Child sex abuse: it is time to shout stop
Published 09/06/2002 | 00:11
The Catholic church should have no role in education as long as there is even one sexual deviant in its ranks, says Emer O'Kelly
SO MICEAL Ledwith is teaching enlightenment at a New Age educational establishment in California. What is on his curriculum, one wonders? How to pay off a minor you are alleged to have molested, and walk away denying the allegation, but with a massive pension in hand? The status of this organisation can best be calculated by pointing out that one of Ledwith's fellow "academics" is Linda Evans, the Dynasty actress who played Krystle Carrington.
And Ledwith, in case anybody is not aware, is the former President of St Patrick's College, Maynooth, a constituent college of the National University of Ireland, and the major seminary for the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, who, before he left this country for his West Coast retreat, is believed to have reached one of those infamous "agreements" whereby he bought the silence of an under-age youngster who claimed Ledwith had molested him. Ledwith denied these allegations at all times.
The Catholic Bishop of Kerry, Dr Bill Murphy, said recently that the full truth about the abuse of children by priests must be brought into the open; "painful but purifying", he said, and necessary to restore the Church's credibility and capacity to witness to the Gospel. Miceal Ledwith could easily have assisted in that: he could have defended himself against the allegations in court even if, according to the official statement released by the trustees of Maynooth College, his legal advice at the time was to make a private settlement. But, in the meantime, the Irish taxpayer is being forced to subsidise child molesters, while the government does nothing to remove them from their positions of influence and high salary at all levels of education.
Ledwith is a case in point; he left his high office in 1994, with somewhat indecent haste. He is in receipt of a State pension, approved by the Department of Education. The out-of-court settlement meant that he himself was never brought to court to answer the allegations against him. Nor has he been disciplined by the Church authorities; they seem to have followed their usual pattern when faced with complaints about homosexual harassment of youngsters by a senior cleric at Maynooth: they silenced the victims, and tried to destroy another senior cleric who stood up for the young men. He went from being a senior academic to being curate of a parish in Armagh; hardly a prudent use of brain power, and in the academic world, the corporate equivalent of being demoted from Marketing Director to lavatory cleaner.
Cardinal Desmond Connell was a trustee of the College at the time of Ledwith's departure, and remains one. Cardinal Cahal Daly was also a trustee in 1994, but has now retired. They were both trustees in the Eighties when the young seminarians made their complaints. Then, and at the time of Ledwith's departure and since, the trustees, singly and corporately, have failed to answer any questions concerning him.
Six men who were senior seminarians in 1984, claim to have approached nine bishops (whom they have named) with complaints about the sexual harassment of much younger seminarians. The bishops included Joseph Cassidy of Tuam, Edward Daly of Derry, and Colm O'Reilly of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, and of course, Cardinal Cahal Daly.
When the claims were revealed by my colleague Patsy McGarry of The Irish Times, those bishops wrote a letter, published on May 31, denying that they had ever received complaints of sexual harassment. Approaches had been made, their letter said, only about the "extravagant lifestyle" of a certain senior academic.
So much for Dr Bill Murphy's comments on the cleansing power of openness. These matters might be left to the corrupt secrecies of the Roman Catholic Church were it not for the fact that every one of the many priests who have lived lives of secret sexual deviation have damaged, even destroyed, the lives of innocent Irish citizens. We could leave them to their twisted layers of self-protection and justification were children not involved.
We could? We have abandoned them; we do abandon them. The State has not moved against this institution, whose corrupt, predatory deviants infiltrate the teaching staffs of our educational establishments, from primary schools, through secondary, and now it seems, to the highest levels of academia.
It is time for it to stop. It is obvious that the Roman Catholic Church will never come clean; that being so, the Irish government must move to protect the country's children. The stench of sexual corruption in the Roman Catholic Church is now so strong worldwide that the time has come for any government worthy of respect to ensure that children and young adults can never be defiled by its priests in the future.
Our new Minister for Education Mr Noel Dempsey must have the radical courage to remove all members of the Roman Catholic clergy, singly and corporately, from the education system; no matter what it costs in pain, difficulty, or money, the taxpayer cannot continue to subsidise an education system that employs clergy of a church guilty of maiming children in mind and body, whether actively, or passively, by protecting the abusers.
Some in the church may try and continue to protect its huge numbers of child-molesting clergy. And as long as it protects even one predatory sexual deviant, it is itself massively corrupt. Therefore it is the government's duty to ensure that schools and third-level institutions which employ Roman Catholic clergy or are owned and administered by that Church, receive no funding from the taxpayer.
If Roman Catholic parents are so much in awe of their clergy as to imagine that a Catholic school is a safe and responsible environment in which to place their children; if they are that uncaring of the sexual welfare of their childrenthen let them pay for it, as is the situation in the United States. It is, after all, their right to choose the kind of education they want for their children.
But it is up to the State to discourage them from leaving the young and vulnerable open to abuse. And that discouragement will only happen when taxpayers' money does not go to schools which harbour a culture of indifference to the sexual welfare of children. This has been, and apparently continues to be part of the ethos of Catholic schools, where the tormentors and not the tormented are protected in the name of the power and prestige of the institutional church.
Nor is it an argument for the government to claim that it is bound to subsidise religiously-dominated education because parents choose it. There is a precedent that proves otherwise: Irish parents who want their children educated with a secular ethos have always been denied their right.
It is time for parents, and indeed all citizens, to start thinking clearly about how their taxes are spent in the area of education. And clear thinking must lead to a demand for the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church to be denied a place anywhere in our education system; they have systematically abused the duties and privileges of that system for too long, and it is time to shout "stop".