Judge Murphy and Sexual Abuse in Ireland. John Menadue

The Australian Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse commences its hearings in Melbourne on April 3. If the experience of the four enquiries in Ireland is any guide individuals and intuitions in Australia face ordeals.

Judge Murphy headed the ‘Commission of Investigation’ into sexual abuse in the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin. Her report was released in 2009. Only a few months earlier, the Ryan Report was released which dealt with abuse in industrial schools controlled by Roman Catholic religious institutions in Ireland.

Judge Murphy was recently in Australia and spoke at the University of Sydney Law School on her experiences in Ireland. Her speech can be found at http://sydney.edu.au/law/video/ (4 March 2013). Her presentation is disturbing but it is essential reading to understand what has happened in Ireland. She outlines many disturbing features-

  • The public outrage which followed her report and three others.
  • There was a tsunami of abuse
  • Ireland was ‘shaken to the core’.
  • There has been plummeting Catholic Church attendance.
  • Irish attitudes to such issues as contraception, divorce and abortion have changed beyond recognition.
  • The Catholic Church was more concerned to protect its reputation and assets than concern for the victims. The attitude of many in the Catholic Church was “don’t ask, don’t tell”
  • Boys were abused at a much greater rate than girls.
  • The Catholic Church was not ambushed as it suggested, as the Catholic Church took out insurance many years before in anticipation of the crisis becoming public and widespread.
  • The cover-ups by the Church were assisted by civil authorities.
  • Rome attempted to undermine the remedial actions which were finally undertaken by the Catholic Bishops.
  • The Irish enquiries went on for years.

Ronan Fanning, a history professor at University College, Dublin, wrote an op ed on 6 December 2009 titled ‘The age of our craven deference is finally over … there are still rare events that not only deserve but demand to be described as historic. The publication of the Murphy Report is one such event; a truly historic landmark in the sad and squalid story of church-state relations in independent Ireland”

All individuals and institutions need daily reform. The power brokers in the Catholic Church in Ireland badly failed the “lay faithful”

Judge Murphy’s lecture is a very sober and sobering account.

John Menadue

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