Living in Boston when news of the Catholic abuse scandals was on every day, one wonders how news of Ireland’s Murphy Commission Report could make it sound worse.
Here’s how: Not only did the Archdiocese of Dublin continually cover up reports of abuse, but Irish police and prosecutors were also complicit in those actions.
Fortunately, Ireland's government and national police force are already responding to these reports, promising swift action. And from the news reports I'm hearing and reading, it sounds like Irish voters will not soon forget those promises by the time elections roll around again.
Unfortunately, I’m sure we’ll also see so-called “Catholic loyalists” complaining that media reports of this are signs of “anti-Catholic bigotry” by the secular media. Yes, they will say, sexual abuse of children is horrible, but why single out the Catholic church?
First: Yes, other groups have sexual predators in their midst. Even my own Unitarian Universalist Association has seen such cases. But the question is how such institutions respond to reports and evidence of such abuse. Do you cover it up, or find the truth? Do you shuffle the abusers around, or remove them permanently? Do you try to silence the victims, or help them to heal? And, most important, do you merely hope that it doesn’t happen again, or take respond with proactive measures to protect those under your care?
Second: Yes, other groups have done atrocious jobs of handling sexual abuse allegations. Two which I can think of are the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Boy Scouts. But when this happens with an institution as large and influential as the Roman Catholic Church, how can you expect the media to cover it any differently? It’s like having two companies going under due to fraudulent practices – a local business worth a hundred thousand dollars, and an international powerhouse with political connections worth a hundred billion – and the bigger company complains that the media is paying too much attention to them.
This brings me to my final point, directed at those within the church who complain about the media: If you are truly loyal to the church – to all of its people, not just those at the top, and to its essential core values as expressed in the Gospels – then why don’t you hold your leaders accountable, just as Jesus did to the religious leaders of his day? Yes, they have called conferences and put forward documents outlining changes. But it would help if you joined those who keep at the bishops to make sure they follow through. So, instead of complaining about the media for holding the church hierarchy accountable, I suggest that you focus your energies on taking on that job yourself.