Fianna Fail's defence of the Church has been shameful
Published 26/05/2009 | 00:00
Fianna Fail still doesn't get it. The major political party on this island cosied up to the Catholic Church for decades, kissed any bishop's ring going and contented itself with the knowledge that both their powerful institutions, along with the GAA, formed the very pillars of the Church-State complex making up Old Ireland.
It's arguable that out of that Holy Trinity, only one has moved with the times. And that's the modern GAA, an inclusive, tolerant force for good -- whereas once it may partly have acted as an agent of narrow nationalism.
The sins of the Catholic Church are legion, and lie exposed again. But Catholicism was one of the bedrocks of Fianna Fail, and the party has pandered to the prelates for almost all of its existence.
For many decades it was a clever, if cynical, idea -- harnessing one mass movement to the most successful religion in world history. Upon this rock de Valera built his own church, its foundations at parish level in more ways than one.
Now some members of Fianna Fail think it's smart to play the familiar "Catholic majority" card in the latest disgusting episode of religious crimes laid bare.
Two government ministers last weekend claimed to detect the Opposition parties trying to make political mileage out of the Ryan Report revelations.
Attempting an unmistakable traction of their own, Ministers Micheal Martin and Eamon O Cuiv said they found such behaviour "sickening".
And at the weekend, Bertie Ahern joined in, saying that some of the commentary in response to the vile catalogue of evil was "just anti-Church".
He said on radio: "You hear politicians hopping on the anti-Catholic Church bandwagon . . . I think that's sad."
No, what's sad is that efforts are still made at a kind of sidelong defence of an institution whose members engaged in the rape, brutal physical abuse and prolonged mental torture of tens of thousands of defenceless Irish children. And would now like to get away with it, if you don't mind.
Those children were effectively owned by the Church, with the willing collusion of governments that looked the other way.
Ownership of children is nothing less than slavery. Slaves were abused, beaten, raped and in extreme cases killed. Looked at through this analogy, how could we imagine that any politician -- no matter how friendly with big plantation owners -- would say that political demands for slavery reparations are "sickening"?
And just how sickening would it be for a prominent Confederacy politician to suggest in the middle of the 19th century that a chorus of protest against the ownership of human beings is simply anti-cotton agitation?
Irish society is being confronted with the ugly reality that systematic barbarism was practised on the most vulnerable of our citizens, generation after generation, for decades on end, and that it was known about at the highest levels of both Church and State, for one indulged the other.
The word 'holocaust' has been used. There may not have been organised extinction, but thousands of lives were just as surely totally destroyed by what was visited upon them. Precious individuals, feasted upon in their childhood by religious men, walked out of the gates as human husks, and did so in multitudes.
The scale of the Satanic deeds dwelling within those institutions is such that it was not the case of 'delinquents' being cared for and educated by charitable and holy servants. It was instead a case of children being used and abused by totalitarian regimes.
But when some Fianna Failers see organisations like One in Four speaking out in search of justice, it would appear that they speedily conclude: "Aha, then there must be three-in-four who were not abused, a majority which I can exploit."
Fianna Fail has let itself down badly by mistaking the change in public mood over the religious orders.
The evidence is that some Fianna Fail politicians, whether through the most cold-blooded calculation or just knee-jerk institutional deference, tried to lead a little bit of a fightback.
Tried to come out with: "Sorry and all, but we think that's a watertight deal the Church has got there". And never mind who gave it to them in the first place.
In other words, they tried to look after the people who looked after them, the same as it always was, and always will be, Amen. A Communion wafer on the tongue, and let the people see the minister moving prayerfully back to his place.
And what has been nauseating above all is the transparent claim, advanced by a number of Fianna Failers in recent days, that the speedy sweetheart dealt with the religious orders -- cooked up just before an election -- was not to let Mother Church off the hook, but to spare the victims the trauma of giving evidence in civil damages claims in the courts.
Pass the sick bucket on that one. It threatens to make one violently ill, dripping with deceit and congealed with game- playing as it is.
Only Finance Minister Brian Lenihan realised that the Government needed to tell the religious orders where to get off. He, at least, gets it. No more tacit political support for the toleration of pure evil.