Still Infallible in the Aftermath of the Murphy Commission


According to a three-page letter from Archbishop Diarmuid Martin to his priests, Pope Benedict XVI, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority and in discharge of the office of pastor and doctor of all Christians, solemnly rejected the resignations of two Dublin auxiliary bishops which had been tendered on Christmas Eve 2009 following the reports of the investigations by the Murphy Commission into clerical child sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin over 29 years. After coming under intense pressure because they had served as bishops during part of this period, Pope Benedict XVI has willed that Bishop Raymond Field and Bishop Eamonn Walsh should be shepherds in His Church, even to the consummation of the world, available to administer Confirmation in any part of the diocese in the coming year.

In a November 2009 report, the independent Commission of Investigation headed by Judge Yvonne Murphy looked at the handling in the years 1975-2004 of 325 sex abuse claims in the Archdiocese of Dublin. This Murphy Commission was released in the aftermath of The Ryan Commission report in May 2009 which had cited 800 known abusers in over 200 Catholic institutions, over 35 years.

The Irish Times on December 8, 2009 had reported, per Vatican sources, the direct intervention from the Holy See, with an invitation extended on December 8, 2009 to Cardinal Sean Brady and Archbishop Diarmuid Martin to a December 11th meeting in Rome to discuss “the painful situation” in the Catholic Church in Ireland following the release of the report of the Murphy Commission. The pope would be urging Irish church leaders to find a definitive exit from the crisis, feeling the Irish clerical sex-abuse crisis has gone on far too long.

The conclusion of this Murphy Commission report was that during those years 1975-2004, rather than being concerned about the victims, Catholic leaders were more interested in “the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the church and the preservation of its assets.” With his own infallibility, feeling the Irish clerical sex-abuse crisis has gone on far too long, Pope Benedict had called the leading two bishops to Rome. In February 2010, all of the Roman Catholic bishops of Ireland came to Rome.

The Murphy Commission had investigated the 325 sex abuse claims in the Archdiocese of Dublin in the years 1975-2004. The bishops named in the Murphy report included the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, the Bishop of Galway, two Dublin auxiliary bishops, and the Bishop of Limerick. Monsignor Dolan, the vice chancellor in Dublin from 1980 to 1997, was also named; he later became chancellor in 1997.

“The church in Ireland has been severely shaken as a result of the child abuse crisis. As a sign of my deep concern,” Pope Benedict said in Rome on the eve of Saint Patrick’s Day, “I have written a pastoral letter dealing with this painful situation. I ask all of you to read it for yourselves, with an open heart and in a spirit of faith.”

The Lenten Letter of March 17, 2010 to the Irish people, the first papal document devoted exclusively to pedophilia, following the Murphy report, was the first clue as to how the pope viewed all the goings on. That pastoral letter talked a lot more about sin than crimes. Pope Benedict XVI hoped the letter would “help in the process of repentance, healing and renewal.”

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/letters/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_let_20100319_church-ireland_en.html. __Read THE ACTUAL LETTER__

The Father Brendan Smyth affair over a period of over 40 years in which the controversy surrounding his case had brought about the downfall of the government of Ireland in December 1994. Father Brendan Smyth of the the Norbertines Order had sexually abused and assaulted over 100 children, moving from parish to parish and between dioceses in Belfast, Dublin, and in Rhode Island as well as North Dakota in the United States. After his arrest in 1991, Father Brendan Smyth fled to the Republic of Ireland, where he spent the next three years on the run, with the poor handling of an extradition request from the Royal Ulster Constable of Northern Ireland by the Irish Attorney General Republic of Ireland. Understandable with the years of distrust and discrimination between the Orange Order and the Catholic minority of the North, who was going to believe in the justice system of the North of Ireland? Had you ever read of the anti-papist rhetoric of Ian Paisley, and experienced how Catholics were treated in the North? True dysfunction came out of such relationships.

The now deceased Cardinal Cahal Daly, Archbishop of Armagh (a previous Bishop of Down as well as Connor, in a diocese where some of the abuse took place), reportedly was privately furious at the Norbertine “incompetence” involving Father Brendan Smyth.

In March of 2010, the Primate of all Ireland, Seán Brady admitted that in 1975, as a 36-year-old priest with his doctorate in canon law since 1967, that he had attended two separate interviews in 1975 as part-time secretary to the then Bishop of Kilmore, Francis McKiernan. Joined by two other priest in the first interview, his role was to take notes. He had been alone with the child at the second interview, and had been responsible for conducting the inquiry, with his note taking. He had also witnessed the two teenage boys in 1975 sign the oaths of silence after testifying against Father Brendan Smyth. The oath read: “I will never directly or indirectly, by means of a nod, or of a word, by writing, or in any other way, and under whatever type of pretext, even for the most urgent and most serious cause (even) for the purpose of a greater good, commit anything against this fidelity to the secret, unless a…dispensation has been expressly given to me by the Supreme Pontiff.”

Secrecy and inertia. The maintenance of church secrecy was mentioned in the Murphy Commission report, as one reason the priest abuse was able to continue. When nothing happened. From November 2009 to August 2010, especially in the stagnation of August heat, there was even a lack of movement in the story after the release of the Murphy Commission report. In that Irish church that had known of all of these transgressions well before the release of the Murphy Commission report.

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, the only recognized hero in all of this, wrote to his people in early December 2009: “The sexual abuse of a child is and always was a CRIME in civil law; it is and always was a crime [in] canon law; it is and always was grievously sinful.” Archbishop Diarmuid Martin wrote: “Efforts made to ‘protect the Church’ and to ‘avoid scandal’ have had the ironic result of bringing this horrendous scandal on the Church today.”

In 1994, Father Hegarty was removed as editor of Intercom after publishing an article challenging the bishops’ handling of clerical child sex abuse. In March 1994 auxiliary bishop of Dublin, Eamonn Walsh, who was investigated by the Murphy commission, was appointed to survey the Bishops’ Conference on their attitude to Intercom. In July 1994, Father Hegarty was appointed full-time curate at Shanaghy in west Mayo. “In the circumstances, I felt I had no choice but to let go of Intercom,” he said.

In a January 1995 letter to the Irish Times, Mary McAleese (then a university professor) wrote, “What is truly depressing about this episode, though, is the contrast between the energy and determination which went into sorting out a perceived problem with the editorial tone of Intercom , and the sheer breathtaking ineptitude of church handling of matters relating to child abuse by clergy….It is truly ironic that Father Kevin Hegarty raised the issue openly in Intercom long before the Father Brendan Smyth affair, and in so doing incurred the wrath of those so anxious now to reassure us of their clean hands and bona fides in this squalid business.”

Taking people’s jobs away, after a lifetime of service. Five years ago Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, had no problem taking people’s job away. Under orders from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, American Jesuit Thomas Reese resigned on May 6, 2005 as editor of the Catholic magazine America because he had published articles critical of church positions, several Catholic officials in the United States told the New York Times. The order to dismiss the editor of America magazine was issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in mid-March when the Vatican office of doctrinal enforcement was still headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Catholic officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter. (Some have suggested it was the American bishops who got Father Reese removed, a story much like Father Kevin Hegarty’s dismissal.) Soon after Father Reese’s dismissal, Pope John Paul II died and Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI., with his new infallibility on both matters of faith and morals which came with his new job description.

Preserved from even the possibility of error since the First Vatican Council on July 18, 1870, Pope Benedict XVI has exercised his authority on matters of Faith and Morals. If not Rome, all of Ireland’s bishops knew of the environment of sexual abuse in their country. The environment where Cardinal Sean Brady had been the appointed leader. It was only the damn Murphy Commission, and the Ryan that had enlightened the public.

The two bishops, Bishop Eamonn Walsh and Bishop Raymond Field, who had been continuing in their normal duties pending the decision, would now remain as Auxiliary Bishops and are to be assigned revised responsibilities within the diocese. The decision not to accept the resignations of Bishop Eamonn Walsh and Bishop Raymond Field follows the decision of Cardinal Seán Brady last spring not to resign despite his involvement in an investigation 35 years ago of a case involving Brendan Smyth. Bishop Eamonn Walsh had been appointed auxiliary bishop in Dublin since April 1990. Bishop Raymond Field had been bishops since September 21st, 1997. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said it was not policy to comment on resignations which had not been accepted. It was time to move on. These two bishops should be available to administer Confirmation even to the consummation of the world. This all was punishment enough. One Vatican source told the Irish Times that the Secretariat of State had recalled the excellent work done by Bishop Walsh in the role of apostolic administrator in the diocese of Ferns.

To live in a country when nothing happened. To live in a country where its young no longer wanted to be confirmed, because of the sins of its Fathers. These two bishops should be available to administer Confirmation, but in a country where, based upon news stories, its young no longer wanted to be confirmed.

Crime and punishment. Catholic moral teaching states capital punishment is wrong. Based upon the papal response, Catholic moral teaching must be that cover ups of sexual abuse are okay. Actions speak louder than encyclicals, for the institution church which has lacked so much transparency on issues of cover ups of sexual abuse, over so many years.

Crime and punishment. What if a pope had grown up in a time, in a place, when crimes were an every day part of your life. When nothing happened to the perpetrators? And what if you then had to live in the aftermath? When you were a young man? When no one really was ever punished. When no one ever talked about what had happened? When life just seemed to go on, with a great deal of inertia. Would it affect your own way of thought? About Central America during the late 1970s into the early 1990s, in another age of terror in the southern hemisphere, as the United States supported the Salvadoran government armed forces throughout their civil war, with ongoing persecution of clergy and repression of movements for social change, would it affect your outlook? And what if you then had to live in the aftermath? When life just seemed to go on, with a great deal of inertia.

Crime and Punishment not all so dissimilar to what had happened to those Irish bankers who had led Ireland into a concurrent crisis. As the Irish-German 10-year yield spread widened to 2.64 per cent, the most since July 23rd. Standard and Poor’s said yesterday that it would be, with its BBB ranking for the bank debt, keeping its ratings on the Anglo Irish Bank on credit watch with negative implications. Anglo Irish Bank carried Standard and Poor’s second-lowest investment grade. And all the same leaders continued in their places? When nothing ever happened?

Pope Benedict already had written, as “a sign of my deep concern,” on the eve of Saint Patrick’s Day, “a pastoral letter dealing with this painful situation.” To live in a country where its young no longer wanted a part in that way of thinking. Because of the sins of its Fathers.

Last autumn in the United States, Cardinal Francis George came out with the statement about Catholic journalists who should “tow the line,” with his statement that Catholic universities, media outlets and other affiliated organizations are “less than fully Catholic” that insist on independence from the church hierarchy. His underlying sentiment seemed to suggest the need for Catholic journalists and academics to go about their jobs of Truth telling with a need for the same kind of oaths seeking “dispensations expressly given by the Supreme Pontiff.” When writing about cover ups. After all, all bishops took these kind of oaths to the pope every five years. (ED NOTE: In the way of full disclosure, in the midst of the Watergate investigation, I attended as an undergraduate, a Jesuit university where Francis Cardinal George was assigned, at the same time. Though I did walk by him talking to my sociology professor before a twice a week class, I do not know him, but respect him highly.)

Before he became pope, Cardinal Ratzinger was quoted in the Jesuit Magazine America, in the days of Rev. Thomas Reese, as writing that the church needs to get smaller so that it can become purer. Because, maybe the Church could not keep going on the way it had been. Maybe his dream about pruning finally has started this summer, based upon the article in the National Catholic Reporter in August 2010, which raises again the question where is the goodness in institution church?

In a related story on December 8, 2009, The Irish Times reported that in 1991 Father Kevin Hegarty was appointed editor of the Irish Bishops’ Conference-sponsored magazine Intercom, published under the aegis of the Bishops’ Commission on Communications. In its December 1993 issue an article titled “Twenty Questions for the Bishops” challenged their handling of clerical child sex abuse. “Will they eschew silence as the preferred legal and moral strategy in the face of future allegations?” it asked.

In 1993, just before the reign of Seán Brady, with his doctorate in canon law since 1967, the Irish bishops criticized an Intercom article on women priests published in the magazine and written by the current Irish President Mary McAleese (then a university professor). On December 13, 1994, Seán Brady was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh by John Paul II, taking over upon Cardinal Cahal Daly’s retirement on October 1, 1996.

In 1994, Father Hegarty was removed as editor of Intercom after publishing an article challenging the bishops’ handling of clerical child sex abuse. The Irish Times on December 8, 2009 reported about what happened when a priest had not towed the line. “We live in a dysfunctional church, which happens when deafness becomes deadly,” Father Hegarty. The Murphy report, he said, “showed that church leaders placed most premium on loyalty, regardless of the truth.”

Not so unlike the dysfunction of Irish bishops over the course of the years 1975-2004 , in Madison, Wisconsin, in his public witness is to the fullness of the Catholic faith, Bishop Robert Morlino has lent his support to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, with his participation on their board of what was formerly known as United States Army School of the Americas. In the view of Rome, there is punishment administered where there is no loyalty to Rome. In the way of background, Maryknoll priest Roy Bourgeois was now excommunicated for publicly supporting women’s ordination, within the past eighteen months. A Maryknoll statement dated May 24th which was made public on July 22, 2010 after SOA Watch announced a fundraising drive to replace the $17,000 grant, given former Maryknoll priest Roy “Bourgeois’ central role as the founder and public face of the SOA Watch, [Maryknoll] society leadership has determined that it cannot continue its financial support of that organization without giving the impression that it also supports the actions of its leader concerning the issue of women’s ordination. The American missionary order Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers has discontinued a longstanding annual grant to the anti-military campaign group School of Americas Watch because the organization’s founder, Maryknoll priest Roy Bourgeois (now excommunicated) publicly supports women’s ordination. Within a week, the SOA Watch fund drive had raised nearly $10,000.”

The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation was not protesting violations of human rights as much as aiming a spotlight on outright killing. Military juntas and dictators in the 20th century attempting, maybe too much like Bishop Robert Morlino, Bishop Eamonn Walsh, and Archbishop Seán Brady, to maintain power. Like military juntas and dictators with their air of infallibility, backed up by armies.

About the search for Truth and towing the line, when you had a hierarchy like this, with all of the falsehoods. Towing the line. In law? With academic freedom? When this church hierarchy desired a world with everyone praying in Latin? When this church hierarchy desired a world of archaic translations in the liturgy? When this church hierarchy, which has lacked so much transparency, desired a world of Kaiser Wilhelm, or Franz Joseph, where people had no powerful sense of identity of their own God above the temporal world. When all the calls for social justice, a True concern for social justice, was just hypocrisy?

If you had come from Poland or if you had come from Germany, what could you know of real “process of repentance, healing and renewal?” Mary McAleese had gotten it wrong, writing about the sheer breathtaking ineptitude of church. Ireland somehow had been neutral during the war. During the days of Hitler, when a child had to just shut his mouth and just deal with ‘this painful situation.” When life had just gone on. With people in power who seem to think they are above human and divine law. When you lived in the days of Adolph Hitler, with nowhere for the people to go, when there had never been a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Joseph Ratzinger had already lived a life a lot like those victims of sex abuse. With nowhere for the people to go, except within. When Latin had become a language of escape. From military juntas and dictators. And when you thought that all you could say was “I am sorry.” De Delictis Gravioribus (about serious crimes). From age to age. From east to west.

And now preserved from the possibility of error, on matters of faith and Morals, Pope Benedict already has lived in a Europe where its young no longer wanted to be confirmed.

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1 comment so far

  1. paperlessworld on

    Oct 30, 2013 by Sarah MacDonald of the Catholic News Service

    DUBLIN A new review undertaken by the 1,000-member Association of Catholic Priests, concerning the work of the Murphy Commission which investigated clerical sexual abuse in the archdiocese of Dublin charges that priests did not get even-handed treatment and that the process it followed was unfair. The review also said the commission’s work exceeded its announced plans to investigate institutions rather than individuals. The review poses a challenge to Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, who defended the commission’s findings in a statement Tuesday.


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