Friday 18 October 2019

David Quinn: More prelates must go to restore trust in Church

Bishop Donal Murray decided to resign on December 1, but it took another 16 days for the public to discover this
Bishop Donal Murray decided to resign on December 1, but it took another 16 days for the public to discover this

David Quinn

ONE bishop has gone. How many more will follow? As many as it takes to restore some measure of trust and confidence in the Catholic Church in Ireland, as many as it takes for reasonable people to be able to say, justice has been done.

Not everyone is reasonable, of course. Some people won't be happy until we've severed diplomatic ties with the Holy See, destroyed Catholic schools and hospitals, eradicated the influence of Catholicism from the land and imposed on Ireland the type of secularism that existed in East Germany circa 1975. Catholics, under this dispensation, will be left with the right to go to their places of worship, and not much else.

In truth, this kind of rabid anti-Catholicism is the modern equivalent of the Brit-bashing and Anglo-phobia that was so prevalent in Ireland for so long and that most of us are now embarrassed by even if, in the wake of the likes of the Black and Tans, it was understandable in its day.

The current wave of anti-Catholicism is also understandable given the abuse scandals, but that in no way lessens its essential irrationality, nor does it mean that public policy should in any way be led by it.

But let's leave aside unreasonable people and consider again what will satisfy reasonable people. To repeat, the answer is more resignations. As I wrote in this column two weeks ago, any bishop who knows that he dealt with abuse allegations in the same manner as Donal Murray did ought to go.

This means that not every bishop named in the Dublin report should necessarily have to resign. But it also means that some bishops not named in the report, and not subjects of the report should go as well.

For example, I'm not convinced Bishop Martin Drennan in Galway should have to go. He did not become an auxiliary bishop in Dublin until 1997 by which point the diocese was beginning to deal with abuse allegations properly.

In the Dublin report, Bishop Drennan is mentioned in connection with 'Fr Guido', but the Murphy report's assessment of this case is that "the archdiocese acted correctly".

On the other hand there are undoubtedly bishops elsewhere in the country who would not survive if the Murphy commission turned its attention to their dioceses and it is only because RTE hasn't yet made a documentary about those dioceses that the commission has not done so.

They should not wait for an investigation. They should not hang on hoping there will never be one. They should ask themselves whether they dealt with allegations in the same "inexcusable" manner (to use the word of the Dublin report) as Bishop Murray did, and if the answer is yes, then they should go.

Of course, Bishop Murray should have resigned the day the report came out.

We now know that he decided to go on December 1, only four days after its publication. It took another 16 days for us to discover this, 16 days in which yet more damage was done to the Church's reputation and during which the anger of the victims continued to burn.

But if another six or eight bishops were to resign, under no immediate pressure, it would persuade reasonable people that at last there was accountability, at last the lessons of the past had been fully learnt.

IF this were to happen, then the Church can begin to restore some of its tattered reputation. In this regard it can take some hope from the example of the Catholic Church in the US.

Back in 2002, American anger at the sex abuse scandals peaked resulting in the eventual resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston. There are still bishops in place who should not be in place. Despite this, American Catholics have continued to go to Mass in numbers almost unequalled in the West.

One reason for this is that the American Church has its share of impressive bishops, for example, Francis George in Chicago, Charles Chaput in Denver, and Timothy Dolan in New York. They provide great leadership to American Catholics. They fearlessly and capably articulate the Church's position on a whole range of issues and they don't shrink back from secularist counter-fire.

Recently, the American bishops helped organise a lobby that stopped Congress approving public funding of abortion. So the scandals did not destroy the American Church and the example of people like George and Chaput and Dolan shows what can happen when leadership is shown.

Pope Benedict XVI has said he will clearly indicate the initiatives that are to be taken in response to the abuse scandals in a pastoral letter to be written especially for Ireland.

The two best initiatives he can undertake would be to force the resignations of all those bishops who acted as Donal Murray did, and then to replace them with as many strong, fearless and capable bishops as he can. That would help to re-energise the Irish Church very quickly indeed, restore morale, and allow Christianity to be properly proclaimed in Ireland once again.

Irish Independent

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