Jude Collins

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

That meeting in Dublin

The meeting in Dublin of over 1,000 members of the Catholic Church must give heart to those who (as Martin McGuinness says he does) love the Catholic Church and are concerned for its direction. There’s no doubt that many Church members feel their Church is in a mess and that the hierarchy aren’t doing much about it.

An example: the only two bishops to have spoken on the Cardinal Brady affair have been Archbishop Martin in Dublin and Bishop Donal McKeown in Belfast. Martin has called for an independent public inquiry, McKeown has said the debate about the past needs to be wider. I think they’re both wrong.

We’ve had enquiries around Catholic clerical abuse of children until they’re coming out our ears. A better idea, if you must have another inquiry, might be this: are the Catholic clergy alone in the child abuse arena? Or are other Churches, other faiths,  humanists, atheists, the general public as likely to be child abusers as your local priest? This is an urgent matter, since at present Catholic priests in general feel singled out  and stigmatized by the presence of abusers in their ranks.

Bishop Donal McKeown is right in one respect: there are many ways in which children can be abused. They can suffer poverty, educational discrimination, domestic neglect, physical abuse and even death at the hands of adults. And we do well to keep that in mind. But having said that everyone – Workers’ Party, Sinn Féin, the state – should reflect on the abuses they inflicted, Bishop McKeown then narrowed his criticism down to those who engaged in violent action for ‘the cause’ (his word) and didn’t report paramilitary acticities to the authorities. This is an old and inaccurate representation of the conflict that wracked this part of Ireland over the last forty years: that it was all due to a  small group of merciless psychopaths who dealt in murder and mayhem. Bishop McKeown is an intelligent and educated man who knows his Irish history. He should know better than to talk in such a blinkered way.

Martin McGuinness made one distinction in his Stormont speech on the topic which is important: there’s the Irish Church and there’s the Vatican. Catholics in Ireland have not been well served by the Vatican since the early 1960s and the suppression of Vatican II’s vision. The meeting of 1,000 Catholics, clergy and laity, in Dublin at the weekend suggests that the vision lives on and may even gather strength. 


  1. God love you Jude, you've tried so hard to make this about the prods and the brits being to blame.

    you've tried so hard that I had to read it twice to find it.

    Sadly I think you've tried to go a bridge too far on this one.

    On the note of 'is it just them?' I would suspect that children abused by their football teacher are a lot less likely to be quiet, its not like the football teacher claims to be the only way to get into heaven is it?

  2. Ryan - always good to hear your voice. But don't forget, I've been patronised by better people than you...I think your charge that I'm "trying to make this about the prods and the brits" is totally ungrounded so maybe do a third reading? My question is a simple one: is there research which shows that the rate of child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy is higher than in other faiths/religions/the population in general? If there is, I'd like to see it and so should everyone else: it would provide solid evidence for the exclusive focus on Catholic clergy. If there isn't, then clearly sole focus on Catholic clergy is to tell the truth but dodge a much bigger truth.

  3. Oops - Ryan - just noticed your last little paragraph. Maybe time to brush up on your knowledge of Catholic theology re 'the only way'...

  4. Perhaps you would enlarge as to how Bishop Mc Keown is talking in a "blinkered way".Is he not entitled to his analysis of events as he saw them?

  5. Anon 19:35 - since you ask so nicely, I'll try to enlarge - briefly. The bishop started by saying that everyone in our society, or at least all the major groupings - Workers' Party, Sinn Féin, the state, and a couple of others that I can't off-hand remember - came from a murky past, like the Catholic Church in Ireland. He then went on to be scathing about those who engaged in violence for 'the cause', sang maudlin ballads and concealed information about activities from the authorities. It doesn't take a bloodhound to locate that he's talking about the IRA. He spoke in a blinkered fashion in that the Workers' Party, the state and those concealing evidence (which of course would have included the state) suddenly dropped away. In short, the Troubles were the sole fault of the murderous IRA. I call that blinkered from a man who should and I suspect does no better.

  6. Oops - 'no' should of course be 'know'. Freudian slip.

  7. You can't be a Catholic if you're not in communion with Rome. This attempt to divide the Church in Ireland from the Vatican is Henry VIII all over again.


  8. Jude
    I noticed on Nolan you referred to Eamon Gilmore as an atheist. I believe he refers to himself as an agnostic.
    I can't see anything in what Bishop Mckeown says that places sole blame for the troubles on the IRA.. He doesn't even mention them on his facebook statement.
    He does have a go at politicians who have shared platforms with those who justify violence. This is usually an attack on Unionist politicians who may not have been directly involved but can be seen to be supporting such activities.
    He has a go at communities, plural, for their tacit support of paramilitaries, and of course he has a go at the security forces.
    I cannot see how you get a blinkered view from any of that.
    All of it was simply deflection from the issue in hand ie. the non resignation of Cardinal Brady, for which I would have thought you would be grateful.

  9. gio - I based my comments on what was reported in the VO - perhaps it was an edited version, in which case I retract and apologise. I know McKeown doesn't mention the IRA but sometimes you don't need to - when you say they're supported by maudlin music in their 'cause', it's not too hard to spot who's being got at. I thought it read like a vintage SDLP statement circa 1978 - the whole thing is the fault of the IRA, full stop. But if he went into similar attacks on Unionist politicians and the state forces, I beg apology. Maybe you'd email me his full text?

  10. Jude
    It's on his facebook page.But let me know if you can't find it.
    Here is a snippet;
    "People in state forces had information but either did not pass it on, or they accepted orders to forget about it in the interest of state security.
    People, who would later be prominent in public life, repeatedly shared platforms with those who openly justified violence in the service of their glorious national or international ‘cause’."

    That 'shared platforms' to me is generally meant to refer to Unionist politicians sharing platforms with the likes of Billy Wright. After all it hardly refers to Martin or Gerry does it?
    And further on;
    "Very many in our communities joined in with partisan songs"
    'Communities" plural. And who would disagree that both communities indulge in partisan (and usually bloody awful) songs?
    How you see this as being purely about the IRA is beyond me.

  11. Gio - I've read his FB comment and I still say he's aiming his fire very largely at Sinn Féin - hence Martin McGuinness's reaction, NOT, you'll notice, Peter Robinson (who did have his Clontibret moment'. Here's some of what the bishop said:

    “In the North, people lived through forty years that saw nearly 3,700 people murdered". The 'murdered' word means he views those who did the killing as criminals. That shows an odd knowledge of Irish and world history, except you want to talk about the mass murders in every war that's been fought and is being fought.

    " People in state forces had information" - note, no charge that people in state forces 'murdered' - or even killed.

    "People in paramilitary organisations did terrible things to some children" - this suggests they set out deliberately to do terrible things to children. I don't think any paramilitary organisation did that.

    -" Very many in our communities joined in with partisan songs that watered the seedbed in which violence flourished " - I've no doubt loyalist paramilitary supporters can sing, but rebel songs are part of Irish republicanism in a far more pronounced and sustained way. Many of the most beautiful - and sad - Irish songs are about violence and conflict.

    "And many of those people now hold high positions in civic and public life". Now who could he possibly have been aiming that ait? Um, Edwin Poots? Nah...Just can't figger it.

    "Are people who make terrible mistakes in the past, by definition incapable of doing good things in the present?" - I hate the word 'mistakes' in that context; that said, it's obvious this is also aimed at McGuinness, Adams, etc.

    "There are many of our leaders whose lives show that, just because you have a past, doesn’t mean that you don’t have a future." - see above.

    I rest my case. SDLP, circa 1978.

  12. Hadn't realised that you were such a student of S D. L P statements circa 1978.I thought you only returned to the North about 1980.

  13. Jude
    If that's how you see it fair enough. I still think the 'shared platform' remark is clearly aimed at Unionists.
    Anyway, the main issue for me is that he is engaged in deflection from Cardinal Brady's actions.
    Just as you, Jude, are engaged in deflection by attacking those outside the Catholic Church who dare to comment on this.
    The protection of children is the responsibility of all adults and therefore of concern to all adults.

  14. Anon 19:58 - circa - that's a Latin word. Means 'around'. I thought all SDLPers were grammar school boys well schooled in Latin. And of course they had invented the newspaper back then too. And radio. And TV. And letters. And phones...

    Gio. You're right about the 'shared platform' - I concede that one. And I think the net effect will be to deflect from Cardinal Brady - although that doesn't mean he isn't sincere in his criticism of politicians. As for me, I most definitely am not intending to deflect criticism, nor am I attacking anyone. Simply pointing out that a great deal of concern about who leads the Catholic Church in Ireland comes from people who are not part of that Church and/or are antagonistic to that Church. You may not think that important to point out. I do. Simples.

  15. Why are you so sensitive about Bishop Mc Keown's remarks?Do you accept that he may have felt that Martin's comments amounted to the pot calling the kettle black?