Cover Ups and Collusion: The Catholic Church
The Catholic Church’s fall from grace in recent years has been anything but low key. Revelations of clerical abuse and cover ups have shaken the church, and its congregation, to its very core. While the cases of Priests carrying out abuse on young members of their diocese is the most sickening aspect of these revelations, it is closely followed by how certain factions of the Catholic Church acted in covering up these incidents. As the world’s largest Christian faith, Catholicism is relied upon by over 1 billion people around the world, and for the most part, it offers genuine solace, reassurance, comfort and support to all its followers, playing a pivotal role in communities all over the world, not least here in Ireland. However, the actions of what are a small minority within the church have lead to worldwide scandals and disgrace.
While the actions of certain Priests have left many disgusted and disillusioned with the Roman Catholic faith, the way in which the church itself, at various levels, dealt with these crimes has gone a long way towards compounding the problem.
With a traditionally respected role in society, Priests were often seen as being outstanding members of their local community, commanding great respect and at times even fear from members of their congregation. It was often true that they were in positions of absolute power; a reflection of the church as a whole, powerful and highly respected. From the extent of elaborate churches in dioceses throughout the world, to the grandeur and excess of the Vatican, the Catholic Church exercised its power and central role in society in many ways. Yet, it is the feeling of power and the self-perception of being above the law that in my opinion has turned out to be the Catholic Church’s worst enemy.
It is now obvious that when instances of abuse had taken place within the church, the immediate concern was not to support the victims and hold those responsible to account, but to protect the reputation and image of the Catholic institution. Due to its position of influence and power, senior members of the Catholic Church somehow imagined it possible for these ongoing offences to simply be swept under the carpet, a solution that has now been proven to be temporary. With the Church no longer commanding the same respect that it once did, these revelations have done nothing at all to help its apparent decline it popularity, rather accelerating it.
For many years people have had the perception that the Roman Catholic Church sits on a high horse, abusing its supposed position of morality. Therefore many people were more than too happy to ‘knock it off its perch’, so to speak, when such harrowing truths were uncovered. For this reason, the public nature of these claims were a perfect chance for the Catholic Church to illustrate that it is not the self-righteous, power hungry machine that many critics believe it to be, but rather a religious organisation which practises what it preaches. Had senior members of the Church used this worldwide controversy to step to the fore, take control, and hold all those responsible for carrying out abuse to account, surely they as individuals, and the organisation as a whole, would have commanded much greater respect and commendation than they have as a result of the way in which the scandals have actually been addressed. This would have offered not only reassurance that the crimes and offences that took place were carried out by a minority and that they were actions that the Catholic Church completely condemns, but also strengthened the fact that the Catholic Church aspires to wholly serve the good of the people, as in many cases it does.
As the abuse scandals are riddled with cover ups and collusion rather than decisive internal action, various external reports have been commissioned in order to investigate the issues of child protection. The most recent of these reports in Ireland is the judicial inquiry known as the Cloyne Report, which found that Bishop John Magee falsely told both the government and the health service that the diocese in question was reporting all allegations of abuse to the relevant authorities. It is in instances such as this, where individuals are identified, that those who played any role in abuse or cover ups must be held to account. As a result of the publication of the Cloyne Report, Northern Ireland’s former Police Ombudsman Lady Nuala O’ Loan has called for an independent, island-wide investigation into clerical child abuse.
Should the structures be put in place for an investigation such as that requested by Lady O’ Loan, it is of the utmost importance that the Catholic Church is fully compliant with any investigations that take place. While the welfare and respect of the victims of abuse should be the driving force behind the Church’s willingness to comply, it surely must also accept the fact that full cooperation and transparency, regardless of who or what crimes it exposes, is the only way in which it can begin to regain some credibility. By covering up scandals in the past the Roman Catholic Church has allowed the positive contribution it makes to our world be well and truly overshadowed. It must be argued that the Church’s long road to recovery surely begins with decisive displays of indiscriminate action, actively displaying that it is less concerned with protecting its status and members of its internal hierarchy, and more concerned with protecting the rights of the people that have vested so much trust in its teachings.
Posted on July 21, 2011, in Devolved Government, General, Northern Ireland and tagged Catholic Church, Clerical Abuse, Devolved Government, Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Executive, Nuala O' Loan, Rome, The Vatican. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.