Fintan O’Toole: Only lasting comfort in Charleton's tale is hero Maurice McCabe
Only enduring comfort of this moral tale is that it has a hero in Maurice McCabe
For anyone brought up with the Catholic Catechism, the Charleton report brings a blast from the past. A single word, repeated more than 50 times: calumny. It is not a crime. It is a sin, and a mortal sin at that. As the Catechism puts it, “If a lie in itself only constitutes a venial sin, it becomes mortal when it does grave injury to the virtues of justice and charity.” In his remarkable report, Peter Charleton shows all the skills and wisdom of an experienced judge, but he is fundamentally concerned with a sin against Maurice McCabe that grew to be a grave injury, not only to our system of justice, but to human charity.
At one point in the report, Charleton explicitly invokes the rituals of the Catholic Church: “According to a sermon, a penitent once went to a priest for Confession. The sin was gossip. The priest suggested a penance: that the person go to the top of the church tower and tear apart a feather pillow, releasing its contents to the wind. The penitent was to return to Confession the following week. Smugly, the fulfilment of the penance was then announced. The priest said: that’s not all – now go and pick up each feather.”