The Courage of the Godly

Ophelia Benson draws on her considerable reserves of scorn to mock the new Archbishop of Westminster’s piously self-pitying statement that it took ‘courage’ for clergy involved in child abuse to confront their actions.

The vanity of it, the self-love and self-absorption, the misdirection, the narcissism, the callousness – it’s just staggering. Courage! Courage forsooth! What courage?! The subject here is six decades of gross abuse and exploitation of generation after generation of children by adult nuns and priests; what does that have to do with courage?! It doesn’t take courage for a grown-up well-fed strong adult to bully and starve and torture and shame a child. On the contrary, as we all know, or ought to, large strong people tormenting smaller weaker people is the very opposite of courage. The Catholic church condoned and concealed this kind of behavior for decade after decade after decade – it is much too late for it to talk about its own courage no

Oliver Kamm notes that the outgoing Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor left us with the parting shot that the “lack of faith is the greatest of evils.

I don’t believe in God; but I’ve never raped children. If my lack of faith is the greatest of evils, what words do you have left, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, to describe the priest who gained sexual gratification from attacking altar boys, who raped a boy in a wheelchair, and whom you allowed to work as a chaplain though you knew of his proclivities?

I’ll offer you this long statement from Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society on the continuing cover-up. (To declare an interest the NSS is the only political organisation I belong to.) I would have written about it in the Observer, but I am on anti-fascist duty this weekend. It’s worth reading in full.

Child abuse in Ireland – Vatican unrepentant and still covering up worldwide

The Vatican
The report on the child abuse scandal in Ireland lifts only one corner of a blanket cover-up that reaches up to the highest level in the Vatican, says the National Secular Society (NSS).

Speaking after the publication of the report of decades of almost unbelievable abuse in Catholic-run institutions in Ireland, Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society said the report “shone a spotlight on an attitude of systemic secrecy and callousness towards child abuse that has been endemic in the Catholic Church for centuries and remains even today ”.
Mr Porteous Wood said that “Pope Benedict, as Cardinal Ratzinger, wrote as recently as 2001 to bishops clearly stating that a 1962 instruction called Crimen Sollicitationis was still in force. This document instructs bishops who are dealing with accusations of sexual abuse to observe strict secrecy and threatens those who speak out with excommunication. It states that the instructions are to ‘be diligently stored in the secret archives of the Curia [Vatican] as strictly confidential. Nor is it to be published nor added to with any commentaries.’ This may be why (now Cardinal) Murphy O’Connor failed to report abusive priest Michael Hill to the authorities.”
The document was in force for the twenty years after Cardinal Ratzinger was appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It was uncovered only because the Texan lawyer Daniel Shea came across it during research on child abuse in Catholic institutions .
Keith Porteous Wood added: “The Holy See is making a mockery of its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. As the Vatican is the depository for this mass of incriminating information hoarded in obsessive secrecy, it certainly has a case to answer about its adherence to Article 34(b) (“take all appropriate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent … The exploitative use of children in … unlawful sexual practices.”). It has also failed to produce three consecutive five yearly reports (1997, 2002 and 2007) required by the Article 44 of the Convention. They can hardly plead a nil return.
“As a direct result of the undeserved deference shown to the Holy See, no influential body, including the UN, has, as far as we are aware, had the courage to call the Holy See to account.
The National Secular Society calls on signatories to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as national and international bodies charged with care for children to join in a demand for these apparent contraventions of the Convention by the Holy See to be highlighted, investigated and rectified.
“Perhaps the crowning injustice for Ireland is that the Church and politicians working to further its cause rather than serve the Irish people have managed through disingenuous means to saddle the Irish exchequer with paying well over a billion Euros towards the victims’ compensation – while the body responsible, the Church, is contributing less than a tenth of the payments , and serious doubts have been raised as to whether in reality the Church has contributed even as little as that .
In view of the severe nature of Ireland’s current financial crisis, the National Secular Society calls on
(i) the fabulously wealthy Catholic Church to assume financial responsibility for all, or at least a much higher proportion, of the abuse compensation to victims and
(ii) for the Irish Government to publish exactly what the Church has paid as its share towards victim compensation and where this includes payments in kind, independent valuations of these assets.
England and Wales
“Nor is there room for complacency in England and Wales. The Nolan Commission on child protection reported in 2001, and it called for a review in five years time.
Cardinal Murphy O’Connor, the recently retired Archbishop of Westminster, was the one who asked, and presumably selected, Baroness Cumberlege as Chair of the review progress by the Catholic Church in the protection of children and vulnerable adults. Confidence in the Commission might have been greater if the appointment had been made by someone demonstrably independent and without any vested interest in the outcome. Some concern about what seems to be the review’s powerlessness can be judged from the tone of her report’s concluding comment on implementation: ‘It is, of course, entirely a matter for the Conference of Bishops and Conference of Religious whether they accept the recommendations and findings of this report and, if they do, how they will chose to implement them.’ While there is a positive Church response posted on the Cumberlege Commission’s website to the earlier Nolan recommendations: “We now commit ourselves to implementing the Final report”, there is significantly no response posted on the Commission’s website as to the Church’s response to the later Cumberlege recommendations. And, unfortunately, Lord Nolan concluded only that ‘These [Nolan’s] recommendations should be reviewed after five years.’ rather than ‘These recommendations should be reviewed every five years.’”
The National Secular Society calls on the Catholic Church to post a response to the Cumberlege recommendations on the Commission’s website and to commit to a recurring five-yearly independent review

29 thoughts on “The Courage of the Godly

  1. Come on Nick, you could just about accept yours and their interpretation if you were determined to see the quotes through the most jaundiced of eyes, but it is true that you have to have courage to face up to your shame rather than scuttle away into the shadows. How many of our MP’s caught red-handed have shown any such courage? How many criminals?

    Especially since this call for courage was said in the context of them needing to stand up and acknowledge the terrible wrongs for which they were responsible.

    It’s always best to give your enemies the benefit of the doubt; it stops you sounding unreasonable.

  2. Ophelia is (funnily enough) a bit hysterical. The worse the crimes, the more courage it takes to face them. What’s more doubtful is whether the meddling monks and nasty nuns would be so bravely facing up to their crimes if they weren’t being forced to.

    But jeez, the Archbish has got to say something, hasn’t he? I don’t suppose there’s anything he could have said that wouldn’t have sent Ophelia and the rest of the Agnostic Bus crew into a righteous anti-Papist rant.

  3. It could also be added that he wasn’t talking about the courage of the perpetrators, but of the members of their orders who are going to have to take the rap for what their predecessors did and allowed, no matter what good the current members have done.

    Still you seem to have links to the entire membership of the NSS on this post, so it is unsurprising that the spin is what the spin is.

    And let’s not even get onto the subject of the Irish, Nationalism and the poisonous little mix that that prize shit de Valera made of them and whose ill effects have had all to obvious an effect on the Irish Catholic church: “Forget the theology lads. It’ll provide a living for the sons who won’t inherit the farm and haven’t emigrated to America, and the daughters who can’t find a husband. Whether they have any desire to join up or not, or are seriously unbalanced, won’t bother us at all.”.

  4. Regardless of anyone’s faith or lack thereof, what occurred is organised child abuse. Do we give a moment’s pity to the child abusers sat in secure wings of prison? Do we try and justify their ‘courage’? Of course not, then why should we tolerate this clap-trap? And of the sympathy for those members of the organization who did not abuse children but whose reputation is nevertheless tarnished. Simple answer: leave the church!

    The irony of the above and of the apologist comments here is that it demonstrates too many people will accept lower moral standards of religious organizations than those of secular ones.

  5. “it is true that you have to have courage to face up to your shame rather than scuttle away into the shadows.”

    Well yes, so you do, but then they didn’t face up to their shame until they were forced to, did they, so where does the courage come into it? They’re busted, so they’re courageous because they’re busted?

  6. Mr.Cohen, I already once had to take you up on your ridiculous anti-Catholicism. It smells no better now just because you are not the only one to lie and misrepresent what Archbishop Nichols actually said; in fact, it makes it worse. I come here to read independent thinking, not mob rages. I feel pretty sure that you did not even listen to his actual interview on ITV; you are drawing your opinions from the bullshit of the National Secular Society (a body that used to advocate child sex) and from Grauniad columnists whose view of Islam you would immediately and rightly discard. Oh, why don’t I quote the interview myself if it was so different from what you say? Because, my dear sir, you are a journalist. I should not be doing your work for you.

  7. Ophelia Benson: you have not listened to or read the interview either. That is obvious. So don’t think you are being clever in ascribing things to it that are not found there.

  8. UK ex pat: since you are obviously in thrall to the stuff being peddled here, I will tell you that Archbishop Nichols said the precise opposite of what you think. He said: “It is a scandal, and I am glad that it is a scandal. The Church ought to be held to higher standards than the outside world.” Any time one of its members are caught doing wrong, that is more wrong than if it was – say – some heedless journalist slandering someone for money. Better is expected from the Church. That is what Archbishop Nichols said and meant. You do not know it, and you did not bother trying to find out.

  9. The archbishop said “I think of those in religious orders and some of the clergy in Dublin who have to face these facts from their past which instinctively and quite naturally they’d rather not look at. That takes courage, and also we shouldn’t forget that this account today will also overshadow all of the good that they also did.”

    Nobody is claiming that’s all he said, obviously, but he did say that, and that is what many people are objecting to, the Catholic archbishop of Dublin being one of them.

    But do by all means go on defending the Catholic church, thus demonstrating what it is that loyal Catholics will stoop to defending.

  10. The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin is one of those prelates who, in defiance of the Gospel, are as prudent as doves and as innocent as snakes. In other words, he is both foolish and cowardly. He, like you, has read the newspaper articles and believed them. Did your mummy and daddy never teach you not to believe everything you read in the newspapers? As for the mob of bishops in Ireland, they are the last gasp of an exhausted and disastrous dispensation; men promoted faute de mieux, in the absence of truly outstanding and valid candidates, by an establishment that knew only how to manage decline. I have no respect for any of them, and I think the Irish Church is overdue a change. The paedophile scandal, bad though it is, is only a part of what was bad about the Irish Church during much of the twentieth century; stuff such that I had an Irish friend who would literally shudder if I mentioned the Church without warning. And it spread to America: the great cartoonist Jim Starlin – another furious hater of the Church – remembers his childhood school as “crazed nuns putting us through the most brain twisting experiences of my life” (and he fought in Vietnam later) “telling us things like President Kennedy was a Communist and that it was great that we had a class system in America because otherwise we would be just like Russia”. Indeed, to any one of us who really had got the whiff of Irish Catholicism in its worst aspects (and to be fair, I also know Irish Catholics who had terrific teachers and parish priests and lovely childhoods) all this fuss has almost, alas, a feeling of “so what else is new?” Sadly, we knew it all before. But that is no excuse for misrepresenting Archbishop Nichols – a procedure that smacks of opportunism and prejudice.

  11. Mr Barbieri,

    My point, which I could make whether I had read Nichols or not, is that if a secular institution, for example a government department had behaved in the way the Catholic church has it would have been disbanded and its leaders brought to justice. This has not happened in the case of the church. In fact the leaders that played the largest parts in protecting the institution and not the innocent have cheerfully risen up the ranks.

    So again, we as a society hold religious institutions to lower moral standards than we do secular ones. This has nothing to do with where the rot started within the church; it has everything to do with how the entire organization dealt with it. Nichols made his statement the best part of a decade after the scandal broke, so pardon me for not taking his words too seriously.

    And sir, you have the gall to accuse Ms Benson of believing everything she reads in the newspaper?

    I will assume there’s at least one book for which you do believe everything you read.

  12. “Did your mummy and daddy never teach you not to believe everything you read in the newspapers?”

    Quite. Let’s not go believing any old nonsense that’s printed. We’ve seen what that can lead to….

    And, by the way, Recusant, do you really feel as put upon as your nom de web implies? Lord Lieutenant been after you, has he?

  13. My ‘daddy’ was unable to teach me anything, because he died two months before I was born.

    What excuse do you have for asserting that I have misrepresented Archbishop Nichols? Has no one (I’m not impertinent enough to comment on your parents) ever taught you that it’s a no-no to accuse people of lying on the basis of nothing?

  14. “I think of those in religious orders and some of the clergy in Dublin who have to face these facts from their past which instinctively and quite naturally they’d rather not look at. That takes courage, and also we shouldn’t forget that this account today will also overshadow all of the good that they also did.”

    What good?
    It’s a pity they didn’t have the courage to think abput what which instinctively and quite naturally they wanted to do before they instinctively and quite naturally did it.

  15. Anti-catholic, Barbieri? Of course, we’re anti-catholic! What decent person could not be opposed to the organisation that covered up and condoned, for decade after decade the rape, torture and enslavement of the weakest members of Irish society?

    And the scandal goes well beyond Ireland, as events in various US dioceses show. The conclusion is inescapable – in several countries the Roman Catholic Church knowingly concealed appalling crimes, and protected the criminals.

    Let us imagine that a secular organisation had done the same, that its members and officials had sexually abused children for more than half a century. What, Barbieri, do you think would happen to such an organsation once its crimes were uncovered?

    Do you think the state would ride to its rescue and say “OK chaps, you only have to pay 10 per cent of the compensation, and the taxpayer will fork out the rest?”.

    Do you think that secular abusers, living or dead, would be granted cosy anonymity?

    In fact, you know perfectly well that such an organisation would be proscribed, its assets seized, and all its senior figures arrested.

    Why should the same not happen to the Irish Catholic Church?

  16. I’ve followed this comment thread with increasing incredulity.

    The main argument against Nick appears to be: ‘Okay, okay, some children got raped, but what about the poor old bishops?’

    As Ophelia says, it is an instructive demonstration of how low an apologist for faith can go,

  17. “It’s very distressing and very disturbing and my heart goes out today first of all to those people who will find that their stories are now told in public… Secondly, I think of those in religious orders and some of the clergy in Dublin who have to face these facts from their past which instinctively and quite naturally they’d rather not look at.”

    “That takes courage, and also we shouldn’t forget that this account today will also overshadow all of the good that they also did.”

    Dr Nichols, When asked if those who perpetrated violence and abuse should be held to account, he said: “Yes they should, no matter how long ago it happened.

    It’s unbelievable, isn’t it.
    Of what he says, I’m glad he thinks the police should take action against those who do that sort of thing to children.
    But I can not see how there can be a defence for the comments he said.
    Of the few things acceptable for reading here I’d say you’d either have to be highly paid in that organisation or you don’t have children of your own, to go to his aide on those words.
    If Nicols had raped children of his own, would he think of the good their rapists might also have done alongside what they had done to his little girl or boy?

  18. I forgot to add: not that someone would need to have children of their own to weigh up how insane some of his comments are.

  19. What some of you do not seem to know is that child abuse is more widespread in American state schools (where some statistics say that as many as eight per cent of children have been sexually abused by teachers or staff) than in Catholic schools. That is a fact. It is also a fact that all that was done in Catholic schools in Ireland was commissioned, tolerated and covered up for by the State. Why then don’t those among you who call for the destruction of the Catholic Church also demand the dissolution of the Irish Republic and of the American Department for Education? Because you are in bad faith. Because you are seizing on a scandal that is by no means exclusive to the Church, to feed your ancient and irrational hatred. Because the Church is an easier target than a government, let alone the Federal Government of the USA. Even in this country the case is the same. Channel 4, to give them credit, have investigated abuser rings in the state child protection services for decades, but none of you would demand that the British child protection services be dissolved – let alone the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. That is what you are asking for the Catholic Church. I am not asking you to think about it, because you are evidently unable to think where the Church is concerned, but I do want to put down in black and white why your self-righteous blather does not exactly fill me with shame.

  20. I hope the next posting from Fabio Barbieri includes an apology for Ophelia Benson. I’d like to think if the exchange had been in person, having been told what she has written, he would then have quickly apologised while she stood in front of him. I see little difference because on here the words have no sound that it should not be given.

  21. Barbieri seems not to have realised that the Roman Catholic Church claims to be the authentic, sole, infallible voice of God on the planet – as far as I am aware, this is not a claim made by the American Department of Education.

    Furthermore, the horrors visited on children in Ireland are only the latest in a history of malevolence.

    Indeed, the crimes committed in Ireland seem almost petty compared with the centuries of the inquisition, the centuries of church approved torture and executions of “witches” and “heretics”, or the centuries of papal sanctioned anti-semitism, which paved the way for the Holocaust.

    If you want to see the roots of Nazism try the papal bull “Cum nimis absurdum” written by one of the more loathsome Renaissance popes, Paul IV, which created the modern concept of the ghetto.

    No doubt Barbieri thinks this is all “irrational”, because he believes that the unpleasant facts of history can be swept under a divine carpet.

  22. Paul Fauvet’s silly screed, with his complete ignorance of any real history, is evidence of what we are really talking about here. And it is not a crime ring in Ireland fifty years ago, however odious. It is the politics of hatred, ignorance and persecution right here, right now, with people who seriously believe that indulging their pitifully ignorant loathing of Catholics is not only just but virtuous, and therefore seriously contemplate the destruction of the Church. Mr.Fauvet is waiting for the Gulag.

    As for apologizing to anyone here… do be serious, just this once.

  23. It is all a terible thing when an unjust is shielded by the business in question, and the guilty party is left unjudged by their own to carry on preaching their words not to do what they have done under a falsehood.

    If cruelty is a basis for a religion then god help them,

    My mother was sent to a convant during the last war and brought up by the sisters of mercy, as a six year old child she once asked a plain and honest question about the good book, where she was swiftly lifted and dragged outside and made to kneel on her bare knees on sharp gravel until she bled profusly, this is the kind of lenity they showed to her, I dare not repete what some of the other pupils saw, their own followers new born left upon the steps comes to mind.

    Our children are our future and should not be exposed to any religion until they have at least read some of the bible for themselves, or are at an age where they can understand what the good book is saying without any in or outside influence.

    A perfect example of this is from my own experiences, when mother came to pick us up from what she thought was a sunday youth club, where we were told stories from the good book and were then asked questions afterwards, if you got the question right they threw you a sweetie, she caught them in the act and the roof lifted, we never went back there by the way, and got sore ears on the way home for not telling her the sweeties were awfully god.

    Any church does not follow the book as it was written and have changed certain parts of it to suit their own ways, is it right and just to sin every day of the week and then forgiven for those sins on a sunday, this is why those guilty parties have been undiscovered for so long, their own rules contradict what they are doing and saying.

    One of the biggest crimes of late was the total and systamatical destruction by the Romans at the library of Alexander, who knows what they found there which was so important to their cause to make them destroy everything, just like the good book says we will never know will we.

  24. I forgot to say the convant was in Venice Italy and on what another writer has nentioned about the number of children abused in the schools in the US compared to Ireland,

    it doesn’t matter how big the counrty is or how many children live in those countries, it is still the same kind of abuse, and should be punished accordingly, the church failed those parents and the victims in the first place, so we now need to wake up and deal with it in the propper way, you sometimes have to be cruel to be kind.

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