FaithWorld

“The information was there” – Abp. Martin on Irish abuse report

martin1Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has shown a refreshing frankness in talking about the widespread abuse of children in Catholic-run schools and orphanages documented in the Ryan report last week. In an op-ed page piece for the Irish Times today, he described himself as shocked but not totally surprised and recalled hearing about the abuse from victims up to 40 years ago. He refers to reporting by “a few courageous and isolated journalists like Michael Viney,” whose series on abuse appeared in the Irish Times in 1966. (Photo: Archbishop Diarmuid Martin/Dublin Archdiocese)

“The stories they told then were not radically different from what the Ryan report presents, albeit in a systemic and objective way which reveals the horror in its integrity,” he wrote. “Anyone who had contact with ex-residents of Irish industrial schools at that time knew that what those schools were offering was, to put it mildly, poor-quality childcare by the standards of the time. The information was there.”

The official Church reaction in Ireland has been shame and apologies all around, starting with Cardinal Sean Brady. It included apologies from the Christian Brothers, a teaching order with a reputation for stern discipline and abuse charges that won a lawsuit to bar the report from naming abusers. These were certainly appropriate. What was missing, though, was the admission that the problem was well known, even if all the details were not. There was even a film made about one of these schools, The Magdelene Sisters, that won the Golden Lion at the 2002 Biennale Venice Film Festival. dublin-cross-2(Photo: Papal Cross in Phoenix Park in Dublin, 20 May 2009/Cathal McNaughton)

Irish novelist John Banville tackled this in an op-ed piece for the New York Times on Friday:

Everyone knew. When the Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse issued its report this week, after nine years of investigation, the Irish collectively threw up their hands in horror, asking that question we have heard so often, from so many parts of the world, throughout the past century: How could it happen?

Irish counselors swamped after Catholic Church abuse report

irelandDUBLIN – Victims of sexual abuse and neglect in Catholic-run schools and orphanages in Ireland swamped counseling services on Thursday after the publication of the harrowing findings of a nine-year investigation.

“We’ve had 30 times as many calls as usual and our phone lines are always quite busy,” said Bernadette Fahy of the Aislinn Center, an organization set up by an abuse victim. “We have had to close the center because we haven’t been able to cope with the amount of people coming in.

“It’s extraordinary the number of people who are contacting services for the first time.”

Ireland releases report on abuse in Catholic schools

candlesA report released on Wednesday said children suffered decades of abuse at institutions in Ireland run by Catholic orders.

The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse issued a 2,500-page report which said children had been the victims of sexual, emotional and physical abuse at orphanages and industrial schools now closed during a 60 year period.

The report found after a nine-year investigation that: ”Physical and emotional abuse and neglect were features of the institutions. Sexual abuse occurred in many of them, particularly boys’ institutions. Schools were run in a severe, regimented manner that imposed unreasonable and oppressive discipline on children and even on staff.

A new blasphemy law … in Ireland?

kabul-blasphemy-demoWhen we hear about blasphemy these days, we usually think cases brought in Muslim countries or efforts by Muslim states to have defamation of religion banned in resolutions at international meetings such as the recent “Durban II” session in Geneva. The issue, which sparked violent protests in the Muslim world in 2006 after a Danish newspaper printed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, has been presented as a kind of cultural dividing line between “the West” and “the Muslim world.” It’s not that simple… (Photo: Kabul protest against blasphemy death sentence for Afghan journalist Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, 31 Jan 2008/Ahmad Masood)

Just look at what’s happened in Ireland this week. The government proposed a new law against “blasphemous libel,” provoking criticism that the move would be old-fashioned at best and an outrageous curtailment of free speech at worst.  Were the traditionally Catholic Irish taking a page from the diplomatic strategy of Muslim countries? Were the bishops trying to flex their dwindling muscles?  The Irish Times story reporting the plan gave no motive for it but wrote: “At the moment there is no crime of blasphemy on the statute books, though it is prohibited by the Constitution.

Not surprisingly, Roy Brown, chief representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union in Geneva, reacted by saying it was “totally mind-boggling that a European government should even consider such a dangerous idea given that EU countries — now supported by the United States — have for years been fighting tooth and nail at the United Nations in Geneva and New York against almost  identical proposals from the Organisation of the Islamic Conference to get a global ban on ‘defamation of religion’.”

Soldier says rabbis pushed “religious war” in Gaza

gazaOur Jerusalem bureau has sent a very interesting report about criticism within the Israeli army of the Gaza offensive in January. What caught my eye was that it brings up the issue of a religious war, a term usually used in relation to Muslims. (Photo: Israeli air strike near Gaza-Egypt border in southern Gaza Strip, 26 Feb 2009/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)

The story starts off as follows:

Rabbis in the Israeli army told battlefield troops in January’s Gaza offensive that they were fighting a “religious war” against gentiles, according to one army commander’s account published on Friday.

Irish voters and the EU’s “loss of Christian memory”

Protest sign in Dublin, 21 July 2008/Philippe WojazerDid the Irish reject the European Union’s Lisbon treaty last June because they are “losing their Christian memory?” Cardinal Seán Brady, the top Catholic cleric in the once staunchly Catholic country, thinks that can partially explain the vote.

The cardinal told a conference in County Mayo on Sunday that many Christians in Europe think the EU bases its values on a lowest common denominator that “invariably coincides with the secular and relativist tradition within Europe – that which denies moral absolutes with an objective basis – rather than the religious view.”

They think the EU is suffering from what the late Pope John Paul called a “loss of Christian memory,” he said, according to reports in the Irish press. As Brady put it:

So maybe it wasn’t just an Irish joke…

A Catholic priest with a chalice for Mass wineLooks like a story our Dublin office filed back in November wasn’t just an Irish joke.

Catholic priests in Ireland complained last year that tougher laws on drinking and driving meant they would easily go over the limit just by saying mass a few times in one day. Priests in rural areas often drive to several villages every Sunday to say mass, during which drinking a small quantity of wine is an essential part of the ritual.

Bloggers naturally had a field day with this one. “Eucharist could mean ‘water into fine‘,” one wrote. “No more ‘one for the road‘ for Irish priests,” said another. A third asked if drinking was part of a priest’s job description. “Only here in Ireland and only with the Roman Catholic Church could such a story arise,” one concluded.

Creationists claim the Giant’s Causeway

causeway-vert.jpgUntil now, there have been two explanations for the origin of the Giant’s Causeway, that magnificent collection of interlocking rock formations on the County Antrim coast in Northern Ireland. Geology tells us it is made of columns of basalt that formed after intense volcanic activity millions of years ago. Irish folklore tells us that it was a bridge that the giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) built to cross over to Scotland to fight another giant. The geologists are right, of course, but the old Irish tale is harmless fun.

Now Biblical creationists are trying to add a third interpretation. The Belfast Telegraph reports that a new group called the Causeway Creation Committee wants to add a creationist explanation to a tourist centre project being discussed.

The newspaper writes:

Their belief is that the causeway was created by a huge watery catastrophe – Noah’s flood… The committee has been set up to lobby for information on their theories to be included in any future visitors’ centre at the causeway. They say more than 1,000 people have so far signed the petition.

Irish priests fear driving bans over altar wine

cross.jpgThe growing shortage of priests is having quite unexpected effects on life in the Catholic Church. Consider this story from our correspondent Jonathan Saul in Ireland:

DUBLIN – Celebrating more than one mass a day may push Roman Catholic priests over the alcohol limit if tougher drink driving rules come into effect in Ireland, a leading clergyman said on Friday.

“You could be over the limit trying to travel between maybe two or three churches on a Sunday morning and coming back again,” Father Brian D’Arcy told Reuters.