Where is political outcry over cartoon attacking priests?

Opinion: Tiny percentage of religious involved in abuse

‘You might argue that it was somewhat tasteless to mock a Catholic sacrament during Holy Week. You might even wince a bit at the satire of “singing priests”, given that the best known singing priests are humble men who raise phenomenal amounts of money for charity.’ Photograph: Getty Images

‘You might argue that it was somewhat tasteless to mock a Catholic sacrament during Holy Week. You might even wince a bit at the satire of “singing priests”, given that the best known singing priests are humble men who raise phenomenal amounts of money for charity.’ Photograph: Getty Images

Sat, Apr 19, 2014, 00:01

The apology published by The Irish Times today is an important acknowledgment that Martyn Turner’s cartoon last Wednesday crossed a line. The cartoon caused immense upset, not on Twitter, or even in mainstream media, but among those who abhor seeing innocent people demonised.

The cartoon features three priests, one of whom is emerging from a confessional carrying a Bible. Another priest holds up the headline: Children First Bill – Mandatory Reporting. The three priests sing together: “I’d do anything for children (but I won’t do that).”

Had that been all, it would not be a daring or original cartoon, but it could be argued that it remained – just about – within the bounds of acceptable commentary. You might argue it was somewhat tasteless to mock a Catholic sacrament during Holy Week. You might even wince a bit at the satire of “singing priests”, given the best-known singing priests are humble men who raise phenomenal amounts of money for charity. However, on the right of the cartoon in small print it states: “But there is little else you can do for them [children] except stay away from them, of course.”


Cowardly attack
At that moment, the cartoon became a cowardly attack on an identifiable class of people.

It reinforced the most negative stereotyping, that all priests represent a danger to children, a stereotype not even remotely based on fact.

The only major Irish research we have, the Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland Report , says just over 3 per cent of sexual abuse was carried out by priests and religious. That statistic is often misread as stating that more than 3 per cent of priests are abusers. In fact, because abusers of children tend to have many victims, it is probably much less than that.

While acknowledging the importance of freedom of speech and “the vital role of satire in social criticism”, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin firmly pointed out that it is wrong to “unjustly tarnish all good priests with the unpardonable actions of some”.

But where was the outcry from politicians and opinion leaders? Yet again, our political masters wait to see which way the wind will blow.

It is so, so easy to scapegoat one group, and thereby escape the need to look more deeply at the remaining 96 per cent of sexual abuse.

Actor Brendan Gleeson said one of the sparks that led to the film Calvary was the fact priests were once elevated to a ludicrous degree, and now are derided to a ludicrous degree. He spoke about the number of baseless allegations levelled against priests, and how horrific that must be.

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