Satan, child abuse and the pope: an Irish view

 To say that the revelations concerning child abuse in the Catholic Church has rocked it to its very foundations would be an understatement.

It certainly has led to countless comments and articles in newspapers, with the example of the Irish News, reports aside, having five of its feature writers making contributions to the issue in one week.

Having said that, this is my second take on the matter.

The thing wasn’t dying down and the pope’s letter to Catholics in Ireland certainly made sure it wasn’t dead.

Patrick Murphy, one of the Irish News writers, compared the letter to the old joke about an airliner flying over the ocean which develops technical difficulties.

The pilot’s voice comes on the intercom saying, “If you look out of the left-hand windows, you will see a small dinghy below. I am speaking to you from that dinghy.”

Murphy comments that following his letter many also believe that the pope is the pilot on the dinghy.

He further wrote under the heading, “Pontiff is remaining detached,” that this was “a point in history” when he needed to say, “Look, I’m in charge here, the buck stops with me and this is what I propose to do.”

Of course he didn’t and in a “wonderful sense of detachment,” the pope wrote about, “these egregious crimes.”

This led Murphy to ask, “Is anyone who uses the word egregious really serious about communicating with a broad mass of people?”

Apparently the 14-point letter consisted of one part introduction, one part Irish Church history, (which led to Murphy rather sarcastically commenting, “wasn’t St. Columbanus a grand man,”) 12 parts on his views on the cause of clerical child abuse and one part solution.

Murphy writes that the pope’s letter was “tempered” with the observation that child abuse was not peculiar to the Catholic Church.

This prompted Murphy to write, “No, You Holiness, but covering it up and allowing it to continue in some cases for decades were peculiar. That is why the church is in crisis. It may not have been newsworthy in Rome, but it made all the papers over here.”

Similar sentiments to the pope’s were made by a Monsignor Dooley while being interviewed on television in the Republic [of Ireland].

Such was the uproar, he was diplomatically told to get offside.

Murphy goes on to write that the pope, “effectively” traced the problem back to Vatican II in the early 60s.

Vatican II is described by Murphy as a ‘modernization trend,” in the church at the time which has been opposed by the present pope all his life.

“He appears to claim, like Margaret Thatcher, that all our social ills originate from the sixties and that child abuse did not exist before that date.

“Indeed,” Murphy says.

In the letter, the pope claims that Vatican II “triggered” changes, one of which was the secularization of society.

This leads Murphy to ask, “In that case, is he seriously claiming that clerical child abuse thrived because clerics had less influence in civil society? You have to work that one out for yourself,” he adds.

The “real” problem in Ireland, according to the Pope, was a failure to apply canon law to the abuse inquiries, Murphy writes.

Murphy, along with another Irish News contributor, Brian Feeney, argues that canon law is part of the problem.

The fact that canon law, in the cases of child abuse, was put above civil law proves this.

As Feeney put it in his column, canon law is the church operating to its own legal system.

Rather than repeal the thing, the pope, according to Feeney, wants canon law to retain its primacy.

What has really angered many Catholics in Ireland is the “solution” to the problem.

This was taken up by Breidge Gadd in her Irish News column when she wrote: “The Holy Father’s answer to victims’ prayers is that they should renew their faith in the church as an institution as well as individual trust in Jesus Christ.”

Others should devote Friday penances for one year and discover the sacrament of reconciliation (confession).

This boils down to suggesting that the laity atone for the sins of the priests by doing penance and confessing their sins, Gadd says

Another ludicrous suggestion came from Bishop of Ferns Denis Brennan who asked parishioners to help pay legal bills and compensation arising from child abuse cases.

You have to admire his cheek.

Last word goes to Antonio Riboldi, an Italian bishop, who described the criticism of the pope as the state of war “between the Church and the world; between Satan and God.”

Who is Satan though?

W. Owl writes a media review column  for Unity, a weekly Belfast-based publication of the Communist Party of Ireland. 

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