Friday, July 15, 2011

The Irish Government Has Had Enough Of Papal Authority

This kind of oath is not going to fly very far in Ireland anymore. The Vatican is beginning to find out the Pope no longer rules by proxy in Ireland

The following article from Dublin's Evening Herald underlines one of  points in the conversation generated by the last post on this blog.  The Irish government is not going to give the Vatican a pass after information in the Cloyne report revealed that the Vatican deliberately undercut the program the Irish Bishops had put in place for the protection of children.  Essentially the Vatican maintained this proposal superseded Canon Law.  Vatican opposition opened the door for bishops to act on their own initiative when it came to clergy abuse.  Hence Bishop Magee felt free to give one story to his diocesan review board about one priest, and an entirely different story to the Vatican.  Oh yea, he gave no story to the Irish police. Since everything in the Cloyne report deals with cases from 1996-2009, the idea the Church can be trusted to clean up it's collective act is pretty well shattered on the Emerald Isle.  Onto the article:
Papal visit now looks doomed after Cloyne backlash hits Church

By Michael Lavery and Cormac Murphy - Friday July 15 2011
PROPOSALS for a Papal visit to Ireland next summer are likely to be shelved in the wake of the Cloyne report.

The State and the Catholic Church remained on a collision course after the chairman of Fine Gael called for the Pope's representative in Ireland to be expelled. (This references the Papal Nuncio for Ireland, an office whose cooperation with the Irish government has been non existent if not outright oppositional, no matter who held it.)

It was also suggested that the Government could close our embassy to the Holy See as public anger grows over the failure of Bishop John Magee to publicly apologise for the scandal.

Asked for his reaction to calls for the Papal Nuncio to be expelled, Justice Minister Alan Shatter said the direct interference by another state in preventing the application in Ireland of child protection guidelines is unacceptable. (I would think so....except this isn't just another State like England for example.  This is the Roman Catholic Holy See.  Politics and religion mixed to the max.)

However, he stopped short of saying the Papal Nuncio should be expelled in light of the findings of the Cloyne Report. (Rest assured that if we were talking about England, there would be no stopping short.)

"I very much understand the view expressed by Charlie Flanagan. I think there are a number of people who would have a great deal of sympathy with that view," Mr Shatter told Newstalk.

"I believe the first step is that the Papal Nuncio provides to the Tanaiste the answers that are being sought. My central concern in this is that we truly protect children," he added. (that doesn't appear to be the Vatican's central concern.  Their central concern seems to be protecting the authority of the clerical priesthood.)

The minister said there was a great deal of shock and outrage in Government, and right across all political parties.

Government plans to jail priests for up to five years if they fail to report information on child sex abuse, even if it was obtained in the confession box, put it in direct conflict with the traditional teachings of the Church. A Catholic Bishops spokesman said the seal of confession "places an onerous responsibility on the confessor/priest, and a breach of it would be a serious offence to the rights of penitents".  (Now things are really getting sticky with the idea of the separation of Church and State.  I hope Archbishop Dolan reads this, since he's one of the exalted tasked with resurrecting Irish Catholicism.

Separately, Fr PJ Madden of the Association of Catholic Priests, said the seal was "above and beyond all else" and could not be broken, even if a penitent confessed to a crime. (Therapists have to deal with this all the time. Besides, I thought restitution was part of reconciliation.)

Taoiseach Enda Kenny backed the tough new laws to compel priests to report paedophiles to gardai.
"The law of the land should not be stopped by a crozier or a collar," Mr Kenny said. He was replying to a question from journalists as to whether the traditional Catholic seal of the confessional would be exempted from the law.  (The fact this is even being discussed is indicative of the anger level and lack of trust in the Irish clerical caste.  My gut level feeling is there is some old history behind this angst.)

He described as "absolutely disgraceful" the attitude of the Vatican to complaints of child sex abuse in the Cloyne diocese.

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald will publish new guidance on child protection rules today, along with a HSE plan to implement the rules consistently across the State.

Papal Nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza was yesterday summoned to the Department of Foreign Affairs and told to get answers from the Vatican on damning revelations in the report that it allowed priests to ignore the law.

Tanaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore said he warned the Archbishop about the new law of five years jail for anyone who does not alert authorities about crimes against a child.

"I told him I believed that a response was required and I look forward to receiving it."
The hardline Government stance followed revelations in the Cloyne report that Bishop John Magee and the Vatican encouraged the concealment of child abuse allegations.

Pressure continued to mount today for Bishop Magee to come out of hiding and answer questions publicly about the Cloyne report. Some sources suggested he was visiting the southern states of the US. (Really?!?  The Southern states?  I'm not sure that's all that much better than hiding out in Rome.)


Holy cow, the speculation on Magee's whereabouts is getting as fun as playing "Where's Waldo?"  Apparently he's not in Rome, Italy, he's in Rome, Georgia.  Who'd a thunk?  In any event, no matter what Rome Magee is in, the real Vatican in the Italian Rome is going to have very rocky sailing in Ireland.  Somehow I don't think Archbishop Dolan's fondness for cigars and Jameson whiskey is going to be much help.  Slight personal aside:  I don't agree with Archbishop Dolan about too much, but Jameson's is one such point.  It is very good whiskey.  Best I've ever tasted.

This business with legally mandating violation of the confessional is probably not going to go forward.  A good priest can usually convince a penitent it's in their own best spiritual interests to confess in places other than the confessional, and said priest could in fact withhold absolution until such a thing is done and proven. I can see where threatening the Church with this proposal would send a message to which  the Church would hopefully listen.  Especially since they don't seem to have really listened to any other message sent by any other laity or lay group.  Those pesky elected political authorities sure can be a pain the butt for those unelected Church authorities.  I find it fascinating how power seeks it's own balance no matter what the power brokers may think.

There was one other article in the Herald I actually found kind of sad.   This one is an editorial by Andrew Lynch about Ireland's chief prelate, Cardinal Brady.  Here's the sad parts:

Last year, Brady was accused of playing a small but crucial role in covering up crimes committed by the most notorious priest rapist in Irish history. (Brendan Smyth was a real piece of work. A Hannibal Lector kind of predator is the best way to describe him.)
A victim of the late Brendan Smyth alleged that in 1975, Brady used his position as a canon lawyer to persuade a 14-year-old girl and an altar boy to sign an oath of silence.

By his own admission, he believed that the children were telling the truth -- but he still did absolutely nothing to inform the Gardai.  (Which resulted in dozens more victims, including victims in Connecticut and North Dakota, plus the collapse of the Irish government in 1995.  Smyth's story is chilling. A simple Google search will yield more information and help illuminate why the Irish might be more than a little touchy about this subject.)

When this became public, Brady asked to be given time to reflect on his position.
To the surprise of absolutely nobody, he announced a couple of months later that he would not to quit.
With the support of Pope Benedict, he was given a second chance -- but God himself would struggle to explain why he should be given a third.

Everybody who knows Sean Brady describes him as a kind and decent man.
In some ways, that makes his sins even worse.
If such an obviously holy priest could become corrupted by the culture of secrecy and fear within the Church, it's hardly surprising that so many perverts took advantage of it as well.
Martin McGuinness once described Brady as "the most humble priest ever to become a cardinal".

One of the most important lessons I have learned on my travels in other dimensional realities is that cultures create their own energy.  A corrupt culture will most certainly corrupt the pure and the innocent if they are not prepared to believe the corruption exists.  Cardinal Brady is exhibit number one.  The Vatican cannot play authority games in Ireland anymore than Cardinal Schonborn can play those games in Austria.  The energy is changing.  The good thing for Catholics, and I know it's hard to trust, is that the new energy will not tolerate the corruption of the old energy.  Let me repeat that, the new energy will not tolerate the corruption of the old energy.  We are beginning to witness the first signs of the incoming new energy.  It will continue,  and with the added prayers, hopes, and diligence of the faithful,  it will grow. 


  1. Brilliant.

    There is no question that the Catholic church has been raping children for decades, covering it up, lying about it, and ignoring the victims. Its worse in Ireland than in a lot of places.

    They can't be trusted to protect society from their own pedophiles, and for a long time, the laws of the land allowed the church to get away with that. The church shamelessly, recklessly, sinfully abused that power - not as individuals, but as a coordinated, organized whole.

    That makes them an organized crime empire as much as a religious institution.

    They should start losing benefits, like "the loophole of confession", since they have long lost respect and trust.

    Pedophile priests proved that confession gave them the capability to rape children as long as they ran to confession afterwards. Some in the US in Philadelphia had sex with children in confessional. That's convenient. If you close that loophole, and the priest knows that he has to confess or go to hell after he rapes a child, he has a big dilemma.

    Pedophiles - want forgiveness from God? Go to prison on earth. You don't get the benefit of God's forgiveness for free. Priests - want to hide your pedophile priest friend? You go to jail, too.

    Enact the law. Let's hope the US follows suit. The Catholic church concealed child rape for at least 60 years. Let's let the government shut down the pedophile protection practices. Next up - taxing the church.

    When & if the pope visits, put him in jail.

  2. hrm...all of this makes me wonder if those in leadership are listening to the words they say or if they no longer have meaning for them.

    "Confiteor Deo omnipotenti...quia pecavi nimis cogitatione verbo et opere: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa."

  3. PatO -- as far as I know there is only one allegation of rape mentioned in the Cloyne report; there are not allegations of attempted or actual buggary; the most memorable "wrongdoing" is that a bishops hugged an 18yo; the only criticism of the Vatican concerns a lettter of Castrillon Hoyos what is not new information. The populist reaction and the outrageous proposals of Ministers Shatter and Fitzgerald, which will install a universal Scarlet Letter regime (except that the Puritans punished sinners, the new regime punishes anyone alleged, suspected, or perceived to have acted inappropriately), are over-the-top kneejerk reactions, that have nothing to do with the welfare of kids. The State has lavished millions on a lawyers' junket that has produced derisory results, and is very tight with its money when childrens' needs are really at issue. Some Irish priests are answering back, ineffectually and much too late:

  4. Joe, I think you called Magee's behavior 'seduction' over at Commonweal. In my line of work such behavior is a firing offense, as it should be.

    The Cloyne report was not really intended to uncover new abuse, but to investigate whether the diocese followed the stated protocols of the Irish bishops. They didn't, and Castrillon Hoyos' letter gave all the permission Magee needed not to follow protocol.

    Do I think some of the reaction is overblown? Yes. And yet the main issue boils down to one of trust. When a person realizes something or someone they believed in can not be trusted, it triggers a classic grief reaction and part of that process is anger. Catholic Ireland is angry, really angry, and they have a right to be.

    Now is the time for the Church to listen, not make excuses or attempt to minimize.

  5. "Government plans to jail priests for up to five years if they fail to report information on child sex abuse, even if it was obtained in the confession box, put it in direct conflict with the traditional teachings of the Church."

    I find this worrying. IMO the solution would be, to tell the penitent - assuming we are talking about the confession of a paedophile - that his (occasionally, her) penance was to confess to the police what had been confessed in the sacrament.

    That way, the seal of confession would be absolutely secure, and a civil crime would not go undetected; and there would be no collision of state with Church; & the confessional would not be available as a means of avoiding making reparation. The just claims of those wronged by abusers, of the Church's doctrine and sacramental practice, of the penitent in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, of the state, of the public, and of the law, can all be met - no collision between the Church and of these otgher parties is necessary

    "If you close that loophole, and the priest knows that he has to confess or go to hell after he rapes a child, he has a big dilemma."

    To be exact, he would need to make an act of perfect contrition, just like anyone else. *Sacramental* Confession is not absolutely necessary after committing a mortal sin - an act of perfect contrition is, because contrition is the soul of the sacrament. Without contrition, there is no sacrament. And anyone can do that, at any time.

    Not ordaining psychopaths would help, of course.

  6. Colleen, I did not say the bishop was practicing seduction, because I deny that the bishop was making a pass at the young man. Here is my take: an old gay man asks a young straight man, whom he is rather enamored of, to share a comforting hug ("does it feel good" could mean -- I know a young straight man like you may not feel uncomfortable to hold an old man). There is no evidence whatever that the bishop was looking for anything more from the young man.

    I agree that in today's university and church it has become a firing offense to touch any parishioner or student or younger colleague affectionately. The bishop should have buried his feelings.

  7. Simple solution to the Confession dilemma: stop celebrating the rite of individual absolution and offer the rite of general absolution instead; it has the same sacramental force.

  8. Joe, that was pretty my take on it from reading the article in the Herald, but then when I read an interview with the victim, this wasn't a one shot deal. It happened multiple times. One time I can get all over the giving comfort more innocent aspect, but multiple times it becomes harassment, and that's a firing offense in my work. But then in all fairness, we get a lot of in service training on what constitutes safe and appropriate boundaries. Sometimes it can be very counter intuitive.

  9. Rat-biter, unfortunately the Irish solution of making priests mandatory reporters does nothing about the priests who used the confessional as a grooming tool or for outright solicitation. For that reason alone forcing priests to report isn't terribly useful.

    I personally don't think this proposal will go very far once the heat of the moment cools down.

  10. The Irish Times has a useful summary of the allegations against individual priests.

    In many cases mandatory reporting would have meant exposing dying priests to public shame on the basis of very dubious allegations about events that happened in the 1960s. Msgr O'Callaghan is a Christian. not a STASI snitch, and not a witch-hunter.

  11. Joe, the truth is these priests won't avoid the shame anyway. We do have to deal with our less stellar moments eventually, living or dead.

    I understand where you are coming from, but from my own experience I also understand something else. Some men are ordained priests without a clue as to how much power lay Catholics assign that vocation. I've met too many individual priests whose own self worth is pretty low and they do not relate to the relational power of their vocation the same way some laity do. Which is why some of them really do see themselves as vicitms of their own vocation when they get caught doing non priestly things. There is all too often a huge disconnect. I hope this is making some sense.

    In the end the fault lies in the theology of the priesthood which empowers a vocational status and expectations which too often are far beyond the ability of a lot of men who hold the vocational title.
    The Church needs to get realistic about the theology of the priesthood. And I'm afraid this disconnect is only getting worse.

  12. Niall O'Down, who aspires to the Irish Presidency, has harsh, and unjust, words for Bp Magee:

  13. I agree, Colleen, about the priestly disconnect. The myth has been built up too powerfully. In the 1960s we began to hear the meme, "Priests are human", which was code for "physical and sexual beings" - but the holy horror at the idea of priests as sexual prevailed. Newman may have felt that when he preached on "Men, not Angels, the Priests of the Gospel". Personally, I chose to live in Japan partly for this reason (though as an academic I was never particularly bothered by the sort of pressures parish life entails). I have been blissfully unsaddled by absurd "expectations" while relating quite well to the faithful in pastoral situations. I note that in response to the Cloyne report Abp Clifford and Bp Magee have once again offered unreserved apologies; I wish they would show more backbone, and point out that the complaints in the report mostly reached back to as early as the 1960s and depended very much on perceptions and memories that were not necessarily reliable. Msgr O'Callaghan was being asked to kill old men on the basis of very flimsy allegations; he is right about the mandatory reporting regime.

  14. "These priests won't avoid the shame anyway" -- yes, but suppose they are entirely innocent. And if you think every human being should be shamed for his or her less than stellar moments, then who'll 'scape whipping? Would ANY human being want his or her unstellar moments put on display?
    It is the most vicious criminals who escape detection, while bishops known to have hugged young men inappropriately are treated as lepers.

  15. I probably should have used the term 'accounting' rather than shame. If some of these priests were innocent, and certainly all of them but one were when it comes to actual pedophilia, then that too will be in the 'accounting'.

    I actually empathize very strongly with Msgr O'Callaghan because I tend to cut my own clients too much slack, but that kind of slack gets real tight real quick when there are real people effected by their less than stellar moments. And I think that's the real bottom line issue for most Catholics, that the victims were not treated equally with the perpetrators and now the rebound effect is in play and it's the other way around.

    FYI, I never did agree with the 'zero' tolerance approach because 'one size does not fit all'. At the time I really wished they would have done some consultation with the American Psychiatric and Psychological Associations to get some ideas on how professional organizations involved in similar relationships handle these kinds of things. Instead the bishops went all PR and no common sense. It's no wonder individual bishops choose to ignore their own protocols, but that's not the solution either. I suspect it's going to take a whole lot more time before things sort themselves out.

  16. "these priests won't avoid the shame anyway" -- actually they will, because of Msgr O'Callaghan's refusal to thrown them to the wolves. Don't forget that the names in the report are pseudonyms.

  17. This story is huge. I am the son of two immigrant Irish parents. While my upbringing bore no resemblance to the TV-version of a "strict" Irish-Catholic home, the Church was held as "apart" from the ordinary norms of society. That the Irish gov't and people would be this outraged speaks volumes about how far this train has left from the station.

    I always return to the American scene, though. Why has there not been similar rage and action?

  18. Kevin, I wonder that myself. Sometimes I think it may have to do with the fact the American Catholic Church was composed of far more than just ethnic Irish Catholics and that many of the non Irish see the pedophilia scandal as an 'Irish Catholic' problem and not an Italian, Polish, Spanish, Mexican, German etc. problem. I don't quite know what to make of that other than in my own Polish experience there were way more St Patrick's day celebrations than there were Cinco De Mayo or St. Stanislaus celebrations.