Church not the only institution that let people down


Sir, – Terrible things were done by quite a number of people within the Catholic Church, and this awfulness was compounded by the failures of the hierarchy to take responsibility and protect their flock. Shame on them.

Should the Catholic Church be the only target for the media vitriol? In trying to get at the truth, should we not also focus on Irish society generally?

The Taoiseach admitted as much in his speech welcoming the pope. At least Government is trying to spread the web of understanding much wider than the media is.

When unmarried women for example, were being treated as pariahs, where was the wider society of citizens who could have given voice to these women’s fears and vulnerability, who could have stood up for them? So too, where were the protests against how young people in care and patients in psychiatric hospitals were being treated?

Critically what role did the media play in the 1950s and 1960s and beyond, in the veil of silence which engulfed and shamed Irish society. Is the wider society of the time not deserving of more thoughtful analysis than to dismiss it as ,“Oh that was the culture back then”.

Why were these outrageous injustices not highlighted by the media at the time? Did the media not wonder, not speculate, what went on behind those dark grey walls of institutions such as the Magdalene laundries and the industrial schools.? Surely all good journalism is about investigating and seeking the truth, whatever the age or the culture.

The Catholic Church should be a safe haven for the young and vulnerable, but in the past in many cases it failed to protect the innocent. It is rightly being challenged for this failure. But what of the media, should it not be challenged for past failures as well?

Would it not be wonderfully refreshing if we had a week of articles, television and radio debates, on the failures of other institutions such as the media to expose wrongdoing when it was happening, not decades later when it was too late? I throw down a challenge to the columnists in your newspaper, to depart from their comfort zone of attacking the Catholic Church, and enter the very uncomfortable zone of examining their own media, researching old newspapers and newsreels and interrogating how the media behaved in those very dark days.

Good journalism is about occupying the uncomfortable zones. The Catholic Church as an institution failed its most vulnerable and is rightly being challenged for its failures. However, it is not the only institution that let people down. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 14.