“I will never directly or indirectly, by gesture, word, writing or in any other way, and under any pretext, even that of a greater good or of a highly urgent and serious reason, do anything against this fidelity to secrecy, unless special permission is expressly granted to me by the Supreme Pontiff. ” (My emphasis)
This oath is as evil as it is criminal – a clear incitement to break the law. How many people worldwide have been subjected to it and for what reasons? How many, if any, have been granted ‘permission’ by any Pope to break the oath? Why are we not talking about prosecutions rather than voluntary resignations? How can a shred of credibility attach to an organisation that would gag children – or anyone – from telling the truth like this?
A few months ago, the country was convulsed with outrage when supporters of a man convicted of rape paraded past his victim in a courtroom to shake him by the hand. Contrast and compare. The Irish Times reports today how Cardinal Brady was received warmly by the congregation in Armagh yesterday. He is pictured having his hand shaken by smiling churchgoers who had broken out in applause for him during the service. One of them insists that ‘he did nothing wrong’. What can the victims of Brendan Smyth possibly be feeling on seeing this demonstration of support for a man who concealed appalling crimes against children and helped make it possible for him to comit those crimes repeatedly on other innocents?
Our collective psychology is clearly seriously damaged – like a nation of battered housewives we are unable to leave our abusers or to call their crimes by their real names, let alone bring them to justice. We feel embarrassed by their guilt and the more powerful the person involved the more we abandon any sense of perspective about what is actually at issue: men and women who are comitting atrocious crimes. Again, like battered housewives we endlessly forgive them and go back for more.
This has nothing to do with ‘revenge’ as one misguided member of a prayer group in County Meath alleges. It’s about doing what needs to be done in order make things safe for children. Part of that process is to begin to accept the full enormity of it all and to stop being blinded by the pomp and circumstances of church authority. Even now amid all the hue and cry, instead of issuing warrants of arrest we are waiting deferentially for a letter from the Pope to reassure us that all is well. Politicians mutter useless, ineffectual platitudes. The gardai are doing nothing. Unless that letter contains news of the immediate shutting down of all Catholic church operations until a world wide, independent criminal investigation has been conducted then the letter will be of no more consequence than a pat on the head. Eager to be condscended to, people will flock to mass on Sunday to hear what the pope has to say like children looking for sweeties of comfort. If the letter is inadequate, there will be complaints about it from a few commentators in the media for a few days and then it will drift away again. Is there any possibility at all that this issue might be a catalyst for bringing about a greater sense of assertiveness and willingness to demand (not plead for) accountability of authority?