Mass child sex abuse: ‘the structures and rules of the Catholic Church facilitated the cover-up’
As did the hundreds of desperate, lonely, terrified children, as they lay in the impenetrable shadows of their beds wondering if Friar Tom or Father Dick would be paying them a visit to ‘comfort’ them at some unknowable hour of the darkness.
No, it was Brother Harry’s turn that night. And he knew full well that no bishop or archbishop would even bat an eyelid. Turning the other cheek took on a myriad of alternative sinister and shady meanings.
Remember these four faces, for these are they who handled allegations of child abuse against 46 priests. It was not just one; not simply a singular rogue priest of depraved morality, but FORTY SIX priests who were known to be sexually abusing the children in their care. One priest admitted to 'interfering' with over 100 children, while another accepted that he had abused on a fortnightly basis over 25 years. It is a pity three of these bishops are dead. Or perhaps not. Archbishops John Charles McQuaid died in 1973; Dermot Ryan died in 1984; Kevin McNamara died in 1987. Cardinal Desmond Connell is retired, and may well now be fleeing to the Vatican for sanctuary, where others are known to safely reside. They all had qualifications in canon law, some in civil law, and yet they decided to place themselves above the law of both Church and State. For them, the standing and reputation of Ireland’s Roman Catholic Church was more important than the protection of children: the exposure and prosecution of paedophiles was deemed to be a greater evil than permitting the nuns and priests to continue beating and raping the girls and buggering the boys to kingdom come. The institution was more important than the most vulnerable individual: the church’s assets worth more than dignity, truth and justice.
Suffer the little children?
Yes, until the pain is unbearable, the suffering insurmountable, and the violation unforgivable.
One wonders what Jesus would have said to these professing ministers of the gospel.
The Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin covered a period from 1975 to 2004. The scrutiny of just these past 30 years has revealed a cesspit of depravity and a sewer of corruption on a scale one could scarcely believe. God alone knows what might be uncovered if the previous 30 years were examined, or the 30 before that.
The report states: ‘The Dublin archdiocese's pre-occupations in dealing with cases of child sexual abuse, at least until the mid 1990s, were the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church, and the preservation of its assets.’
Clergy were able to molest hundreds of vulnerable children because of a ‘systemic, calculated perversion of power’ that put their abusers above the law. They refused to pass information to the police, and evidence was kept inside a secret vault in the archbishop's Dublin residence while the paedophile priests were shunted from parish to parish to prevent the allegations being made public.
And the State was complicit, as the Gardai ignored the complaints from victims, effectively granting priests immunity from prosecution. The inquiry found that church authorities nurtured ‘inappropriately close relations’ with senior police officers.
Cranmer is struck by the observation that ‘the structures and rules of the Catholic Church facilitated that cover-up’, for it is a theme to which the Archbishop of Canterbury referred last week in Rome when he repudiated ‘the language of rule and hierarchy established by decree, with fixed divisions between teachers and taught, rulers and ruled’. Power corrupts, and unaccountable power facilitates collusion and cover-up, placing institutions beyond the reach of the normal law enforcement processes.
Quite incredibly (and Cranmer is sincerely shocked by this), the inquiry heard a defence from the former bishops that they did not know sex abuse was a crime.
It beggars belief that those whose lives are dedicated to the Lord, whose training and vocation are steeped in the faith of the Fathers, do not recognise sin, refuse to control their lust, and cannot see that evil is evil.
There is no doubt that the actions of these priests were evil, but the greater evil and more appalling scandal was the conspiracy between Church and State to pervert the course of justice. It is not only the clerics who should face prosecution, but the police officers who colluded in the cover-up to protect the honour of the Roman Catholic Church. The welfare of children counted for nothing.
There are those who frequently quote in this context that the forbidding of marriage is a doctrine of devils (1Tim 4:1-3), and that the Roman Catholic Church is colluding with Satan by enforcing celibacy upon its clergy. Or that confession and a few Hail Marys are considered to be the end of the matter, not least because of the sanctified confidentiality of the confession box.
But this is superficial theology. The sexual abuse of children by religious leaders, which is overwhelmingly by male clergy upon young boys, is inescapably homosexual. And the constraints imposed upon priests (marital status, sexual orientation, erotic sex) are not irrelevant: they are inseparable from the reality that Roman Catholicism (as the Church throughout the ages) is patriarchal and inherently masculine. The gendered nature of the organisation and all of its literature over centuries has produced a static, totalitarian expression of masculinity, such that notions of fraternity and paternity precede sexuality and become the visible medium of the expression of catholicity. Consensual submission in the context of hierarchical assertions of power is inherent in brotherhood and episcopal structuring. While the novice, priest, bishop, and cardinal have vowed and aspire to be asexual, in reality they cannot deny their human nature, and so adopt the masculinity of the hermaphrodite. And as their public face is that of purity and holiness in deeply-fulfilling celibacy, the private paradox is confused, constrained and yearning deeply to express itself. And if it cannot be with a woman, as St Paul observed, it will be predatory upon the malakoi - the ‘soft’ or ‘effeminate’ prepubescent ‘pet’.