Friday 23 March 2018

Man of cloth recast as just a jobsworth

Hiding behind the rule book smacks of the worst sort of public service union thinking, says Eilis O'Hanlon

THE two biggest horror films of last year, Drag Me To Hell and Paranormal Activity, both feature ordinary people under attack from supernatural forces, but what's remarkable about them is that in neither film do the protagonists approach the church for help. Psychics, yes. Quacks, absolutely. But the idea that priests could be any use simply doesn't cross their minds. That's quite different from the horror classics of the Seventies like The Omen and The Exorcist, where, hard as it is to believe now, priests were cast in the role of heroic defenders of the innocent.

It's a small illustration of how the popular perception of priests has changed, and it's hardly unrelated to the fact that while the fictional priests of the Seventies were giving their lives to defend the innocent from evil, many actual priests in the same period were, in the manner of the now Cardinal Sean Brady, wired into a system which knowingly left the innocent exposed to abuse and actively colluded in covering it up. Is it any wonder that we're seemingly more willing now to believe in the existence of the Devil than God?

As the details unfolded last week of the role played by Fr Brady, as he then was, in the measly internal investigation carried out by the Irish church in 1975 into the activities of notorious paedophile Fr Brendan Smyth, it even led to a bizarre post-cultural juxtaposition. While John and Edward Grimes, aka Jedward, were paying the ultimate price for failure -- being dumped by their record label for no greater crime than singing and dancing badly and having silly haircuts and failing to shift enough units of their debut single -- the leader of the Catholic church was clinging on by his fingertips to his job, despite having admitted to being part of a team which made children who had been abused sign statements swearing them to secrecy.

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