CATHOLIC CHURCH AND SEX ABUSE

 

ANGELA MACNAMARA,

Sir, - Part of the solution to the current paedophilia problem is the setting up of a public inquiry and the arrangements to compensate victims.

However, another aspect of this situation is the question: "How do the majority of celibate people sublimate their natural sexual urges?" Many idealistic young men (even boys) entered the priesthood and brotherhood without any mature knowledge about their sexuality. They must have had a confusion of feelings and emotions.

Among the many who were spiritually and emotionally strong and well fitted for the challenges of celibacy, there were also those who were homosexual, those who were potentially paedophiles, and those who were simply confused.

Loneliness and isolation must have been an enormous burden for those who were troubled. Nowadays, in addition to the loneliness, there is the breakdown in the traditional ways of the authoritarian institution in which they were trained.

It would be interesting to discover, in a completely confidential questionnaire run by professional personnel, what anxieties are surfacing within the present upheaval in the Church, and how these are affecting them personally.

What needs are individuals experiencing? What might be the nature of the pain they may be living with? Where might some be finding their challenge and hope?

Undoubtedly there are men who have found themselves positively challenged by their celibacy. They are well aware that marriage is not the answer to concupiscence and that faithful marriage is not an easy path either.

We need to keep in mind that the vast majority of abused children are abused by lay family members, and that abusers are often shielded for reasons of family guilt and shame.

In the clerical situation, one burning question now is why erring priests weren't put under strict supervision and, if needs be at a later stage, dismissed from the priesthood?

Was it have been for fear of opening a can of worms in the entire scene of obligatory celibacy? But cans of worms are better opened and examined or they are liable to explode.

Within the context of an inquiry, I would like to see all celibate people encouraged to articulate the impact of this crisis in their personal lives - their struggle or otherwise in their sexual journey. This would indicate if old traditions and disciplines should be maintained and the amount and quality of support needed when things begin to go wrong.

We all need to share the challenge of how to go forward in an era of consumerism, hedonism and loneliness. - Yours, etc.,

ANGELA MACNAMARA,

Lower Kilmacud Road,

Dublin 14.

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Sir, - My Mass-going has become irregular, but last Sunday, after the resignation of Bishop Comiskey, I went to Mass to show some solidarity with our beleaguered clergy and with my staunchly Catholic husband.

We expected something to be said about the revelations and interviews in the media. And something was said. After invoking our prayers for the victims and perpetrators of paedophilia, the congregation of mostly grey-heads, with a sprinkling of parents with their children, were told to be in no doubt that the "wall to wall" coverage by journalists during the week on the subject was for no other reason but to sell newspapers.

We were told that 0.3 per cent of priests - the same percentage as in the general population - were paedophiles, and that there was absolutely no connection between celibacy and paedophilia.

As in most cases where someone is being attacked, I try to put myself in their place. Perhaps, I thought, this is a man who has had a heroic struggle with his own demons concerning celibacy or something else for many years, and who believes that struggle has been unrecognised and unrewarded. If so, I sympathise with him.

But what a missed opportunity! I am certain that had this priest appealed to his dwindling congregation to help the priesthood, to try to understand what had gone wrong, admitted that the clergy are floundering and asked for our patience and co-operation, he would have got 100 per cent support.

Unfortunately, in taking this defensive, arrogant stance, he proved once more how alienated from the laity the Catholic clergy is.

The "wall to wall" coverage in the media has failed to get across the most important point to him - that it is not the 0.3 per cent of perpetrators in the priesthood who are being most criticised. It is the 99.7 per cent who have swept it under the carpet and taken no action.

I will not be going to Mass next Sunday. - Yours, etc.,

MARY COGAN DALY,

Castle View,

Dundrum,

Dublin 16.

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Sir, - There appears to be some competition between the Hierarchy of the Church and the victims of sexual abuse as to who feels the more pain.

Where God may bless the former, I sincerely hope He'll help the latter. - Yours, etc.,

JENNIFER SWEENEY,

Harbour View,

Howth,

Co Dublin.

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Sir, - I would like to congratulate Damian O'Farrell (April 5th) for his courage in writing a very poignant letter.

I'm sure his family and friends will be extremely proud of him. -- Yours, etc.,

HUGH HANNON,

Sidmonton Road,

Bray,

Co Wicklow.

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Sir, - Referring to the current child abuse scandals, Desmond O'Donnell says that "thanks in part to the media, the church is now hopefully on its way to surgery" (Opinion, April 3rd). I would hope that in fact the church (at least in Ireland) is on its way to euthanasia.

Is it not surely time to recognise that the rejection of organised religion as a powerful influence would be a major step forward for our society? Our history has shown us time and again that churches, whether of the Catholic variety or of some other, do little except promote division and repression.

Despite this, we still have to put up with apologists such as Rev O'Donnell, who incredibly suggests, "Let us all have the courage to carry the cross of deserved humiliation and shame when we hurt children". Who exactly are the "us" that he is referring to?

May I offer an alternative suggestion. Let us all have the courage to take responsibility for our own actions and for the type of society in which we live. The Catholic Church has had its chance and it has failed. We should take the opportunity to move towards a more secular, more mature society. - Yours, etc.,

JAMES CRUICKSHANK,

Aughlora,

Tuam,

Co Galway.