Saturday, November 28, 2009

Only victims' voices ring true on their day of vindication

Only victims' voices ring true on their day of vindication

Friday November 27 2009

THERE'S a line in St Mark's gospel in which Jesus rebukes his disciples for turning away a group of children.

"Suffer little children, and forbid them not to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven".

At some point, a large fraternity of monstrous men of God took the biblical phrase "suffer little children" and twisted it into an evil carte blanche to do precisely that.

But after being dragged kicking and screaming from behind the once-omnipotent protection of the cloth, the Catholic Church is now reaping the whirlwind.

Yesterday the air was alive with the sound of 'mea culpa' as the Church, the Government and the gardai all gave their reactions to the publication of the Murphy report into clerical child abuse in the Dublin archdiocese between 1975 and 2004 -- a damning three-volume litany of cover-ups of what amounts to systemic brutal abuse and rape.

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern held a press conference in Government Buildings.

But instead of holding the briefing in the usual venue of the press centre, he conducted it outside in the biting cold.

Dermot may have looked impressively leader-like against the grand backdrop of soaring pillars, but it gave the event an ad-hoc feel.

Just before the conference began, Brian Cowen's car pulled into the courtyard of Government Buildings, bearing the Taoiseach fresh from his tour of the waterlogged midlands.

Brian thought it prudent to nip in a side-door before the pesky reporters spotted him -- with the arrival of Dermot and Children's Minister Barry Andrews onto the steps acting as a timely diversion.

The Justice Minister described his reaction upon reading the report, during the summer.

"On a human level, as a father and as a member of this community, I felt a growing sense of revulsion and anger.

"Revulsion at the horrible evil acts committed against children. Anger at how those young children were then dealt with and how often abusers were left free to abuse."

And he stressed that justice would be meted out, regardless of the abusers' status.

And then, right at the end of his speech, Dermot had a bit of a Tony Blair 'Now is not the time for soundbites; I can feel the hand of history on my shoulder' moment.

Departing from his script, Dermot paused and made sure everyone was still paying attention, and pronounced: "The bottom-line is, a collar will protect no criminal" -- as the headline-writers got to work.

Less than an hour later, three members from abuse survivors' group One in Four, plus a sizeable mob of media, crammed into a tiny room in Buswell's Hotel. Survivors Marie Collins and Andrew Madden, and the group's executive director Maeve Lewis gave their reactions. They were calm and considered.

Marie, who was abused by a priest in the 1960s when she was 13 years old, was a study in quiet, articulate dignity.

"I think this report has vindicated us, and shown that everything we said about the cover-up was true. I think from a personal point of view, it's the end of a long road," she said.

"What this tells us is it wasn't individual men going their own way. It was a policy, it was a system, it was throughout the Church. It's not just rogue elements -- this was a system of cover-up".

If, as the saying goes, that all is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing, then one of the few members of the hierarchy to emerge as one of the good guys is the current Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin.

Yesterday evening, he held his own press conference -- making his most public act of contrition yet.

At one point, words failed him. He faltered and tears fell as he tried to convey his remorse. But although he may be a member of a badly damaged band of brothers, the brotherhood still remains.

While answering questions, Dr Martin time and again refused to directly call for resignations, including that of retired Cardinal Desmond Connell -- who refused to pass information to the police, or other bishops who were similarly implicated by the report.

"I've always expressed the position that every bishop should evaluate their ministry in terms of the commitment they make in reality to the protection of children," he prevaricated.

St Mark's gospel has ideas about that too, and suggests: "If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck".

Not a bad idea at all.

Irish Independent

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