FaithWorld

Irish clergy abuse victims torn between Dublin monument and Haiti aid

ryanreport

The Ryan report into child abuse, 20 May 2009/Cathal McNaughton

One of the healing measures suggested when Ireland’s Catholic clerical sex scandals shocked the country last year was a proposal to erect a monument in Dublin to all the youths abused for decades at schools and orphanages run by religious orders that looked the other way.  The idea, proposed by the government’s Ryan report last May, won so much support that half a million euros were earmarked for the project. The government appointed a group to consider what the Irish Times called “the most difficult public art commission in the history of the state.”

It’s just become even more difficult because one group of clerical abuse victims has now said the funds should instead be donated to victims of the Haiti earthquake. The gesture would genuinely mean more to victims of clerical abuse than a piece of stone on O’Connell Street,” the victims’ group Right of Place said last week at a meeting with Prime Minister Brian Cowen. O’Connell Street is Dublin’s main thoroughfare, an ideal place for any memorial.

Others disagree.

Christine Buckley, who works at the Aislinn Centre to support victims, said she recognised the deep suffering of Haitian people. But Ireland, whose government and citizens have already contributed millions in aid to Haiti, should still be able to afford just over 3 euros per each child affected by abuse, she said.

The Ryan commission that issued the shocking report about abuse committed throughout much of the past century recommended that the monument should have the words of an 1999 government apology inscribed on it:

“On behalf of the State and all citizens of the State, the Government wishes to make a sincere and overdue apology to the victims of childhood abuse for our collective failure to intervene, to detect their pain, to come to their rescue .”

Child abuse crisis to spark Irish Catholic Church shake-up

irishvatican Archbishop Diarmuid Martin (L) and Cardinal Sean Brady (C) after meeting Pope Benedict, 11 Dec 2009/Tony Gentile

Pope Benedict has expressed “outrage, betrayal and shame” at the sexual abuse of children by priests in Ireland, which Church leaders said would lead to a shake-up of the Irish Roman Catholic Church.  Church sources expected some bishops to resign in the wake of a government report that said Church leaders in overwhelmingly Catholic Ireland had covered up widespread abuse of children by priests for 30 years.

“I think that we are looking at a very significant reorganization of the Church in Ireland,” Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said after he and other Irish Church leaders held an emergency meeting with the Pope on Friday.

Could Irish abortion case lead to a “European Roe v. Wade”?

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European Court of Human Rights,30 Jan 2009/Vincent Kessler

Ireland has defended its strict law against abortion at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg in a case that could overturn that ban if the judges agree with three women who said it endangered their health and violated their rights.  The women, two Irish and one Lithuanian living in Ireland, had travelled to Britain to have abortions because traditionally Catholic Ireland allows the procedure only when the mother’s life is in danger. Read our full story on Wednesday’s hearing here.

The three women, named only as A, B and C, argued they had to terminate their pregnancies due to medical and social problems, and that being forced to travel abroad for abortions meant submitting to inhumane treatment that violated their right to privacy. They also said the law constituted gender-based discrimination.

This has been described as “Europe’s Roe v. Wade case” (here and here) because a Court ruling would be an authoritative interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights to which 47 European states are parties and with which they must comply.  “Domestic courts have to apply the Convention,” the ECHR’s FAQ says. “Otherwise, the European Court of Human Rights would find against the State in the event of complaints by individuals about failure to protect their rights.”

Pope and Irish Catholic Church to hold summit on child abuse by clergy

abuse (Photo: Irish Justice Minister Dermot Ahern while discussing abuse report with journalists, 26 Nov 2009/Cathal McNaughton)

Ireland’s top Roman Catholic leaders will hold talks with Pope Benedict this week to formulate the Vatican’s response to an Irish government report on a 30-year cover-up of sexual abuse of children by priests.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the pope and top officials would meet Cardinal Sean Brady, head of the Irish Bishops Conference, and Diarmuid Martin, the archbishop of Dublin, on Friday.

The meeting was called to discuss and evaluate “the painful situation of the Church in Ireland” following the publication last month of the Murphy Commission Report.  The rank of the participants — who will also include the Vatican ambassador to Dublin and top Vatican doctrinal officials — effectively makes it a rare summit about the problem of sexual abuse of children in the Irish Church.

A small book on a huge topic — about responding to suicide

troybook2There’s a knock on the door and it’s your ashen-faced neighbour come to tell you her son has just been found hanging in his bedroom. Your brother calls to inform you that his daughter has taken her life. You are shocked and speechless. And then what do you do? (Photo:  Philip McTaggart and Fr Aidan Troy at Belfast book launch, 1 Dec 2009/John Harrison)

Aiden Troy knows those helpless moments well. A few years ago, he got those messages — and saw some of the evidence –14 times in two months. As a Catholic parish priest in Belfast, he was often one of the first to be called by family or friends of the deceased. Sometimes police would call him first and ask him to break the news to the family and help in any way he could. In a very short time, he became more familiar than he ever expected with tragedies people usually think only happen to others.

“It is nearly impossible if you have not been there to describe what those first few moments following discovery are like. They are frightening to behold … There is no instruction book that can tell us how to cope with a suicide,” Troy says. But after years of dealing with suicide and suicide support groups, he decided to write “some tentative suggestions and observations born of my experience, in the hope that they may be helpful in a pastoral context.” He wrote it not only for other priests and not only for other Catholics, but for “a wide range of people who come into contact with suicide … the immediate family, neighbours and community … medical and hospital personnel, ambulance and police services, suicide support groups and clergy, undertakers and morgue personnel.”

Irish Catholics damage eyes staring at sun for Virgin Mary

irish-crossIrish Catholic pilgrims have suffered eye damage after staring at the sun in the hope of witnessing an apparition of the Virgin Mary, a doctor said on Wednesday. On one occasion in October, some 10,000 people gathered at the Knock shrine in northwestern Ireland hoping to see Mary, despite pleas from an archbishop to ignore invitations to the event by a self-proclaimed spiritual healer.

Some of those present said they had seen Mary, venerated by Christians as the mother of Jesus, and attributed her presence to the sun suddenly breaking through the clouds, changing color, appearing to come closer or spinning in the sky.

Eamonn O’Donoghue, an ophthalmologist at University College Hospital Galway in the west of Ireland, said he had several patients whose retina had been burned by the sun during a visit to Knock.

In abuse by Irish priests, a little “mental reservation”

irish-countrysideIt was a ride and I was hitchhiking around Ireland and the driver of a tiny Morris Minor who’d stopped was a priest, so what could be wrong?

This was the 1970s when I was fresh out of an American college, bumming around Europe on almost no money. But it was the Ireland of my ancestors and they had no money either, so we were all in this together. (Photo: Irish countryside, 26 Sept 2009/Cathal McNaughton)

A little too much so, I discovered shortly after getting into the front passenger seat when the priest — and he was wearing his clerical collar, so there could be no doubt — put his hand on my knee.

Ireland braces for another Catholic clergy sex abuse report

irish-reportA damning report on sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in Dublin is due out later this week, only six months after another report on abuse in industrial and reformatory schools across the country accused priests and nuns of flogging, starving and, in some cases, raping children in their care.

“It will not be easy reading,” Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said of this new report back in May when the uproar over the first report prompted so many calls to counseling services for abuse victims that the advice centre had to close temporarily because it couldn’t handle all the inquiries. (Photo: Copy of the first report on clergy child abuse, 20 May 2009/Cathal McNaughton)

The Sunday Independent newspaper, which broke the news, said the report will accuse the four archbishops who preceded Martin of covering up the abuse “to preserve the power and aura of the Church and to avoid giving scandal to their congregations.”

Bishops see more selfish Europe 20 years after Berlin Wall fell

referendum Photo; Irish “Yes” campaigners celebrate in Dublin, 3 Oct 2009/Cathal McNaughton)

Europe has become increasingly selfish and materialistic in the 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the heads of the Roman Catholic bishops’ conferences across Europe said at the end of their three-day annual meeting at the weekend.  “The crisis sweeping Europe today is serious,” they said in a statement after the session in Paris. They cited materialism, individualism and relativism as major challenges facing European society.

The bishops’ sober assessment contrasted with the upbeat mood that the overwhelming “Yes” vote in Ireland’s Lisbon Treaty referendum created.  It must be noted they drew up their statement before they’d heard the news from Dublin on Saturday. And their statement ended with a note of Christian hopefulness. Still, their diagnosis is so fundamental it’s hard to imagine they would have changed much in the text.

Here’s the way they put it:

“All that has happened since the fall of the Berlin Wall has been a great stepping stone in the European adventure… (but) twenty years later, we now see that the incredible European project, with a strong ethical basis, has greatly weakened… The hopes placed on building Europe have not so far been fulfilled. Here we take note of the influence of several factors:

Trees, worshippers and Ireland’s new blasphemy law

irish-crossWhat do Monty Python, the Virgin Mary and environmentalists have in common? They have all been at the centre of a debate in Ireland’s parliament this week before the upper house passed a bill imposing a fine of up to 25,000 euros for the crime of blasphemy. For days, Irish media has been excited about a tree stump in the western county of Limerick which has attracted a flow of pilgrims who believe it is an image of the Virgin Mary. As one senator recalled in the debate however, a local Catholic priest has warned his flock not to worship what he said is, after all, “just a tree.”
(Photo: Crucifixes with Irish flags in a shop in the pilgrimage town of Knock, 10 June 2009/Cathal McNaughton)

“Fr. Russell might be at risk of being found guilty of blasphemy since he is being critical, grossly abusive or insulting to people of a religion who seem to want to worship a tree,” Senator Ivana Bacik said. “We should be mindful of the danger of introducing an offence like blasphemy in light of the sort of events that we are seeing in Rathkeale in Limerick.”Senator Dan Boyle, the chairman of the Green Party, the junior member in Ireland’s governing coalition, quipped that he apparently led a party of “tree worshippers” and argued that the offence of blasphemy was archaic and should be made obsolete. “The concept of blasphemy was brilliantly satirised by Monty Python in the film ‘Life of Brian’ where a Pharisee was unintentionally stoned to death for repeatedly, although unwittingly, saying the word ‘Jehovah’,” Boyle said. “Much of the debate on this issue is a political equivalent of repeatedly saying the word ‘Jehovah’. It is something we need to get out of our political system as soon possible.”The house passed the bill, but only after an initial hiccup when two senators’ absence — one reportedly away at the dentist — all but caused the bill to be defeated by a small margin or at least its main provisions weakened to meaninglessness by an opposition amendment. The government of the traditionally Catholic country has defended the law by pointing out that there was already an existing piece of legislation dating back to 1961 that called for much stricter punishments. Ireland’s constitution requires some form of punishment of blasphemy and the new law would decrease the penalty involved.ahernAbolishing the crime of blasphemy altogether would require a constitutional amendment and a referendum. A referendum would not be impossible to organise — for example, Oct. 2 will see the second vote in less than two years on just one issue, the European Union’s Lisbon reform treaty, which was rejected by the Irish electorate last year. Some have suggested a referendum on defamation could be held on the same day. But the government has argued a referendum on blasphemy would be too costly and “distracting” for a country busy fixing one of Europe’s worst public finances and the worst recession in the industrialised world.
(Photo: Dermot Ahern, 9 March 2007/Thierry Roge)

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern also defends his bill by pointing to clauses which stipulate that blasphemous matter will only be prosecutable if it causes actual outrage among a substantial number of adherents of a religion. It also exempts works in which a “reasonable person” would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value.Which works qualify for that seems to open up a whole new debate. Atheists, who have separate campaigns running against the requirement for religious oaths before taking the office of judge or president of Ireland, say they will test the new law by quickly publishing a deliberately blasphemous statement. “The law also discriminates against atheist citizens by protecting the fundamental beliefs of religious people only,” said Michael Nugent, one of the founders of Atheist Ireland. “Why should religious beliefs be protected by law in ways that scientific or political or other secular beliefs are not?,” Nugent asked in an op-ed piece in Friday’s Irish Times.(Additional reporting by Ashley Beston)

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