The following leading article from the issue of 29 May 2009 is reproduced by permission of The Catholic Herald. It is the voice of the newspaper and thus anonymous
The official executive summary of the Irish Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse is literally sickening. No one without a heart of tungsten can read this sorry account of generations of child abuse, sexual predation, near starvation and cruel and arbitrary physical punishment and feel no shame.
We are all tainted: every good Catholic, every good priest, every good bishop, every good pope is sullied by what was done or tolerated by the Catholic Church. We are the universal Church and the sin of one is the sin of all. We are ashamed of the Crusades, we are ashamed of the Inquisition – yet for both of these there was at least a kind of mistaken rationale within the context of the time. There is no rationale whatsoever for wanton, institutionalised and sustained cruelty to the young and poor.
How was it possible for the main culprits – the Christian Brothers and the Sisters of Mercy – whose lives were sworn to the Gospel, to act over generations in a way that is about as far from the spirit of the Gospel as it is possible to get? How could the heads of these orders and the Church authorities not only overlook but positively collude with these scandalous activities by protecting them through a conspiracy of silence? Both the orders are headquartered in Rome, and it seems certain that the situation was known to the Vatican, and even to previous popes. It has happened before. The widespread sexual abuse of African nuns by Catholic priests, about which several reports were made to the Vatican throughout the 1990s, was only dragged into the open by the National Catholic Reporter in 2001.
We are not talking about an aberration by a handful of wicked people acting in defiance of the Church. Sadly, we are talking about a deep cleft in the ranks of the Church itself.
The report exposes a culture which hides behind a clericalism which is prepared to protect vicious behaviour at the expense of defenceless innocents, many of whom carry their scars throughout life.
We have heard much recently about dishonourable financial activities by Members of Parliament. But even the most flagrant have been mere peccadilloes compared to the behaviour of those involved directly with this scandal, or indirectly by concealment. The call from Parliament has been for a root and branch reform of corruption. We are entitled to call for a root and branch reform of a corrupt clericalism which can stamp on the Gospel, protected by silence and the misplaced loyalty of Church members.
Quentin writes: This leader is pretty strong stuff, but, in my view, is fully justified by this shameful affair. You will find the full, official Executive Summary here. You may well want to contribute additional points, and of course you are at liberty to disagree with any part, or indeed all, of the CH’s view.