Seize assets of the Religious Orders and pension the members off
There is still a sense that the 'holy' fat cats will be allowed to escape with their riches intact, writes Emer O'Kelly
ARCHBISHOP Diarmuid Martin doesn't know; Father Sean Healy of the Conference of Religious of Ireland doesn't know; Sister Marianne O'Connor director-general of the Conference of Religious of Ireland doesn't know; the Minister for Justice doesn't know; the Christian Brothers' Superior doesn't know.
None of them knows, they claim (correctly in the Minister's case) how much money and assets belong to the religious congregations in Ireland, the criminals who tortured children and profiteered from their unpaid labour for generations. But even now, they will not easily give them up; that is clear after the revelations and statements of the last terrible week
We have something called the Criminal Assets Bureau in Ireland. It has the powers to freeze assets, access bank accounts, and confiscate the proceeds of crime. It was never imagined that the CAB would have to carry out its work in such sickening circumstances.
But there is the machinery to swoop on these criminal organisations (the religious congregations) and ensure that they are never again in a position to live off the backs of little children, children who in many cases had those backs laid open to the bone with whips, flails and leather belts.
We have that evidence and it will stand up in court if we have the stomach to use it, and the official will to insist it be used, swiftly and immediately.
When asked to comment on the question of bringing to justice the many criminal priests, brothers and nuns still living in comfort and under protection, Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy commented that it would be a slow process.
We get drug dealers into court quickly enough when they're arrested; why not people who have done every bit as much harm, and far more directly?
There was a sickening sense last week that official Ireland is already setting up a pattern of bureaucracy which will ensure that the fat religious cats, with vast wealth at their backs and under their control, will escape justice with most of their ill-gotten gains untouched, protected by having been "put into trust for future education projects".
These riches were provided by the Irish taxpayer for the good of
children and their education. But last week as Sr Marianne O'Connor stuttered and stammered her way through Cathal MacCoille's questioning on Morning Ireland, only one thing was certain: no re-negotiation. Institutions would have to be closed down if the orders were made to pay adequate restitution. She did not seem to see the irony in what she was saying.
Most right-thinking persons in this country now want her and the people she represents driven out of the education system for good. Their eyes have finally been opened to the immorality, greed, and hypocrisy that lie behind a "good Catholic education."
Edmund Garvey of the "Christian" Brothers had the gall to announce that they would look at their resources and assets "other than those we need". If there were to be an audit of their vast wealth, he said, they "would take into consideration what we will and will not publish". In other words, they will hide their ill-gotten gains, and will lie about their existence.
It is, after all, what they have been doing for generations, using State money given for the education and living costs of small, vulnerable children to make themselves rich -- while the children wept and shivered in terror, pain, and hunger.
And that is not just my view, and that of the gullible and betrayed citizens of Ireland, most of whom believed the cant talked by these cruel, sadistic hypocrites. It is the view of an American expert in Canon Law, who also happens to be a Roman Catholic priest.
That is their culture, he said on RTE last week, they will not tell the truth unless they are forced to, and they will hang on to protect their riches at all costs. They do not, and will not, accept that they have done wrong, whatever kind of conditional verbal apology they offer.
Some of us already knew that in Canon Law a lie in defence of the Church is the truth. That twisted arrogance has seeped into everything they do.
President Mary McAleese said last week that she was schooled by the Mercy nuns, and yes, she knew it was going on: she knew that other children were being beaten and humiliated. Yet she has spent her public life lauding the "education" offered by women like the Mercy nuns.
The Irish State must move now: it must pass emergency legislation to freeze the assets of all religious congregations. Then it must seize those assets, in full, whether in money or property, whether occupied or empty.
It must then give each of the members of the orders, high or low, a contributory old age pension, and tell them to find their own living accommodation, singly or in community.
And it must bring those named in the Ryan report, and those now being named by their sad and devastated victims, only now able to speak out, before the criminal courts to pay the price for their sadism and greed.