Church in Ireland sinking as rot goes right to the top


ANALYSIS:It matters little if Cardinal Brady resigns for he and the church he leads is damaged beyond repair, writes PATSY McGARRY

IT DID not seem possibile that it could get any worse. It has. The clerical child sex abuse scandal has now spread to the very top in Ireland and in Rome.

We heard at the weekend, through the German press, that in January 1980 the then Archbishop of Munich Joseph Ratzinger approved the transfer of Father “H”, a suspected paedophile, to Munich to undergo therapy.

Despite his record Father “H” was assigned work in pastoral care where he again abused minors. In June 1986 he was convicted of sexually abusing minors, fined DM4,000 and given an 18-month suspended sentence. Father “H” is, apparently, still serving as a priest in Bavaria.

At the weekend priest Gerhard Gruber, who was at the time vicar general in Munich, assumed total responsibility for the decision to readmit Father “H” to pastoral care work, expressing regret and seeming to suggest that Archbishop Ratzinger had not been fully informed.

Few who are aware of the meticulous working methods of Joseph Ratzinger throughout his long career, right up to and including the current papacy, are convinced, however, that such a significant matter would have escaped his notice.

As the well-known US clerical child sex abuse activist Fr Tom Doyle said at the weekend: “Tell the vicar general to find a better line. What he’s trying to do, obviously, is protect the pope.”

We heard at the weekend also, through the Irish press that in 1975 as a 35-year-old priest of Kilmore diocese Cardinal Seán Brady conducted canonical investigations, involving a 10-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl, into clerical child sex abuse allegations against Fr Brendan Smyth.

He bound the children to secrecy, believed what they said and, acting on the information they supplied, recommended to his bishop that his priestly faculties be removed from Fr Smyth where diocesan work was concerned.

He told no garda and no one in the then health board of what he had uncovered, nor did any of his superiors.

And none of them told the two children at any time, either before, during, or after the inquiry, that they were free to tell the Garda or health board.

No, the only people they were told they could talk to about their abuse were authorised clergy. Not just any old priest.

Whether intended or not, the oath these children were asked to take ensured their complete silence. Some would suggest that putting young children through such an exercise in enforced silence was in itself a form of abuse by adults.

Cardinal Brady feels none of this is a resigning matter and that such would be a matter for the pope anyhow. Considering the pope’s own current troubles in this area, one has to wonder just what authority still remains to Benedict XVI on the subject.

But whether Cardinal Brady resigns or does not is really a moot point. Similarly with the resignations, offered or otherwise, of bishops Moriarty, Walsh, Field, Drennan or Murray. It doesn’t matter anymore. It is too late.

The Catholic Church in Ireland, as we have known it, is seriously damaged and probably beyond repair. It is sinking and sinking fast. And, as indicated from recent revelations on the European continent, the Irish Catholic Church may have company on that journey down.

And what seems to be missing in this process of decline and fall is any awareness of the truly great damage all of this is doing to Christianity itself, whether in Ireland and abroad.

But, be sure of one thing, such damage will not stop Ireland’s Catholic bishops rallying to the side of Cardinal Brady in coming days, as he and they did where Bishop John Magee was concerned early last year and indeed where bishops Murray, Moriarty, Walsh, Field and Drennan were/are concerned since publication of the Murphy report at the end of November.

The only exception where such rallying around a beleagured colleague (whatever the circumstances!) was concerned has been the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin.

He was silent on the matter of Bishop Magee. He challenged those bishops named in the Murphy report to explain themselves. When Bishop Eamonn Walsh circulated a letter last December saying he had his (archbishop’s), support following publication of the Murphy report, Archbishop Martin responded with “a clarification”. That was followed quickly by Bishop Walsh’s and Bishop Field’s offers of resignation.

But of late Archbishop Martin has dropped very far below the radar.

He was very much to the fore following publication of the Ryan report last May and again following publication of the Murphy report last November. He has gone to ground since Christmas, having suffered the slings and arrows of of some outraged colleagues and clergy, it seems.

He must rediscover his mojo. Otherwise the Irish Catholic Church has no future.

Either that, or he sinks with it.

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection


Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.