Revered reputations will take a nosedive
Published 16/10/2009 | 05:00
The revered reputations of four of the most powerful Irish churchmen of recent times will take a hefty unspiritual nosedive with the imminent publication of most of the horrific findings of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic archdiocese of Dublin.
Revealed will be a scandalous litany of systematic cover-up of rapist clerics, some of them serial offenders, during the episcopal reigns of: Cardinal Desmond Connell, 1988-2004; Kevin McNamara, 1985-87; Dermot Ryan, 1972-1984; and John Charles McQuaid, 1940-1972.
Even with the temporary deletion of one section relating to a defrocked cleric, the voluminous report will provide damning documentation of the mishandling and covering up of the catalogue of abuse complaints and allegations by these successive archbishops of Dublin.
It will be a horror story of how known offenders were transferred by their religious masters from parish to parish, without informing their priest colleagues and congregations of their evil past.
The horrendous scale of collusion by these four 'eccelesiastocrats' behind the closed doors of 'the Palace' in Drumcondra spanned the 70-year period of their rule of 'Catholic Dublin', from 1940.
In addition to the immense spiritual and political power which these four prelates exercised over the lives of ordinary Catholics and their children in parishes and schools, the report will also highlight the response of 15 assistant bishops who served under them in the nation's biggest and most important diocese.
Two of these assistants are current auxiliary bishops in Dublin, Eamonn Walsh who was apostolic administrator to Ferns diocese from April 2002 to April 2006, and Raymond Field. The other two are retired Bishops Dermot O'Mahony and Fiachra O Ceallaigh.
It also investigates the responses of auxiliary bishops in Dublin who were later promoted to other dioceses, including Bishops Brendan Comiskey, who resigned as Bishop of Ferns in 2002, Martin Drennan, now Bishop of Galway, Laurence Forristal, the retired Bishop of Ossory, Jim Moriarty of Kildare and Leighlin, and Bishop Donal Murray of Limerick.
Four other Dublin auxiliaries under investigation are now dead, the late Bishops Patrick Dunne, Joseph Carroll, James Kavanagh and Desmond Williams.
Ironically, it has fallen to the current Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, to breach decades of secrecy of his four predecessors, under whom he served, through his conscientious and compassionate decision to make all files available to the commission headed by Justice Yvonne Murphy.
Indeed, the former Vatican diplomat who was sent by the late Pope John Paul II to clean up the mess in Dublin has spoken of how he threw away files in disgust once he started reading the horrific details of abuse and evasions.
For the past year Archbishop Martin has been bravely ringing alarms bells by revealing that as many as 450 to 500 children have been identified as possible victims of sex abuse by paedophile priests in the huge Dublin area alone -- and that the figure nationwide could run into thousands.
In recent years, too, Archbishop Martin has published an annual audit which has shown that between 1940 and 2008, child sexual abuse allegations were made against 77 priests of the Dublin diocese, while suspicions were raised about another nine.
In April Archbishop Martin warned that the full horror of decades of physical, sexual and psychological torture of children had not been recognised fully, and he warned that the Report of the Dublin Archdiocese Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse "will shock us all".
Shocking as they will surely be, the findings will only give a grim snapshot of what also occurred in many other unrecorded files of acts of clerical depravity.
The report was limited to an investigation of how a sample of 46 priests' clerical child sex abuse allegations were handled by Catholic Church and state authorities in Dublin between January 1, 1975, and April 30, 2004. But it was also mandated to trace particular cases back to 1940, the year Archbishop McQuaid was appointed by the Vatican under pressure from Taoiseach Eamon de Valera.
The report will not, however, be of mere historical interest. Its revelations will have a direct bearing on the shattered lives of Dubliners across all generations. Indeed, it was exactly seven years' ago that Mary Raftery's RTE Prime Time programme, 'Cardinal Secrets' 'outed' eight offenders including the notorious Fr Ivan Payne.
The programme's shocking revelations led to calls for a public inquiry and Cardinal Connell's resignation.
But it was not until March 2006 that the Dublin Investigation was set up after an even more volcanic public outcry erupted in the wake of the scale of abuse revealed in the inquiry into clerical abuse in the Diocese of Ferns, Co Wexford.
Now, finally, the Dublin report will appear just months after the nation reeled from the horrors of the systematic scale of abuse of children in reformatories and industrial schools by members of religious orders as chronicled in the Ryan report.
As Archbishop Martin waits patiently for the fall-out of the Murphy report, he has warned that "the report will make each of us and the entire church in Dublin a humbler church".
But for many lapsed Catholics -- and for the many more who are still clinging onto the faith of their fathers -- their trust in the institutional church has already gone.
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