Not even the most doting mother, all those years ago, could have imagined that one day Willie O'Dea would be the answer to a bishop's prayer, and not just one bishop, but the entire Irish hierarchy.
Even more than Michael O'Leary and Hangar 6, he has managed to get the bishops and the debacle of the Rome summit out of the headlines and off the front pages of the national broadsheets.
In the breathing space thus offered, some have begun to dilute their support for the Murphy report and to resile from total acceptance of its conclusions.
There are mutterings among the clergy about perceived weaknesses in the report, a search for loopholes that are less generous to the real victims of abuse than to solicitous to protect the church and those perceived to be in authority.
They have not yet, probably through a lack of political experience and hard neck, reached the point where, like Willie, they can describe themselves as victims too -- they speak of a media witch-hunt, he a sacrifice to the political correctness of the Greens to preserve the Coalition.
The most charitable thing that can be said about the Irish bishops' march on Rome is that it was a PR disaster, which left no group satisfied and the faithful more confused than ever.
There is a barbed medieval Irish verse aimed at those who made ostentatious pilgrimages which asserts that those who went to Rome seeking God would not find Him there unless they brought Him with them in their hearts.
Whatever it was the bishops went to Rome for, in the eyes of the Irish public, they came away empty-handed. Perhaps the occasion had been built up too much, perhaps that is not the way the church reaches decisions, but the lack of product, as the jargon has it, came as a surprise and as a disappointment to many.
The very least the victims of abuse might have expected is that the Pope might say "Sorry" on behalf of the church as a whole. This would not have pre-empted any discussion about what needed to be done, pastorally or structurally, to put things right, to make amends and to prevent a recurrence.
It would have put victims and their suffering at the centre of things and it would have recognised past failings in a way that did not stigmatise individuals. Above all, it would have cost nothing.
Instead, what the victims and the public got was a bland statement in opaque, business-school jargon which reduced a failure of charity to mere mismanagement and systemic failure.
The bishops themselves did not help by appearing to spread the blame by asserting that child abuse was a universal phenomenon and wider than the Catholic Church -- which it undoubtedly is, but for them the problem is domestic and local and solutions must be found in Ireland.
Neither was it particularly edifying to deflect attention from the local scene by pointing the finger at the Vatican.
There is undoubtedly failure at that level too, but it can be argued that the major contribution the Vatican has made to the crisis facing the church in Ireland has been the policy pursued by John Paul II to appoint as bishops only those who would cleave to the Curia line, and to exclude those who might challenge the prevailing orthodoxy.
There are parallels with the political situation of people too long continuously in office becoming tired and running out of ideas. In both, there needs to be an infusion of new blood. Unfortunately, in the church there is no electoral process to effect change.
Few in the Vatican can have foreseen the wholly negative impact in Ireland of the pictures of the bishops kissing hands -- and not a woman or a layperson, much less a victim, in sight. This might have been required by some arcane rubric, but it is the sort of thing that in this day and age is better left to consenting adults in private. The effect was to emphasise exclusiveness, ritual and hierarchy when what was required was empathy, engagement and some sense of urgency.
Most people will have been surprised by the Pope's remark that clerical child abuse was the result of a general loss of faith -- when most would think that the opposite was true. Even more bizarre was the assertion by a senior Vatican official that what was needed was more rigorous training of Irish priests, at a time when the church in Ireland is having the greatest difficulty in finding candidates for the priesthood.
It is, of course, important that proper procedures be established to protect children, but clerical abuse and how it has been dealt with is a symptom of what is wrong (which might be a fairer interpretation of the Pope's remarks) and this calls for a much more radical overhaul.
This would involve a much more open and transparent dialogue, which would involve the laity as equal partners at all levels. It would involve structural change in the way parishes and dioceses are organised, if for no other reason because of the glaring and worsening shortage of clerical manpower. And manpower it is, which uncovers another crucial issue -- the role of women in the church, the ordination of women and a relaxation of the rule of celibacy.
Now there is a pastoral letter the Coalition would die for -- if not for doctrinal reasons -- it would at least get them out of the headlines and transfer opprobrium elsewhere for a day or two.