mentality to impose such a restriction on human beings. Not Christ-like either to impose it.

    Thanks Colleen for another blog that speaks the truth. I am truly grateful that you are writing about this and so many other issues that need to be addressed.

  4. In the US we have had more then our share of 'troubles' with Catholic residential institutions - for youth & for adults. But these have either been mostly forgotten about and/or conveniently ignored by the spiritually blind faithful who have been taught to equate Liturgy, clergy, the hierarchy, church buildings & architecture, and the Roman Catholic organization....as "God".....and therefore beyond reproach. A faith about God, rather then in Him alone.

    There have been residential schools, orphanges, halfway houses, group homes, mental health institutions, and reformatories (Boys Town, anyone???) run under Catholic auspices in which there has been known abuse - of ALL kinds!

    Ratzinger, in his 20+ year Curia role, was the point man in the abuse crisis. He knew.....he knew all of it. It was to his office that the tons of complaints came - and which had access to files of previous cases. He & his staff knew; it was their business to know. Moreover, it is a fact that there was a top-down orchestrated effort to cover-up. To keep a lid on the situation(s). To shut up the accusers by intimidation & threat of countersuit......to get the fanatical faithful to persecute the victims for 'daring to accuse the good father', etc.

    I am personally aware of a policy of spreading the 'fact' that to sue a priest, bishop, or a diocese was an excommunicable offense. Seriously. That is the extent of the demonic inspired sickness which permeates the church organization.

    In the interest of what is fair & just, the Irish hierarchy, the superiors of the guilty religious orders, the Vatican Curia, and Ratzinger himself, should be formally charged & tried before the World Court in the Hague......

    ...for Crimes Against Humanity.

    At this point, the above named persons & entities have utterly lost any legitimate claim to moral & spiritual authority by their deeds. They are not worthy of the name "Christian", as they truly do NOT believe in God, much less obey Him. They are moot & desolate.

    They need to be 'taken down' - stripped of any conception of 'diplomatic immunity' - and dealt justice before the world. For the love of God and man!

  5. I would rather that the Pope saw to it that it was time to give the Church back to Jesus where it belongs and to make the necessary changes in the institution to reconcile itself with man and God.

  6. I'm not a fan of the Pope but it's rather a stretch to blame him for what went on in Irish industrial schools mostly more than 50 years ago. The issue has largely to do with poverty and class, and with population. There was no artificial contraception and no abortion in Ireland then, and coitus interruptus was denounced from mission pulpits as a mortal sin. Unloved, unwanted children were dumped in hellholes run by an army of unmarried men and women dragooned for the purpose of processing the children cheaply. This was a decision taken by the Irish people and their Government, who saw no alternative. Note that the core abusive conditions -- the regime of corporal chastisement and the emotional deprivation -- were not illegal, but were considered perfectly normal.

  7. Your comparison to the mental health system prior to the 1980's is interesting and it is interesting that you note that the entire system was changed. The question is was it for the better as most truly psychotic patients now end up in a real jail cell and in a real jail ward. I am not trying to defend the abuses that took place but would like to mention that this system went from the pot to the fire in it's changes.

    This may be exactly what is happening in Catholicism as it seems that the clergy would scapegoat homosexuals rather than to change the real problem of the deprivation of celibacy. I do not know of one situation that deprivation makes men better and it certainly does not make them more holy. The real problem is a failed clericalism. It is the secular society that has been leading ethical challenges for a long time. I highly doubt that this group of old men that we call our Bishops is up to the task of correcting its own problems. It is a deeply saddening situation!

    R. Dennis Porch, MD

  8. Powerful, Colleen. I had not thought of the connections to treatment of Native American children in institutions in the U.S. I can see it well, now that you point it out.

    I suspect a lot of the "visible" upset by high officials is manufactured. It's image-management to distance themselves in the public mind from problems they themselves have created and continue to create.

  9. Joe, I completely agree with you and if that is not an advertisement for birth control I do not know what is. The institution makes no sense whatsovever to decry abortion while refusing to endorse birth control, the use of which makes abortion unnecessary. I believe the vast majority of people see the 'unreasonableness' of the argument against birth control. The pope, who often speaks of using reason with faith, should use a little in this regards.

  10. Lot of good comments here.

    Dennis, in a number of respects the mental health system did go from the pot to the fire, but a lot of that depended on the city or state one lived in. The biggest problem has been providing consistent out patient services. That issue is complicated by a number of things, too numerous to list here.

    Some of our best programs are modeled on Gheel Belgium, which is a great Catholic story and one I should probably write about. It's the antithesis of what happened in Ireland and has been for about 600 years.

    Joe your point is well taken. The Church's stance on birth control is ridiculous and lethal. If you look at world wide abortion statistics they are highest in countries with limited access to birth control. This makes abortion a birth control therapy. The insistence by pro lifers on illegal abortion and no access to birth control tells me everything I need to know about how much they really think fetuses are actually human life. They don't. It's either that or they think sperm is human life.

    Butterfly, good group homes are a God send. We need lots more of them. Problem is no one wants one in their neighborhood--especially their secure gated neighborhoods.

  11. It is a deeply saddening situation as you say Dr. Porch. It seems to get sadder each day.

    I dream on and pray for a miracle, but I don't really think that the hierarchy have the will to correct their own problems because they are too busy looking for ways to condemn people, protect their property, keep things quiet, maintain their power and their lifestyle.

  12. Colleen, people are uneducated about the mentally ill and those who are mentally challenged. Fear is the main reason that people block group homes from a neighborhood. Fear is dispelled by education and introducing these people and their families to the community. People should meet these mentally ill and those who will be caring for them before blocking them from a neighborhood.

    I know I had to get over a lot of fear real fast when I visited my brother in a mental hospital for the first time in 1970. That was an awful place and I thank God my brother's in a really good place now, but it cost a lot of money that four siblings contribute to every month.

    There are different medications now that did not exist for schizophrenia even 20 years ago. Educating people I think is key. People should not block group homes. Some of these people were in car accidents or run over and have some brain damage and need a caring environment and medication and therapy. There are no bad people allowed in my brother's group home. If they don't follow the rules, take their meds, make their beds everyday, they are out of there.

  13. Extracted from articles in the June 6th issue of “The Tablet”:

    B16 could learn something if he’d only listen and take them to heart (bets, anyone?)

    “Having acknowledged the valiant work of the Church in Ireland, The Irish Times’ religious affairs editor Patsy McGarry wondered whether “a dark theology of fallen human nature with a propensity to evil allowed a climate where such viciousness could be constantly visited on children”. This may well be at the root of some shameful behavior in our ailing Church.”

    ”A new source, maybe from a place as yet unknown to us, must be found for another start, a new healing, a new hope. Otherwise, in systemic thinking, left to itself, the organisation will clone itself back into business as usual.”
    “The Church needs to replace a heart of stone with a compassionate one, an arrogant heart with a humble one. When a community becomes an organisation, when law rather than spirit rules, when the mystical vision is lost to the moralising mentality, then dreadful things can happen. Dominative control replaces the ministering presence of Jesus; authoritarianism replaces a personal inner authority. Clericalism is about power; priesthood is about service. But it is the prophetic that is needed now. We need charismatic leaders as well as functional ones, transparent leaders rather than organisation men. Otherwise self- preservation and scapegoating become all-important. This is evident when the Church forgets to first weep with the broken victims before explaining and defending itself. It all depends where one’s treasure is!”

    “Can people trust the Church any more to critique itself deeply and rediscover the authentic meaning of the reign of God? What processes can be set up to begin the slow path to courageous conversations?”

    By Daniel O’Leary, a priest of the Leeds Diocese, is based at Our Lady of Grace Presbytery, Tonbridge Crescent, Kingsley, Pontefract, West Yorkshire


    “The hierarchy used to be content with full churches and saw no need to encourage an intellectual appreciation of the faith. The bishops fostered a culture of devotion, but once that devotion declined, they were left with a kind of folk religion that was ill equipped to cope with a crisis. It is conspicuous that now, in a time of great crisis, there are so few lay people who are able to offer a thoughtful and reasoned reflection on the state of the Church in Ireland.”

    “Jesus Christ has been conspicuously absent in this dreadful tale. Nobody seems to have referred to him. Nearly all the terminology has been financial. The institutions, where the young, poor and helpless were abused, were all run with ostensibly Christian aims. The Religious who beat or sexually abused their pupils had taken vows to follow Jesus Christ. There are some gospel passages that are especially pertinent in the light of the report: did any of the abusers take Jesus seriously when he spoke about children and the fate of those who mistreat them?”

    By Fergus O’Donoghue SJ, editor of Studies Quarterly Review (www.studiesirishreview.ie)

    Jim McCrea

  14. Jim, thanks for these, they are provocative and make great sense.

  15. "Clericalism is about power; priesthood is about service. But it is the prophetic that is needed now. We need charismatic leaders as well as functional ones, transparent leaders rather than organisation men. Otherwise self- preservation and scapegoating become all-important. This is evident when the Church forgets to first weep with the broken victims before explaining and defending itself. It all depends where one’s treasure is!”

    This is just so profound, especially the part about needing prophetic leaders. We have enough pathetic.