PATSY MCGARRY. Church response to modern abuse scandals ‘same as 30 years ago.’

Marie Collins claims lessons of abuse in Ireland not being used to change policy elsewhere ‘The church reaction is a mirror image of what we were hearing here in Ireland 30 years ago.’  

As the scandal of clerical child sex abuse emerges in other countries across the world the Catholic Church response in each has been exactly as it was in Ireland decades ago, Dublin abuse survivor Marie Collins has said.

“The church reaction is a mirror image of what we were hearing here in Ireland 30 years ago. I spoke recently with someone from Poland where the crisis is just now breaking. There the bishops are saying it is ‘enemies of the church’ who are behind it. It is an aggressive ‘media with an anti-church agenda’, all very familiar and an absolutely disgraceful attitude in 2019,” she said.

“The experience from those countries where the abuse crisis has been faced is not being used to bring universal policies into place for the countries where it has yet to occur,” she said.

“The sleeping mandarins in leadership in our church seem to feel if they turn a blind eye it will stay hidden and they will not have to deal with it. While they look away children are being hurt,” she said.

Ms Collins is a former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors set up by Pope Francis.

She was speaking at a meeting of the liberal We Are Church Ireland group in Dublin on Monday. She also warned against complacency gaining ground in Ireland in relation to abuse.

While it was true better safeguarding had been put in place by church and State in Ireland “this only came about because of the outrage among the people and the pressure due to horrific revelations of abuse and its deliberate cover up by the institution,” she said.

In Ireland and other countries where the issue was being addressed “we see the church reacting with improved processes because they have had to be seen to be doing something,” but there was “still a long way to go and we need to realise this,” she said. In those countries where the abuse issue was being addressed “the church has not acted proactively only reactively,” she said.

Last August, when she met Pope Francis in Dublin, she asked him why he allowed a tribunal he supported, and which would have held bishops to account on the abuse issue, to be dropped by the Roman Curia.

He said “bishops could not all be held to the same standard. Allowances had to be made for their cultural difference and their different understandings. This meant, he said, that they needed to be judged in their own area not centrally in the Vatican. ”She “challenged him on this saying the church should have a standard of safeguarding to which every leader must be held. Children should be as well protected in the church in Africa or India as in America or Ireland. Canon law is universal – Catholic doctrine is universal – safeguarding should be universal.”It was her view “that if there are things acceptable in local culture that would not be acceptable in other areas of the world then it is up to the church to raise the standard and educate, not to lower their standards”.

While “we must respect people’s culture we must also respect the rights of the child,” she said, The Holy See has signed the UN declaration on the Rights of the Child – it is about time they recognised its provision universally and not see it as only referring to the tiny Vatican City, ” she said.

As to next month’s meeting of Catholic primates in Rome to discuss the abuse issue, she feared that at its conclusion “we will be assured that things are moving forward and there will be promises for the future. But we will see little in the way of on-paper concrete committed action plans.”

Patsy McGarry’s article was originally published in The Irish Times, Mon, Jan 14, 2019.


John Laurence Menadue is the publisher of Pearls & Irritations. He has had a distinguished career both in the private sector and in the Public Service.

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4 Responses to PATSY MCGARRY. Church response to modern abuse scandals ‘same as 30 years ago.’

  1. Avatar Trish Martin says:

    When Christ gave his precepts to St. Peter the Universal Catholic Church was launched. His imperative was and is to uphold the life of God on earth by following the commandment to teach all nations and cultures to respect children and recognise the dignity that is theirs by divine decree (Matt 18).
    In times past, cultures looked to the Church for wisdom and leadership, why has it gone so badly wrong?

  2. Avatar Joan Seymour says:

    Yes, well, it is important that we respect the cultures of other nations. For example, Indian Religious women have taken extraordinary risks to speak the truth about their sexual use and abuse by priests and even bishops. But abuse of women is rife in the Indian cultures generally, so who is the Pope to judge it to be intolerable in the Indian church? Perhaps that’s why it’s getting so little coverage in the Western media. It’s not our business. Please excuse the heavy-handed sarcasm. Seriously, doesn’t the Body of Christ transcend the limited human cultures of the nations?

  3. Avatar Peter Johnstone says:

    The focus in this article on the need for safeguarding children is very important but we must constantly recognise and press that clerical child sexual abuse was but a terrible symptom of the wider dysfunctionality of the institutional Church. Marie Collins mentioned in the same talk that wider dysfunctionality “in all other areas” of the Church, particularly the toxic culture of clericalism being “embedded in its fabric”, and “those in leadership often chosen because of their titles or contacts rather than their skills or expertise.” Marie Collins concluded her address stating: “The laity have to keep speaking out strongly for the changes and not be diverted – the obvious need for the involvement of the laity including women at every level must happen if the church is to be brought into the 21st century with its people . . . persistence and patience is what is needed, there are no quick fixes but no change will come unless we work for it the only alternative is to walk away and that is not the answer.”. It is a sad comment on the Catholic Plenary Council called by Australian bishops for 2020/21 that very few of those bishops are directly consulting the people of their own dioceses on the needs of the Church. Catholics need to submit their concerns through submissions to the Council speaking strongly about the need for substantial reforms –

  4. Avatar Mary Tehan says:

    Devolving power to local bishops … bishops who “could not all be held to the same standard, [and for whom] allowances had to be made for their cultural difference and their different understandings” … is an abdication of responsibility of glaring proportions. How can any roman catholic trust an institution that claims a vocational charism yet abdicates its responsibilities from communities of all our innocent & abused children? If bishops don’t understand the full weight of their responsibilities, why are they in these positions at all? It’s children who are still learning about/are at risk of “cultural difference” and “different understandings” from within their adult world. What shocking ignorance – healthy parenting would condemn such modelling of this slippery sexual abuse slope. Remember …

    (Matthew 18:1–10)
    At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
    And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
    And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become
    as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
    Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
    And who so shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
    But who so shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
    Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
    Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.
    And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
    Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.

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