23 July 2011

There are none so deaf as those who will not hear...

Right, well, I'm not going to talk about Cloyne today, save to say that I'm glad that most of the letters in today's Irish Times have recognised that, whatever John Magee and Denis O'Callaghan may have done, and for whatever reasons, the Taoiseach's statement the the other day was completely over the top in its criticisms of the Church and rather coy in admitting the shortcomings of the State. And indeed, Breda O'Brien's column implicitly makes a very good point when she says:
'No one could doubt Enda Kenny’s sincerity. However, had he read the Cloyne report in full, it is doubtful that he could have reached the conclusion that the Vatican was in the business of obstructing a sovereign state.'
I think that's the thing. There's no way Enda's read the report in full. I've no doubt he read bits of it, but how on earth would the Taoiseach, at a time of such economic craziness when even George Osborne is starting to concede that European fiscal union may be a smart move   -- even if that means a two-speed Europe with Britain on the outskirts -- ever find the time to read a 400-page report? He's obviously depended on others to interpret it for him. And this, of course, leads to crazy claims such that the Vatican within the last three years has attempted to investigate Irish investigations into how Irish clergy handled abuse allegations. This, as I've said, is hogwash, and hogwash of such an order that the odious Kevin Myers felt obliged to retort:
'What? As recently as three years ago? No, actually. A Government spokesman later explained this did not refer to any specific event, but described the cumulative effect of the Vatican's actions. Quite so: what need of accuracy when the mob is abroad?'
That was yesterday's Irish Independent, of course, and no, before you ask, I'm far from happy about being on the same side of an argument as Myers again. Still, he's right. There's nothing whatsoever in the Report that suggests that the Vatican did anything within the last three years to obstruct anything in Ireland, despite the Taoiseach having explicitly said that the Cloyne report had exposed such behaviour and that this was the first time there had ever been evidence of such!

Yesterday's Independent also has an excellent piece in it by David Quinn, who seems to be one of the few people in Ireland who has read the report and one of a perhaps even smaller number who has a handle on how the Vatican actually works, unlike so many of those sneering at him as someone who would defend the indefensible. Those charges seem deeply unfair. Quinn's column is primarily a response to false claims made by the Taoiseach, the Irish Times, and others against the Vatican and by insinuation the Pope himself, and in his response he doesn't shirk criticism of some elements in the Vatican, as indeed Diarmuid Martin has done. In particular Quinn singles out for criticism the retired Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, former head of the Congregation for Clergy, a man whose views were not prevailed over in the Vatican by the man who is now Pope until 2001, and who the Pope's official spokesman has criticised for his excessively protective attitude towards priests. Quinn makes it clear that he had not intended to write such a column. On the contrary, his aim had been rather different:
'I was going to write this week about the need for the church in Ireland to do something very dramatic in order to categorically demonstrate it is deadly serious about child protection.

I was going to suggest that the bishops do something along the lines of what Fr Vincent Twomey proposed on 'Today with Pat Kenny' on Tuesday, namely that most of them should resign, that there should be a swingeing reduction in the number of dioceses and that a new generation of bishops should be appointed to lead the church here.'
Look, there are still some Catholics -- thankfully a very small number -- who try to claim that abuse basically never happened, and that people claiming abuse are just after money. I spent a long time after Mass the other day trying to explain the realities of the situation to just the second such Catholic I have ever met. But they are a tiny number, and it's clear that David Quinn isn't among them. Indeed, a few days ago in the context of a piece about the serious child-protection failings of the modern Irish State he wrote that:
'The Irish church has rightly been excoriated over its child-protection failings.'
And a few days before that  he wrote a  piece condemning the 'priests first' attitude that has so blighted the Irish Church, bookending his piece by saying:
'A toxic culture of clericalism has almost destroyed the Catholic Church in Ireland. This is confirmed by yet again another investigation, this time into the diocese of Cloyne. [...] Unless that malignant culture of clericalism is destroyed once and for all, the church itself will be destroyed.'
Quinn may be swimming against the stream of many of modern Ireland's louder voices, but I don't believe he's dishonest or deluded, let alone in thrall to the Irish bishops. He thinks it'd be best if most of them stepped down, for Heaven's sake! 

Still, people don't listen to him, because he's one of only a handful of people who are ever willing to make the case, honestly, for the Church in modern Ireland. There's been a particularly nasty campaign against him on Twitter over the past couple of days, but even aside from that, I find that people switch off when he says anything, and don't listen to what he says because, as far as they're concerned, 'he would say that'. This sort of attitude has been a problem for ages. I remember once, back in the nineties, a friend of mine was telling how she'd been watching the telly and William Binchy had been on it, arguing in an articulate and reasonable way about why he believed abortion was wrong. 'Turn him off,' my friend's mother had said, 'he's starting to make sense.'

That was much more substantive than I'd planned on it being. Perhaps tomorrow I should talk about Batman, or Ingres, or Herodotus, or Harry Potter. Hmmm...


Anonymous said...

Hi TG,

I only just came across your blog via Mark Shea.

I just wanted to say that I've really enjoyed your recent analysis of the crisis in Ireland, and its reactions.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your even handed analysis, really refreshing to have some sane comment about this.