Holding the Church to account

the church gives answers

the church gives answers

More apologies.

More promises.

More obfuscation.

And more blindness…more ignoring the elephant in the room.

And guess what? Survivors of raping priests are once again left wondering what they did wrong to deserve more abuse from the Catholic Church. They could see through the wafer-thin reports produced this week reflecting the church’s own internal audit of how good they have become at guarding children from abuse.

And it is not just locally that survivors are left outraged by what they regard as simply another means of evading transparency and accountability with investigations carried out by the church-appointed National Board for Safeguarding Children.

Abuse survivors in America also reacted angrily. David Clohessy is a director of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) – a survivors group set up over 20 years ago which now has 10,000 members.

This is what he had to say about this week’s audit reports into child protection procedures in six dioseses which, on the one hand, ignore details of past failings and concentrate in a self-congratulatory way on how the church is managing child safety procedures now and in the future:

“No! Bishops did NOT make judgment errors in clergy child sexual abuse and cover up cases. These are smart, well-educated men surrounded by bevies of smart, well-educated advisors. They repeatedly made self-serving, callous decisions, not judgment errors.

That’s the problem when Catholic appointees allegedly investigate Catholic bishops – self-serving choices are depicted as well-intentioned “mistakes” and people are left with the impression that deliberate cover ups are simple mistakes. The results are inevitably skewed in favor of the church hierarchy and the truth is severely compromised.

“Kids will not be safer in the church if we can’t even accurately describe what’s going on….

“We are far from convinced that Irish bishops are “reforming.” It’s still crucial that truly independent, state-sponsored investigations into widespread clergy sex crimes and cover ups take place so that all those who committed and concealed this devastation – past and present – can be exposed.”

And there you have the elephant in the room; the church hierarchy and its apologetic bishops responsible for the cover-up of criminal acts by rapist priests.

Survivors no longer trust the church to ever give the whole truth about the way bishops protected rapist priests – for which they now apologize profusely in public and sometimes in private.

The bishops must be held accountable for allowing rapist priests to move to the next parish rather than into the arms of the law.

If they were headmasters of schools, or chairmen of companies that presided over such glaring failures to protect children in their care, these bishops would not get away with offering apologies…sincere or otherwise.

This evasion of their duty to the children meant that rapists were free to roam the island of Ireland – and even other countries such as America – to continue raping children and permanently damaging lives in the most destructive way.

It is no longer acceptable to babble up some lame apology and expect everyone to believe that you have told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Yes it is good that the Church is learning and has developed policies that should protect children.

But the facts are that survivors’ organisations – such as One-in-Four – do not accept as the entire truth the audit reports released this week in the diocese of Raphoe. They have called for a full public inquiry to establish the truth of what went on there.

The feeling is that the church can’t handle the truth if left to its own investigative devices. And here’s an example of why that is.

While the focus of the world was on the content of those internal audit reports earlier this week, there was another item of news.

Cardinal Sean Brady, the all-Ireland Primate of the Catholic Church and the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Armagh, finally settled a case moments before it went into the High Court in Dublin.

The undisclosed settlement was with one of the teenage boys abused by Fr Brendan Smyth and who was sworn to secrecy by the then Fr Sean Brady in 1975 when giving evidence at an internal church court.

Brendan Boland declined to reveal how much he received. He sued the Cardinal and Brendan Smyth’s religious order, the Norbertine Order, which was settled in 2005.

This is the latest in a line of court settlements forced upon the Cardinal relating to the rapist priest Fr Brendan Smyth who was protected from prosecution by the Catholic Church and Smyth’s religious order for almost 50 years.

Mr Boland gave a handwritten statement to reporters outside the Dublin court in which he said he was plagued by guilt when he learned that Fr Smyth was allowed to go on abusing children for years after he had made his statement about the evil priest to three priests including Fr Brady.

Brendan Smyth had abused Boland for two years – beginning in 1973 when he was just 12 years of age.

He said he first told a young priest about Fr Smyth and then he says he was ‘interrogated’ by three priests including Fr Brady without his father present. He was required to swear on oath that he would not talk about the interview with anyone but an authorised priest.

Mr Boland said he and his parents had been assured that Smyth would not be allowed to associate with young boys and girls and that there was be no recurrence of the abuse he had suffered.

Mr Boland also made a point of mentioning that Cardinal Brady – who has stated he did no wrong in getting Mr Boland to swear an oath of secrecy whilst failing to inform the police – had strenuously defended the case against him – until on the steps of the court, the very last minute, he said.

Mr Boland stated: “While the Cardinal has indicated he will meet me privately, I am most disappointed that he has refused, even through his lawyers in court, to publicly acknowledge and accept failings of the Church in its handling of the circumstances giving rise to this case and to apologise for them and give an assurance that they will not be repeated.”

Brendan Boland’s case tells you all you need to know about the good will, the openness and transparency of the Catholic Church and its spiritual leader in Ireland Cardinal Brady. They dragged the court proceedings involving Brendan Boland out for years and years…and then just before having to defend themselves in court they settle.

Christian attitude or what?

Until the Catholic Church changes its leaders for men of God who will not allow such intolerable behaviour on their watch…then it will have credibility problems.

Many survivors of abuse want Cardinal Brady to resign.

And they want their church to be open and transparent – not a closed and obstructive church that covers up its sins.

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