The Catholic Church has come in for enormous criticism over the Murphy Report in the Dublin Diocese where child abuse seems to have been particularly bad in Church dominated institutions. The situation in Waterford regarding abuse does not appear to have Dublin’s problems, according to a statement from Bishop William Lee. Nevertheless, the Church has been badly damaged as an Institution.
Its recovery will be difficult in the eyes of many as senior figures continue to defend those who were in charge but failed to do anything. These were senior clerical figures that went on to become bishops in other parts of Ireland mainly in the West, others went overseas. One of the acts of former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, who is promoting a book at present, was to give a government indemnification to the Church if claims for abuse rose above a certain figure.
This was demanded by church backed lawyers, who seem to have a large amount of influence in the whole debate. This was another major financial mistake by the ex-Taoiseach who seems, in hindsight, to have given away lots of concessions without thinking through the consequences very well.
It is probable that a major debate will take place about the Church role in education and the care of the young following all these revelations in the Murphy Report. Trust has been badly affected.
In Canada’s more Catholic provinces like Newfoundland, where there is a strong Irish connection and Quebec, which is more French, the Catholic Church was also very powerful.
It worked with the State in the provision of education in Church owned schools but, when there major sexual abuse allegations, public opinion sought a State takeover of education in what is termed the ‘Quiet Revolution’. Could the same happen here? That may be a future battleground. At present, the state is almost running all the schools anyway as clerical vocations have fallen. Boarding schools may come under more scrutiny where there has yet to be strong allegations of abuse from the past.
These are difficult times for the good priests that do a lot of great work in parishes. They must be dreadfully embarrassed at the Murphy report. Our own Bishop William Lee will be similarly abhorred at what has happened. He has offered prayers and sought forgiveness for what has happened. In a detailed statement, he says that there have been no convictions against Waterford based priests although some allegations have been made with some of these defeated in court.
The Bishop went back over 70 years in a review of the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore. The Bishop offered profound regrets and apologies for what has happened in a statement read out at Masses on Sunday. It seems that Waterford’s record does not compare as bad as other counties.