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Romantic Ireland's well and truly dead and gone
[ by Niall Hunter, Editor www.irishhealth.com]
What need you, being come to sense,
But fumble in a greasy till,
And add the halfpence to the pence
And prayer to shivering prayer, until
You have dried the marrow from the bone?
For men were born to pray and save
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone…
(September 1913 - William Butler Yeats)
We have again been forced to come to terms with yet another depressing delineation of our shameful dysfunctionality as a State and a society since our glorious independence 87 years ago.
One of the conclusions of Judge Yvonne Murphy’s damning report could easily be applied to many of the other scandals that have emerged in Irish life in recent decades.
The Dublin Archdiocese, we are told, in neglecting to do anything effective about, and it could be argued, practically encouraging clerical sex abuse, was preoccupied with: “the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church and the preservation of its assets.”
In this neglect it was aided and abetted by the neglect and moral cowardice of the usual suspects, the State authorities.
Yeats’ poem shed some prescient light on the new Irish ruling oligarchy emerging at the time, focusing in this instance on the rising and grasping merchant class.
Our homegrown oligarchy has been dominated by an authoritarian Catholic Church, aided and abetted by the higher professional, merchant and political classes, with all these groups interlocked and interwoven in a chain of power and influence over all aspects of people’s daily lives.
Many members of this power elite have been allowed to act with impunity in feathering their nests, exercising disproportionate power, and ignoring gross abuses of this power, all the while lecturing us lesser mortals on our duties and responsibilities.
Yes, all countries have oligarchies of one sort or another, but in very few democracies has this exercise of power had such widespread and tragic consequences as we have seen in our tarnished emerald isle.
The hypocrisy and malfeasance continued through the apparently more enlightened times from the 1960s onwards. Yeats could indeed in 1913, have been providing a pen portrait of the banking classes in 2009 which would not be entirely dissimilar from the “robber barons” of his day.
However, the most extreme manifestation of this misuse of power in Irish society has been abuse and in some cases torture, of children, either in institutions or in priests' everyday “pastoral” work.
Ireland’s confessional, authoritarian State structure in the 20th century is sometimes compared to the rule of Salazar in Portugal or Franco in Spain.
This argument is often countered by those who point out that we were, unlike these regimes, a democracy, and we didn’t torture or incarcerate those we wanted put out of the way or deny freedom of speech.
Well, for torture and incarceration, how about the State incarcerating children in institutions and allowing them to be abused physically and sexually, in addition to allowing others to abuse children outside these hellholes?
As regards democracy, how about newly-elected Taoisigh and Ministers in the 1940s pledging fealty and loyalty to the Catholic hierarchy, with all the problems that type of spinelessness caused?
Or more recently, how about the Government doing a deal with Catholic religious orders limiting the amount of compensation they would have to pay out for child abuse in institutions?
As for freedom of speech, how about strict censorship or banning of practically all literature until relatively recently?
Here are some “highlights" of our flawed democracy over the past 60 years or so. Some of these examples are quite recent:
*Physical and sexual child abuse by religious and others within and outside institutions, much of which was covered up and ignored by the Church and State authorities.
*Abuse and unnecessary damage to patients, usually women, in hospitals, many of them religious-run, followed by cover-ups.
*Until relatively recently, a level of censorship akin to that of your average fascist dictatorship.
*The Kerry Babies and Ann Lovett cases.
*The scuppering of the Mother and Child Scheme at the behest of the hierarchy.
*Retention of deceased child patients’ organs without permission. This, while not on a scale with other scandals, was typical of the arrogance of the healthcare oligarchy at the time.
*Anachronistic, long-running bans on contraception and divorce.
*Political corruption/ banking incompetence and malfeasance followed by the usual cover-ups.
*Persistent failures to deal with the social and healthcare problems caused by poverty in our society. This is obviously not helped by the fact that the State cannot anymore allow poor children to be kept out of sight in institutions.
*Certain procedures/treatments, eg sterilisation, amniocentesis, not permitted in Catholic hospitals.
*Inequity in our healthcare system, which unfortunately, didn't stop in the 1970s.
*A culture of secrecy about pretty much everything, which prevails to this day.
Among many stomach-churning passages in the Murphy report is an account of how Archbishop John Charles McQuaid, a figure who would not have been too out of place at the height of the Spanish Inquisition, did nothing about one of two priest chaplains who abused child patients at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin. In the 1960s and 1970s.
This particular priest took photos of the private parts of children. Mc Quaid knew about all of this, but callously did nothing, thereby putting further patients at risk.
Amazingly, or perhaps not so, many used to tremble in the presence of such moral giants as “The Most Reverend John C McQuaid DD, Lord Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland” and his ilk. Tellingly, McQuaid was Chairman of Crumlin Hospital at the time, and the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin continues to be chairman of this hospital.
While the decency of the current incumbent in the Archbishopric cannot be denied, surely the time has now come to end the remaining vestiges of the power the Church exercises over publicly-funded healthcare and education.
Surely any remaining moral right the princes of the church have to influence policy in these areas is now well and truly gone.
Church ownership and involvement in running major institutions over many decades, and the willingness of the political classes to let them do so while ignoring their authoritarian attitudes and many excesses, has been a feature of our deeply flawed democracy over the years.
And surely the old “sure we wouldn’t have had hospitals, education etc back then without them” argument at this stage, however partially true it may be, is now largely redundant and cannot be used as an excuse for crimes or the cover-up of such crimes.
And you can only take the “Those were different times and people were less questioning” argument so far. The logical extension of this argument is to say until fairly recently, child abuse and torture was regarded as a normal part of everyday Irish life and was encouraged.
How that ties in with the tenets of devout faith is not entirely clear, unless you are talking about the middle ages.
And let us also dispense with another shibboleth. That the trangressions of a minority (and it seems to have been a very substantial minority) should not be allowed sully the praiseworthy work of good priests and members of religious orders.
While you cannot but sympathise with those good people being tarred with same brush as abusers through no fault of their own, this argument leads to uncertain moral ground.
It can set you down the path of accepting the continuing influence of an unelected oligarchy in the running of our public and social services with all the inherent continuing potential for abuses of this power and influence.
Also, it has to be asked, how many current priests and religious knew about others abusing but did nothing about it?
The Murphy report raised a very serious question about whether the Catholic Church in its current form and structures should have a continuing major role in significant aspects of life of Ireland.
This is a debate that is very relevant as we decide what way the structures of our State should be run in future.
And there will always be the nagging doubt over whether our current State authorities and political class will strengthen child protection, given the mess they have made of many aspects of health and social care and the economy.
Perhaps, you could argue we get the power elites we deserve. Are they a mirror of the worst aspects of ourselves?
Well, perhaps yes and no.
One of the few chinks of light in the Murphy report is what it says about the moral courage and decency of those who were abused and who came forward:
“The Commission has been impressed by the extraordinary charity shown by complainants and their families towards offenders. It is very clear to the Commission that complainants and their families frequently behaved in a much more Christian and charitable way than the Church authorities did. Many indeed expressed concern for the welfare of the priest(s) concerned.”
That one paragraph says it all really. Perhaps there is hope for us as we venture into very uncertain and difficult times.
(Read more on the Murphy Commission report here )
|budgie Posted: 27/11/2009 20:01|
HEAR HEAR ! well said that man.
|bluebird Posted: 27/11/2009 22:38|
Republic of Ireland, not at all, Home Rule was ROME RULE. Where or what happened to the dream of Wolfe Tone, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, Robert Emmet, all Protestants you will note. It was hi-jacked by the likes of Pearse, etc., and the Irish were fed a diet of mis - information, lies, etc. We are now reaping the seeds sown by that generation of l9l6 leaders. They handed over power to a Church who then controlled the state, dictating what minds were allowed think.
|Casie Posted: 28/11/2009 05:50|
Is there a campaign to completely remove the church from power and influence in health and education?
|Fedup Posted: 28/11/2009 16:34|
Bravo, Niall, well said. How true it is that very little has changed in Ireland. The ruling elite, are still interwoven and self protection is still alive and well. It may not (at least I hope not) run to turning a blind eye to child abuse, but it can still be felt. You have simply have to look at the Dr Neary case.
The culture of seceracy still exists, try getting the C-section rate of your local hospital and you'll soon see. I contacted my local hospital in Galway 7 times over the course of a year to get the obs/gyn annual report in order to find out the section rate before I finally had to do an FOI request to get it, despite being told and FOI request was unnecessary and "I'll just pop it in the post" Patients have a right to know not only stas for individual hospitals, but also for individual doctors.
I do adhere to the idea that we get the government we deserve. How many of us actually vote for change, but rather what we feel we can get personally from our government. Weak moral courage seems to be part of the Irish DNA unfortunately. There are of course the few (and it is certainly the few) who stand up and are counted and fight for those who are weak and with no voice, but they do so at a huge personal cost to themselves and often their careers. But blessed are those who hunger and thrist for what is right THEIRs is the kingdom of heaven.
|nillod Posted: 29/11/2009 17:48|
My only comment is that for the past ten yearsthis was what the majority of the Irish people voted for. Easy to be a hurler on the ditch!!
|Marsy Posted: 29/11/2009 23:32|
If the only way to God is through membership of the Catholic Church (as they would like us to believe) do we really want to know this God?
|Anonymous Posted: 30/11/2009 09:36|
A shameful but nonetheless accurate portrait of a society where the ruling elite preseved what was essentiually the biggest paedophilia ring in the history of any European state. Casie if there a campaign to completely remove the church from power and influence in health and education, I will gladly join.
|Anonymous Posted: 30/11/2009 12:00|
nillod, the catholic chirch is not a democrcy -never was so no-one voted them in or out.
|Jamie Posted: 01/12/2009 10:45|
I don't think Jesus would be too happy with the actions of the catholic church. Their whole damage limitation attitude. It's clear that money is the one thing that motivates them. I'm sure Jesue wouldn't approve of the massive wealth of the church when there's so many people starving in this world.
|leen Posted: 04/12/2009 18:29|
Jesus was Jewish as were his family. How did the Catholic church become the one true church. As a lapsed Catholic may we be saved from damnation for the offences of the leaders of this organised church. Not a word from Rome to show its astonishment at the results of the report on the findings of those men who dare to call themselves men of God. They are making rules to preserve our children against themselves.What a time we live in. I would like to wish all survivors of abuse and their families peace and comfort in their hearts for the future. My thoughts and support is with you all. I cry for the hurt endured by all vulnerable children of the world.
|SCEPTIC Posted: 04/12/2009 18:30|
Is the Roman Catholic Christian? Is the Roman Catholic Church, in reality, the Church of God? Her history from antiquity says She is not! And recent history: Exposed in the various reports of rape, sexual molestation, physical and psychological abuse/torure make up sum of that recent history - and they include, the crimes covered up, the criminals protected, the victims ignored, the coporate church protected, lies told under the guise of the false concept of " mental reservation " exploited, the financial reserves of the church ring fenced, the denial of compensation to the victims promoted and godly justice denied. If any other religious group in modern times had been guilty of such crimes they would have been accused of being satanic. The Roman Catholic Church is not the Church of God because Her actions are not OF God, but rather - the actions being nothing less than satanic - they are OF Satan. Even the title which She has been given by Her daughter churches is more appropriate and that title is the Church OF Rome. Is there any person who can describe the failure of the bishops in terms other than them being satanic? As for the " good " priests, brothers and nuns who are part of the Roman Catholic Church - why did they stay silent? Why did they fail to take action? Certainly some of them may say they didn't know. But many - very, very many - suspected and did what? NOTHING! Silence gives consent!
|publicrealm Posted: 04/12/2009 22:21|
I think the 'ruling elite' and the greasy till are certainly connected - but I', afraid that the medical profession is in no position to lecture on this.
Obviously the scandal of child abuse is inexcusable and reprehensible - but I cannot see that removing medical sisters from running hospitals would help (They would appear to be amongst the cleanest hospitals in my limited experience).
As for the example of the church "scuppering the mother and child scheme" - I always thought it was the IMA who did that (in order to protect their undeclared income - albeit in cahoots with the church and vice versa).
I have no particular argument with your attack on the church's failings - but the greasy till analogy is probably not the most appropriate (in my view), particularly when coupled with the medical issue, as medics are the undisputed masters of the greasy till.
|Peter 47 Posted: 05/12/2009 01:52|
We've done the poll,,,
we have the report,,
we know that the result of the report will not make any difference !
When we understand that, we are getting what we asked for ???
The Ryan report will be set aside, and left to gather dust,,, and time will roll on until the next exposure of child molestation, and on , and on,,,
Change does not just happen,, it needs to be made to happen,,, but who have we to make it happen ???
The Government ? NO
The Courts ?? NO
The Religious ??? NO
The people ??? Who US,,, what say have WE ???
It is easy to complain, no one is listening, we have NO VOICE,,,
Is anyone listening ??? We have grown to let others make the rules, and make the laws, and meet out the punishment !!!
Well in this case the punishment SHOULD fit the crime.
How do we make sure that the penalties are allocated to those who are guilty ???
No doubt our elcted leaders will find a suitable excuse to cover up the sins of the "Fathers"
All it takes for evil to prevail, is for good men to do nothing
|Marsy Posted: 05/12/2009 15:30|
I think at last they may be on the run, off to Rome soon go Brady and Martin to see the Pope. Wonder what they will come up with now as an excuse??
Get them out of our schools, lives, politics etc., Sell the seminaries, convents, churchs etc., the country could do with the money.
Anyone who wants to believe in God can chat to him or pray to him anywhere they wish, he is everywhere remember? We don't need big buildings with paedophiles strutting around in ornate clothing to help us talk to God.
|scratchy Posted: 07/12/2009 09:12|
As a northern (sort of) protestant i'm saddened first of all by the situation that has given rise to the debate, but equally saddened by the response to it. In my view this is not just an issue for the church or leaders of the state but for each and ever individual member of the populance.
There were few, if any, who did not know that the kind of things that have been brought into the light of day by the report hadn't and weren't continuing to happen. But individually and collectively most failed to take responsibility and do something about it. maybe the challenge was just too uncomfortable.
In the North we have at least started to confront these sorts of issues. It has not been easy and its not over by a long way yet. I'm sorry to say that I think the south is only starting to understand that they have the same issues we had but in a different form.
I doubt you will find the moral leadership to do what needs to be done. I doubt you will find this amongst the current crop.
|Terry Posted: 10/12/2009 16:32|
If I was to harbour a paedophile and willingly help him to leave the community, I have committed a crime against children and must face the full rigours of the law and go to jail. Why are citizens of this country above the law, why are they not in jail?
When the constitution was being written is it true that it was sent to Rome by DeValera before it was approved by the people of this land?
Finally, the present pope was in charge of all allegations of child abuse worldwide as cardinal ratzinger when this scandal broke and it was his determination that the perverts must be protected, is this true?
Church and State must separate.
|Anonymous Posted: 11/12/2009 08:23|
True for you Terry and many people of that era would tell you that is wasn't DeValera who wrote the constiutution but John Charles McQuaid.
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