This is a guest post by Grania Spingies of Atheist Ireland. After talking with her about the abuse of women and children by Catholic priests in Ireland, and having read some of the Ryan Report (link at bottom), which is disturbing beyond belief, I invited her to write about that issue.
What appalls me is not only the Ryan Report’s descriptions of the atrocities, but the systematic actions of the Church to cover up the crimes, arrogating any punishment to the Church itself rather than to civil authorities. It would behoove you as well to read Pope Ratzi’s letter (link below) mandating the coverup. The fact that these actions, and the exculpatory assertions of the Church, extend to the very highest levels of the Vatican has led me to conclude that the coverup of child (and adult) abuse is an official policy of the Catholic Church.
by Grania Spingies
As the years go by and more and more cases of child rape and abuse by Catholic priests come to light, we become inured to the reports and immunised against feeling anything more than resignation to the seemingly endless parade of horrors.
Amnesty International has classified the institutionalised betrayal and exploitation of children as torture, and this is about as close an approximation as language is ever going to get to describing the litany of crimes committed against children and adults by members of Catholic-run institutions in Ireland over the last few decades.
It has become almost an amusing pastime to catalogue the excuses offered by representatives of the Church in their blatant attempts at damage control and dissemination of the blame as widely as they can. The Vatican and its lesser representatives have laid the blame on gays, overwork, secularization, Irish mothers and even the victims themselves. Apparently everyone is to blame except the very institution that has done so much for decades to block investigation, shelter the criminals, and stymie the judicial process.
Bu this is not distant history alone that has slowly been uncovered. This week, the Irish papers report once again that another priest has “taken leave” as a new police investigation begins.
In an unprecedented statement in July this year, Ireland’s Prime Minister, Taoiseach Enda Kenny broke the long-honored deference on the part of the Irish government to the Church and openly criticised it: “when it comes to the protection of the children of this State, the standards of conduct which the Church deems appropriate to itself, cannot and will not, be applied to the workings of democracy and civil society in this republic”:
This comment must, however, be viewed in light of the statement by the current Pope Ratzinger who has stated: “Standards of conduct appropriate to civil society or the workings of a democracy cannot be purely and simply applied to the Church.” Currently the Catholic Church controls more than 90% of the state-financed schools in Ireland. It also owes hundreds of millions of Euros for legal fees and other costs due after the various Commissions of Inquiry reported about institutionalised child abuse at the hands of a number of Irish Catholic institutions. So far, however, the Irish taxpayer has financed most of this as well. At the moment it’s not clear whether this debt will ever be repaid by the Church.
But even now some Irish priests and their defenders are defiant and unrepentant—and intend to oppose new laws that would legally oblige the clergy to report any knowledge of such crimes, even if obtained through Confession. The director of the Iona Institute, Ireland’s ultra-conservative Catholic “think-tank,” stated that the proposed new law was equivalent to mindless mob violence: “Even revolutionary France in the days of its worst violence against the church did not pass a law requiring the breaking of the seal of confession”.
To people like this, the reputation of the Church far outweighs any actual crime or abuse to defenceless members.
In fact, history directly contradicts this assertion. In 2001 Ratzinger issued a letter to Irish bishops specifying that the Church was to hold its own inquiries in private and keep any evidence secret for a minimum of ten years. The letter reprises earlier missives that argued for the same tactics in 1997 and in the 1960s.
In spite of occasional speeches of contrition and self-pity, on the whole the Vatican is apparently playing a waiting game, denying and obfuscating for as long as they are able. The public are slowly becoming anaesthetised to the continual news feed of cases of abuse, torture and rape; and our inertia and ignorance only allows this institution and its supporters to ignore their responsibilities and complicity in a crime that has lasted for decades. There is no end to the Catholic Church’s callous indifference to justice and reparation.
Although the findings of these reports are horrifying and deeply saddening, they should not be forgotten or go unread until justice has finally been served.
JAC: If you don’t have the stamina—or the stomach—for the Ryan Report, let me describe the actions of just one priest recounted in its pages. And believe me, this isn’t even the worst of the many cases—and there are many. Although the following is disturbing, there is no other way to apprehend how vile the acts of Catholic priests really were. And keep in mind that this is only one of four such commissions that issued reports in the last decade.
This is the testimony of an adult, describing his abuse as a child in a Catholic industrial or reformatory school. It comes from Chapter 7, Volume III, of the report: “Record of abuse: male witnesses.”
Br …X… came and pulled me from my bed into his bedroom, he turned his wireless up to full volume and said “take that nightshirt off, you can scream now as much as you like, you little bastard”. He masturbated himself with his left hand while he was hitting me with his strap…. He just brought the strap down on me and kicked me with his boots on, that is all he was wearing…. He threatened that if I told anyone the same would happen again. . .
One particular morning he …(Br X)… put me up against the wall because I was left handed, he put me hands up against the wall like that …indicated arms stretched above head… he started flogging me with the leather strap. This particular session I lost all control and soiled myself, he took me by the ear straight out, around to the showers. He wanted me to strip off and get into the shower, the water was freezing. … It’s very hard for me to tell this … but I want to tell it anyway … I was crouched down in the corner, he grabbed me by the hair into the cubicle, dragged me up off the floor, on the lats you know, lats for the seats and he buggered me again, and told me to shut up, I was screaming, I was in sheer pain you know. He had done it before in my bed and he made me bleed, he tore the skin you know. It could be once a week and then he mightn’t come near you for a month. It lasted for all the years I was there.
Read and weep—and get mad.