Sir. - I was taken aback by your leader on Saturday (April 19th) apologising for a cartoon by Martyn Turner about priestly responsibility for reporting child abuse and the seal of the confessional. You commented that “Turner also took an unfortunate and unjustified sideswipe at all priests, suggesting that none of them can be trusted with children”.
Turner’s cartoon is entirely justified and fair comment given the record of the Catholic Church in recent decades. The Catholic clergy individually and collectively tried to cover up the dreadful sexual exploitation of children by some priests. In saying “some priests” I accept the abusers were a minority. But that minority were tolerated by their fellow priests, who kept their heads down or co-operated with the church policy of moving paedophile offenders from parish to parish when caught out.
The Catholic clergy didn't produce any whistleblowers to expose what was going on. Instead the truth had to be painfully dragged out of the Church authorities by brave victims and their supporters before the Irish hierarchy grudgingly admitted what was happening. This was the context for the cartoon in last Wednesday's paper which has so upset Catholic clergy and some lay supporters. The fact is that parents of young children will not risk leaving them alone now with priests. Martyn Turner's critics did not deserve any apology and certainly not in a leader under the – appropriately phrased – heading "An editorial lapse". If that leader represents the current editorial policy of The Irish Times I regret to say it is no longer the paper I worked for proudly as a journalist in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Yours, etc,
Sir, – Surely your editorial of April 19th, “An editorial lapse”, concerning Martyn Turner’s cartoon of April 16th is the more egregious lapse? On any reading, the cartoon was a comment on the principle of the secrecy of the confessional.
Martyn Turner's Irish Times cartoons on beliefs of all persuasions, not just religious, have entertained us for decades. Why should they now be considered ad hominem ? For Irish Catholic priests as a group to claim to be a minority stretches logic and language too far. Doctors and other pastoral professionals accept that their access to children should be subject to the rule of law. Because of past mistakes, religious authorities are no longer entitled to special exemption. Trust and respect have to be earned. Yours, etc,
Sir, – Like others of your readers (Letters, April 18th and 19th) I too was appalled and shocked at the cartoon The Irish Times published on April 16th and thought the only way to show my objection was to stop buying your newspaper.
However, your apology, “An editorial lapse”, acknowledging the hurt and offence caused by the cartoon leaves me in admiration. Yours, etc,
Sir, – I find the “outrage” expressed by Catholic priests at Martyn Turner’s recent cartoon extraordinary, as was your apology for publishing it. Where was their outrage at the collective cover-up of child abuse and the protection of Mother Church at all costs?
Satire is the cornerstone of real democracy and, on this issue, I feel you buckled under the pressure. Surely, Fr Iggy O’Donovan’s letter indicates a priest who has his finger on the pulse of the Irish people. Yours, etc,
Sir, – “Martyn Turner is a satirist. Satirists are licensed to be offensive. Get over yourselves.” That, in summary, is the message coming from his defenders on your letters page. This one-dimensional approach to satire simply does not hold water. Artistically it is lazy. Morally it is crass. It offers indiscriminate offence to the guilty and to the innocent.
Your newspaper has reason to be proud of the voice it has given to satire in its columns over the years. One thinks of the greatest Irish satirist of modern times, Myles na Gopaleen, whose Cruiskeen Lawn column delighted your readers for many years. Myles, however, did not employ the reckless scattergun approach used by Turner. Though he mercilessly lampooned hypocrites, fools and scoundrels of all kinds he did not cause gratuitous offence to his beloved "Plain People of Ireland". O tempora! O mores , as he would no doubt have sighed. Yours, etc,
Sir, Your apology for the poor editorial judgment in publishing the very offensive Martyn Turner cartoon is very welcome and will be appreciated by readers as indicating that you too believe he went beyond the bounds of fair comment. The cartoon had as its inspiration the story that a singing priest, Fr Ray Kelly of Oldcastle, who has brought happiness to so many newlyweds with his singing, had at the time of writing an amazing 30 million hits on YouTube.
That such a good news story would be turned into a sick attack on all priests showed an appalling bigotry on the part of your cartoonist. Martyn Turner has lost a multitude of admirers over this debacle. Yours, etc,
Sir, – Credit where credit is due. Your second editorial today (April 19th) is generous and should be acknowledged as such. Yours, etc,
Sir, – Rather than censor your cartoonist for all the hurt he is alleged to have caused, could you not have moved him to a different part of the paper? Yours, etc,