Archive for the ‘Murphy Report’ Category

Two interesting articles in yesterday’s Irish Times deal with the recent visit of the Irish Bishops to Rome.

Paddy Agnew, (Rome correspondent) writes that in the wake of the visit “a little explanation might have gone a long way to averting some of the widespread negative Irish reaction to the Rome meeting” http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2010/0220/1224264879783.html He goes on to give step by step what the Vatican might have done to convey the message much more effectively:

“explain beforehand that meetings between the pope and abuse survivors (which have a precedent) are never pre-announced, to avoid them becoming a media scrimmage-cum-photo-op.”

“clarify in advance that the meeting would not be discussing the question of episcopal resignations, something for which the Catholic Church has its own tried and true procedures, involving the Congregation of Bishops.”

“point out that many ambassadors, including those from countries such as the USA and the UK, refuse to appear before foreign affairs committees, or the equivalent thereof.”

Breda O’ Brien makes a similar criticism of the Church here in Ireland:

“The church failed children, especially up until the 1990s, and is now failing to communicate credibly that it has changed.” http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2010/0220/1224264879612.html

After the publication of the Murphy Report, it was important that the Dublin Diocese made it clear that it had fully faced up to what went so wrong in the past – and this it did reasonably well.

But it also needed to make the full picture clear about the present state of play: that major changes have already taken place: some of these  changes are mentioned in the Report and the Diocese could have given more detail on this.

It needed to respond when some commentators exaggerated, misquoted or took mistaken interpretations from the Report – for example, the widespread use of “mentioned in the Report” as being synonymous with “criticised in the Report”.

It needed to clarify and explain the 1962 Vatican document on the crime of using Confession as a means of solicitation: this was widely mis-reported as a Vatican order not to report child abuse to civil authorities.

It needed to get these messages out over and over again – both the genuine sorrow for the past and the positive changes: our Church leaders owe it to the victims, to ordinary Catholics, to the public.

The Church here hasn’t done this – but it really really needs to start doing it now. Maybe the seperate statements issued yesterday by Dr Denis Brennan, Bishop of Ferns and Dr Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Conor are hopeful signs of a change? http://www.rte.ie/news/2010/0220/abuse.html


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I commented in a post below (Rome trip should be welcomed) that some elements of the media seemed determined to see only negative in the visit of the Irish Bishops to Rome.  By yesterday the Rome visit had fallen down the headlines as Willie O’Dea came under fire. As I listened to the radio and TV coverage of Willie’s exit (for the moment at any rate!) from the Front Bench, it stuck me that this tendency to see the negative is not confined to coverage of the Church and has become a feature of our culture.

The O’Dea story has been in the public domain since at least November but as soon as it became certain that a resignation was imminent, commentator after commentator spoke about how the whole affair had been badly handled from the start by Willie, by the Taoiseach, by the Greens – and no, the Greens hadn’t redeemed themselves by forcing the issue – it was too late for that. Last week we heard how George Lee had made a fool of himself – but that it was all Enda Kenny’s fault.

Our political system too has negativity built into it.  In my younger days I did briefly consider getting into politics, thinking to change the world while being able to engage endlessly in my favourite pastime of debate and polemic. I now shiver at the thought – the idea that part of my job description would be to ALWAYS criticise and find fault in any and every idea not proposed by my own party. I found it so depressing when the recession first kicked in to hear very bright people use their skills only to pull down each others proposals for recovery, simply because the speakers belonged to different political parties. There has to be a better way!

Aren’t we Christians supposed to be people of the Good News?  This shouldn’t just be some abstract and vaguely Church related aspiration, but a real guiding principle in the way we approach everything in life – looking for the good, the positive, wherever it can be found.

If we did nothing else during Lent but decide to challenge this culture a little and make a determined effort to bring a positive attitude to whatever we’re doing and to our conversations and discussions of events and life in general, who knows what Easter might bring!

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Ok – so I’m Catholic! Yep, I really believe the Church was founded by Christ and that by the power of the Holy Spirit, He acts through it, in spite of all its human failings. So, sure, I’m coming at this from a definite angle.

But even allowing for that, am I way off in thinking that what happened in Rome over the last few days was, objectively speaking, worthy of some welcome? Surely it’s a sign of a Church genuinely trying to address the problem of serious failings in the way child abuse was dealt with? Garry O’Sullivan, Editor of the Irish Catholic newspaper said on Drivetime (RTE Radio 1) that the bishops were really surprised when they heard how the meeting was being received at home, and he himself was surprised too.

The statement issued by the Vatican Press Office afterwards (http://www.zenit.org/article-28373?l=english) acknowledged the “failure of Irish Church authorities for many years to act effectively in dealing with cases involving the sexual abuse of young people by some Irish clergy and religious.” The statement spoke about “significant measures have now been taken to ensure the safety of children and young people” and about the bishops “commitment to cooperation with the statutory authorities in Ireland – North and South – and with the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland to guarantee that the Church’s standards, policies and procedures represent best practice in this area.” I have to say I was pretty encouraged by this – especially in the light of Archbishop Martin’s reminder today that the visit is only one part of a process.

But listening to the coverage of the visit today, I couldn’t help but think that maybe some of the voices being heard were pretty determined not to acknowledge any positives no matter what was said or done at the meeting. I can understand this from survivors of abuse – what can anyone say or do that will take away the pain of what they’ve suffered?

But surely the media have an obligation to try to represent a broader range of views, and therefore to acknowledge that the bishops trip to Rome represents a genuine effort to at last do the right thing? It doesn’t look like this is going to happen any time soon, so the Church will have to continue on its journey of renewal despite this. This means, among other things, that it will have to find alternative ways of communicating directly with the ordinary faithful.

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The Irish Bishops are meeting Pope Benedict in Rome today. In their coverage of this, Drivetime (RTE Radio 1) spoke to Colm O’Gorman (abuse survivor and founder of One In Four). Mary Wilson introduced his input by referring to the “carefully choreographed series of photo opportunities, a controlling, as you’d expect, of the message that’s coming out” and asked O’Gorman “what, if any expectations, you have arising from this series of meetings?”

Responding to the question (that hardly seemed designed to highlight any positives that might be seen in this event!) O’Gorman mentioned similar meetings between Pope John Paul II and American bishops in 2002 and told listeners that he has “very low expectations of the outcome of any meeting at the Vatican” and went on to focus on what he says is “a level of dishonesty” in the Vatican in speaking about the problem in relation to the Irish Church. He talked about “failure of the Vatican” and “complete undermining of credibility” that he said is shown by their failure to acknowledge that there is no national Church but that the power rests in Rome.

He goes on to suggest that abuse survivors would find little comfort from what’s happening in Rome and spoke about child abuse as “a problem that’s replicated across the Catholic Church”, mentioning a very serious case in Brazil.‡ He referred to what he described as “mealy-mouthed attempts to blame somebody else” and told listeners that the Church is “still trying to put its own wealth, its own privilege, its own position and its own survival ahead of the protection of children.”

It’s important that O’Gorman’s voice is heard. For too long survivors had no voice and were not heard. After what he has been through it is not surprising that O’Gorman is never likely to look favourably on the Church. However, is it good that his voice, or that of one or two others who share his perspective are the only voices heard in the public discussion of this topic, and in particular, in the discussion of the Church’s current initiatives to address the wrongs of the past?

Another voice might have looked more favourably on what seem to me to be genuine efforts to learn from what has happened, genuine efforts to try to address the issues at the highest level in the Church. A speaker from another perspective might have pointed out that O’Gorman has misunderstood how the Church operates – and that each bishop is responsible for ensuring proper child protection policies are in place in his own diocese.

There might have been some mention of the huge amount of progress that had been made across the Irish dioceses in achieving this and of the need to look at which State body is responsible for ensuring the Church and all other bodies in the country, continue keep such policies in place. This might even have led to some discussion about the references in the Murphy Report to the weaknesses in the HSE’s ability to fulfil this role on behalf of the State. We might even have heard a call for the Government to address these weaknesses as a matter of urgency.

Without undermining O’Gorman’s perspective, wouldn’t the inclusion of a speaker from another viewpoint have given a more complete exploration of the events in Rome?

While parents should have been able to expect the highest standards of behaviour from men who claimed to represent Christ, it is also important to remember that clerical/religious ministers or clerical/religious teachers constituting only 3.2% of abusers. (Report into Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland, 2002)

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