Catholic Church should set up its own commission of investigation following mother and child home controversy

Opinion: Government commission should be chaired by someone of evident distinction who is not Irish or of Irish extraction

Thu, Jun 19, 2014, 00:01

Institutions such as the mother and child homes and the Magdalene Laundries are regarded worldwide as typically Catholic – even though, to the best of my knowledge, they are not to be found in the Catholic nations of Europe or South America. The big question is: how is it that the Irish Catholic Church could drift so far from its moorings? To what extent are similar attitudes to others marginalised in our affluent society still prevalent?

These are profound questions which, I suggest, the Catholic Church should examine by setting up its own commission of investigation rather than singling out the Bon Secours Sisters as scapegoats.

Whichever commission is set up by the Government, it should be chaired by someone of evident distinction who is not Irish or of Irish extraction. We are all so emotionally worked up by all these issues that it is doubtful if we can be objective on these topics. And since we seem to be in a permanent paroxysm of “historical self-flagellation” (Brendan O’Neill), we need the international perspective, to ask the question “why?” and to help us to look at these issues somewhat dispassionately – and avoid prejudicing any possible criminal action that, sadly, may have to be undertaken.

Innocence vs guilt

In the meantime, we need to recover one of the most important values we inherited from the UK: the importance of the presumption of innocence before possibly being found guilty by due process. As far as Irish Catholic clergy and religious are concerned, that presumption no longer holds today and will not change tomorrow.

D Vincent Twomey SVD is author of The End of Irish Catholicism? (Dublin 2003)and Moral Theology after Humanae Vitae (2010)

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