Cardinal hears of arrogance in church


PROBLEMS “of arrogance, or power and feelings of superiority’’ of priests, the ‘’architecture of hierarchy’’ in Irish society and “the disenfranchisement of women’’ were among explanations offered by speakers in Drogheda for the clerical child sex abuse problem in Ireland and elsewhere in the Catholic Church.

In approximately 70 minutes, 12 people spoke briefly in an atmosphere which was always frank and open, occasionally robust but never hostile.

One woman suggested that “the Pope should stand down as an act of atonement to those who were abused’’ while a man pleaded on behalf of priests who no longer can “engage in any meaningful way with children”. “My son’s godfather is a priest. He can’t even take him to the pictures,’’ he said.

Approximately 100 people attended, most of them older people and most of them women. It was organised by the former Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor as part of his Apostolic Visitation to Armagh archdiocese. There is another such meeting planned for the Carrickdale hotel in Carrikcarnon, Co Louth tonight, at the Armagh City hotel in Armagh tomorrow night and at the Glenavon House hotel in Cookstown Co Tyrone on Friday night. All are to begin at 7.30 pm.

The cardinal is being accompanied at these public meetings by Dr Sheila Hollins, professor of the UK Board of Psychiatry, Msgr Mark O’Toole, rector of Allen Hall Seminary in Chelsea, and Sr Clement Doran.

The cardinal, Prof Hollins and Msgr O’Toole addressed the meeting briefly at the beginning. As summarised by Msgr O’Toole, they were there to listen and garner “what was there in the past in the church in Ireland that allowed this abuse scandal”.

Acting as MC he said the visitors also wished to determine whether safeguarding practises which currently apply were “robust enough”, what people’s hopes for the future of the church were, and what were their expectations of the visitation.

Of the 12 speakers, three were women and three of the 12 chose to give their names.

Pat Clinton insisted on the importance of the visitation taking on board academic studies, such as one undertaken at Stanford University, on the uses of authority and how this could lead to ‘’the engineering of a false consensus’’ that allowed Nazi officers to listen to classical music after a day’s work in a concentration camps.

Michael Hickey said that one common thing the last 10 years in Ireland had illustrated was that “the archtiecture of hierarchy was unfit for purpose right across the board”.

Psychotherapist Carol Burke appealed for ‘’re-education around sexuality, from top to bottom”.