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 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