McGuinness blames Vatican for 'major failing'

Wed, May 9, 2012, 01:00

THE NORTH’S Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, has said the “major failing that exists in the Catholic Church resides in the Vatican”. In the Northern Assembly yesterday he also complained of an attempt to silence politicians from commenting on the issue.

Mr McGuinness, when taking questions from Assembly members, made a sustained and hard-hitting attack on how the church, and particularly the Vatican, has dealt with the issue of clerical child sex abuse.

The Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister said what was of greater importance than the future of Cardinal Seán Brady was how the Catholic Church and the Vatican handled the issue. He said the church had “miserably failed the victims of child sex abuse”.

Mr McGuinness also made oblique comments about attempts to silence politicians which appeared to be directed at Bishop Donal McKeown, an auxiliary bishop in the diocese of Down and Connor.

“Over the last couple of days we have seen an attempt made, in my opinion, to deflect attention from the failings of the Catholic hierarchy. And of course we are all very conscious in the past couple of weeks that a number of progressive priests have been silenced by the Vatican,” he said.

“I regard the attempt to deflect attention from the failings of the Catholic hierarchy over these matters also as an attempt to silence politicians. And we have no intention whatsoever of being silenced,” he added.

“Politicians all over this island have spoken out with great clarity about how they feel in relation to the total mismanagement of these important issues of great relevance to people who are victims and survivors”. Mr McGuinness did not say to whom he was referring but his comments appeared to be about Bishop McKeown, who on his Facebook on Sunday asked, “how many of us who have lived in the NI glasshouse are in a position to throw stones”.

“People in paramilitary organisations did terrible things to some children and some hid crimes against children when they occurred among their supporters,” wrote Bishop McKeown.

“People, who would later be prominent in public life, repeatedly shared platforms with those who often justified violence in the service of their glorious national or international ‘cause’,” he added.

“Maybe even some journalists buried information that could have saved lives,” wrote Bishop McKeown.

In a subsequent interview with the BBC, Bishop McKeown made reference to Sinn Féin and the Workers’ Party, some of whose members moved on to Democratic Left and then the Labour Party.

A spokesman said that Bishop McKeown was not available yesterday to elaborate or be more specific about his comments.

It was also not possible to contact Mr McGuinness yesterday to ask him to be more specific.

In his Assembly comments, Mr McGuinness repeated the allegations of Taoiseach Enda Kenny about the Vatican being dysfunctional, disconnected, elitist, narcissistic and downplaying clerical sex abuse. “I believe that the major failings that exist in the Catholic Church resides in the Vatican.”

He added he had personal experience of this failing and when he attended the elevation of Cardinal Brady in the Vatican he spoke to a monsignor “who railed against the people of Boston who, he said, ran Cardinal Bernard Law out of Boston over his failure to confront child abuse in his diocese”.

“I am a practising Catholic and I love my church. I believe that the Catholic community throughout the island of Ireland are absolutely dismayed and indeed angry at what they are hearing.”

He praised Archbishop Diarmuid Martin whom he described as a “colossus” for his proposal to establish an international inquiry into the abuse carried out by paedophile priest Brendan Smyth.

A Catholic church spokesman last night said, that as Cardinal Brady had stated: ‘We must concentrate on the present and make sure that such terrible events are never allowed to happen again’.”