Do not replace church as oppressor, bishop tells media


A BISHOP warned the media yesterday not to become “oppressive”, as the Catholic Church had once been.

Addressing a meeting of journalists in Dublin, the Bishop of Killaloe Most Rev Willie Walsh also said the Ryan report did not do “full justice” to religious congregations, many of whose members were now “very broken and very sad”.

In his wide-ranging address, the bishop said he “lacks any enthusiasm for the Latin Mass” and was “saddened” that he could not feel free to take part in Communion at Church of Ireland services because of the rules in his own church. This was despite the fact that “in Ennis it was never suggested that Church of Ireland people are not welcome to receive in our church.”

He said he always had difficulties when told by the church that certain subjects were not for discussion. He was unhappy generally about exclusion by the church, citing the issues of second unions and homosexuality as examples.

Bishop Walsh, who this year celebrates his 50th anniversary as a priest and is 15 years a bishop, was speaking to the Association of European Journalists.

Referring to the sex abuse scandals, he said Ireland’s Catholic bishops “owe a debt of gratitude, though we may not feel it, to journalists for investigating and exposing this dreadful aspect of church life”.

In the past many would say the church was an oppressive influence, “and there was something oppressive about it,” he said. Now there was no doubt “the power of the church, politics, banks, developers” had been knocked. “There is a vacuum there,” he said. “I do think the media is the big power in the land and the big challenge for media today is not to use that power to oppress.”

Referring to the Ryan report, he said it would be “a second injustice [in addition to the abuse of children] if the religious alone were singled out to carry all the blame. All adults share some responsibility (for what went on then), but they didn’t want to know.”

He had been speaking recently to the leadership team of the Mercy congregation’s southern province, “women who have given their lives in the service of the church”, and who were “very broken, very sad”. They felt “let down by us, the bishops”.