24 November 2011

Time To Look Within

I've met Christine Buckley many times, and though this probably won't endear me to quite a few of my fellow Catholics, I've always got on well with her. And for what it's worth, I'm pretty sure she likes me too.

That said, I think her letter to today's Irish Times is completely off-kilter, and not just because she seems to think that money sent to Rome as part of the annual 'Peter's Pence' collection is morally and justifiably our money, rather than money which we gave away of our own choice to support an organization with an annual operating budget not much more than half that of UCD's.

At the core of her letter is this passage:
'Now the Vatican is not interested in our economic meltdown. Indeed it probably expects us to contribute substantially in terms of security and other supports for the Eucharistic Congress in 2012. So here is the deal: we’ll say yes to the embassy and the Congress – provided that the Vatican pays its share towards all the costs that Irish taxpayers have incurred in order to find out the truth about abuse. The Ryan report cost €126 million, The Redress Board to date €1.3 billion, The Ferns report €2.3 million, the Murphy report €3.6 million to date and the Cloyne report €1.9 million.'
The Vatican is most definitely interested in our economic meltdown. Indeed, given that the meltdown was caused by rampant greed and ridiculous exercises in financial plate-spinning, this shouldn't surprise us. We need but think of the Pope's criticism of unbridled capitalism in his third Papal encyclical, 2009's Caritas in Veritate, of how he touched on similar themes in this year's second volume of his Jesus of Nazareth, and of how the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace recently issued a huge document criticising neo-liberal economics and proposing measures to help act against future financial crises.

The Vatican hasn't complained about the Irish decision to shut the embassy to the Holy See. Indeed, I don't think anybody's complained about that other than people who realise that it's against Ireland's national interests for us to have done so. It doesn't affect the Vatican one bit. Gilmore's decision to close our embassy to the Holy See is something that's a loss to us, not to Rome.

As for the issue of costs incurred by Irish taxpayers in finding out the truth about abuse? Well, Christine says that the State has spent something of the order of €134 million on enquiries, as well as €1.3 billion on the Redress Board. So it has, but the question, surely, is what does any of this have to do with the Vatican.

As I explained back in July, almost all the money the State has spent in these matters has related to abuse that took place in Ireland's industrial schools, all of which -- though run by religious orders -- were supervised by the Irish State and not by the Vatican in any sense. The Ryan Report is absolutely damning about the State's failure to monitor these schools which it had set up and funded, and for which it was responsible. It never raises the slightest suggestion that the Vatican was in any way responsible for what happens, and doesn't even allow for the possibility that it might have been worth asking the Vatican for information; it was clearly obvious to the Ryan Commission that the Vatican was wholly unaware of what was going on.

It is true that just under €8 million was spent by the State on the Ferns, Dublin, and Cloyne Reports, none of which investigated abuse, instead investigating how allegations of abuse and expressions of concern were handled, but again the question is whether Rome knew what was going on.

Contrary to what people tend to think, the Church isn't an institution; rather, it's a loose network made up of thousands of institutions, many of which are almost wholly autonomous. The Irish Church alone has more than 180 separate bodies, and Rome -- as a rule -- only knows what's going on based on what it's told by the various institutions that make up the Irish Church.

If you look at the Dublin Report, for instance, you'll see that of the 46 sample cases of alleged abuse reported between 1975 and 2004 that the Murphy Commission considered, only four cases were ever reported to Rome. Likewise, looking at the eighteen priests about whom complaints were made or concerns were expressed in Cloyne between 1996 and 2009, again only four cases were passed on to Rome, three of these not being passed on until 2009. In short, it seems that Irish dioceses habitually tried to deal with things 'in house', and made a point of keeping Rome out of the loop.

This is a major part of the problem caused by Enda's speech in the summer, and how it's been defended by the likes of Patsy McGarry: it presented falsehood as truth, and helped to create and drive the false impression that the problem in the Irish Church lay far away in Rome rather than being right here, among the Irish people.


the Grem said...

Sir, Did you actually listen to /Mr Kenny's speech. He was referring not to individual acts of abuse but to the collective cover up organised, directed and operated from Rome. The costs you refer too would have been saved if the Vatican and their representatives in Ireland had admitted their failings much earlier.
Ireland, like Spain,Portugal and Italy (all in economic trouble) must decide how much influence the Vatican can be allowed in the future.

The Thirsty Gargoyle said...

Hmmmm. Four things here. Four questions, broadly speaking.

1. Did I listen to Kenny's speech? Yes, several times, and I've read it numerous times. And if you bothered to follow links here, you'd know this from what I've written on it, and how often I've done so.

Was Kenny really referring to a collective cover-up organised, directed, or operated from Rome? I've looked at the speech many times, and I don't see any reference to any such thing.

Perhaps you can tell me where in the speech Kenny said this: where did he speak of a collective cover-up ran operated by Rome? Please tell me, because I'm rereading now and don't see it. I think the speech may have mutated in your imagination.

2. You speak of 'the collective cover-up organised, directed, or operated from Rome'. What evidence do you have of there being such a thing? The problem seems to have been that a tendency to cover-up existed at the bottom, not at the top. This should make sense, given hugely decentralised nature of the Church. Doctrine is basically top-down, but almost everything else is bottom-up.

3. Christine says finding out about abuse by priests and brothers has cost the State €1.434 billion. €1.426 billion of that was due to abuse in institutions established, wanted, funded, and supposedly supervised by the State. The Church did not oversee them. The abusers there were not representatives of the Vatican in any sense. These abusers, three of whom have been convicted by the State, were acting as agents of the State.

Even the bishops, for what it's worth, are not representatives of the Holy See, though they are (often rather disappointing) representatives of the Church, and indeed of Christ. It's only the Nuncios who have represented the Vatican in Ireland. What failings do you think the Nuncios should have admitted?

4. What do you mean by saying Ireland and other countries must decide how much influence the Vatican can be allowed in future? Where? In those countries or elsewhere? Presumably you mean within those countries, but what are you saying? What influence do you think it has in Ireland now that you believe it ought not to have?

Lynda said...

The irrational comment of "the Grem" wholly in conflict with the facts, is an example of what hate and bigotry does to the mental faculties. This phenomenon was at work in the Taoiseach's notorious "speech" attacking the Holy See. By the way, I understand that there is to be a protest against the closure of the embassy outside the Dail at 2 pm on 8 December.

the Grem said...

Oh Lynda I am so sorry you see it in that way. I do not hate anybody and have fought bigotry and sectarianism all my life. I have contacted the author of the blog and will reply to his reasonable questions very soon and at length if he will allow me. These are important issues and should be discussed. We expect the publication of the Raphoe report on Monday and after that may be a good time. I am not anti Catholic, indeed I want to see the Church and its representatives restored to a position of respect and trust. In the words of Archbishop Martin 'The truth will set you free' A continuation of the defense of the indefensible will continue to make matters worse.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Gargoyle,

Thank you very much for your reasoned discourse, and thoughtfulness in this matter. It is a hugely important Christian witness - a witness of how the Faith and the Church can actually slake a thirst for truth if it's sincerely and tenaciously sought. Thank you for the service of your blog.

bellville said...

Were the Industrial Schools in existence prior to the emergence of the Irish Free State ,and if so ,who weas responsible for them ?

The Thirsty Gargoyle said...

Hi Bellville.

There were a handful of them before Independence, established by the UK parliament and therefore the responsibility of the British-Irish State.

Following independence, the State inherited these and expanded the system enormously in line with the huge number of children committed to such institutional care by the courts of the State.

The Thirsty Gargoyle said...

Mr Grem, meanwhile, I'd ask you to send whatever comments you have before Monday, please. I've no doubt what free time I have on Monday will be spent wading through whatever depressing things the Raphoe Report reveals, and don't think I'll have time to be handling long comments too. Sorry.

When have you contacted me, by the way? Other than your comment, I've not seen anything.

I'm not sure what indefensible things you think I'm defending, btw. I think I've seen and pointed to terrible things, and have been open in condemning them, but other than that, what do you think I am defending that's indefensible?

the Grem said...

Sir, Thanks for reply - I am away from home at the moment in London with the MenCap Little Noise sessions and communication is difficult. I did try to contact you via an email reply but now see that is not possible. Your comments re Raphoe are understood although all we will get is an audit, not a report, with no victim input so I suppose it will not take too much of our time. I will however try to respond to your original post today or tomorrow. These issues provoke so much emotion and reasoned debate is sometimes hard to find. Your blog is a welcome exception.

The Thirsty Gargoyle said...

That's odd; you ought to be able to get the address by doing a mouseover on the 'Contact Me!' in the sidebar. Mind, most emails from the site seem to end up in my spam box, so I tend to miss them anyway.

I'm afraid I am worried about Raphoe. I trust Ian Elliott in how the audits are being conducted, and I'd be confident that if he feels the published version didn't reflect the reality of what he'd establish then he'll walk. Still, I think the remit of the audit may get lost in the news coverage.

For what it's worth, however reasonable I may seem here, you shouldn't think I'm not emotional about it. It upsets me deeply that this sort of stuff has been such a corruption in my Church and such a scourge -- on a far greater scale -- in my homeland. I don't think we can fight this unless we start getting our facts straight, and the story's been obscured for too long.

I hope the Little Noise sessions go well. I'd not heard of them before, but having looked, they look like brilliant things for a superb cause. Good luck.

Michael d'Arcy said...

I wrote a letter to the Irish Times last week, responding to Ms Buckley's comments. Unfortunately it has not been printed, but I offer it here:


Dear Sir,

Christine Buckley of the Aislinn Education Support Centre for Survivors of Institutional Abuse writes in praise of the "courageous" decision by the Tanaiste, Eamon Gilmore, to close Ireland's embassy to the Holy See (November 24th). Unfortunately, Ms Buckley's letter provides no basis for the contention that this decision was correct, much less courageous.

The fact that Ms Buckley and other survivors suffered grievous abuse entitles them to a sincere and meaningful apology, to recompense, to the right to be heard and to every assistance which might help them to overcome (to the extent that it is possible to overcome such a trauma) the legacy of the treatment they endured. However, it does not mean that factually inaccurate statements become true, or that baseless accusations should be accepted without question. The wrongs of which Ms Buckley complains were committed by Irish people against Irish people. It is wrong to blame the Pope, "Rome", or the Vatican for those crimes. Irish people should take responsibility for caring for the survivors and ensuring that such events never happen again. The Vatican owes Ireland no money. It is indeed a scandal that the Irish taxpayer has had to bear such huge sums in bringing to light the crimes of child abuse (at least those in the Catholic Church), but it is an Irish scandal. We should have the moral courage to recognise it as such.

There is no basis, in logic or in fact, for the assertion that the presence in Rome of the Irish embassy to the Holy See served to "reassure the Vatican that it need not worry as the Irish government would always support it and its world view". The presence of an embassy simply signifies the existence of diplomatic relations between two countries, and ambassadors are not infrequently called upon to signal one nation's displeasure to another. The defamatory claim that the Vatican "colluded" in the cover-up of child abuse has already been debunked in the Vatican's response to the Taoiseach's maliciously false attack in July this year, in which he accused it of attempting to frustrate the Cloyne enquiry. Even as a matter of logistics, it would not be possible for the Vatican to orchestrate such a cover-up - the Pope is not the CEO of a corporation: the Catholic Church is a diffuse association of dioceses throughout the world.

In the recent past, the northern Unionists and Sinn Fein were praised for their courage in negotiating and entering into a peace agreement. Ms Buckley, on the other hand, wishes to bestow praise on Mr Gilmore for his "courage" in closing Ireland's embassy to the Holy See on the manifestly spurious grounds that it was of no "economic" benefit. This must be the first time a government has been praised as courageous for taking the small-minded, vindictive and populist option. I hope that the Government will reconsider this decision, and maintain the fullest possible contacts with the Holy See, which represents the religion of the vast majority of Irish citizens and acts as a unique gateway to diplomatic channels in the wider world - to the clear benefit of Ireland and her diaspora. Far from (discourteously) saying "auf wiedersehen" or even "slan agus beannacht", we should use the arrival of the new papal nuncio to restart and renew Ireland's vital relationship with the Vatican.

Yours faithfully,

Michael d'Arcy

the Grem said...

Well said Michael - particularly the last point - the new Nuncio can, if he so chooses, start to rebuild, to admit past failings and to display an acceptance of Ireland as a democraric and multicultural state. His previous employment with the CDF in Rome may not bode well but we must live in hope. My reply to the original bolg post is here