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After Cloyne ...

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William Crawley | 16:40 UK time, Saturday, 27 August 2011

Here's the RTE interview with Dr John Magee, the former Bishop of Cloyne. Not everyone thinks Dr Magee's belated apology to victims goes far enough to respond to the damning criticisms he faced in Judge Yvonne Murphy's report. Meanwhile, the Irish Catholic Church continues to count the financial cost of decades of mismanagement of abuse allegations. On tomorrow's Sunday Sequence, we'll look at that question with a Fine Gael TD who proposes a solution: he says the church should sell off its treasures to pay for the abuse crisis.


  • Comment number 1.

    If someone who served as private secretary to 3 popes can fail to act on numerous accusations of abuse one greatly fears for the safety of children in other dioceses as well. Magee says that he feels shame, that he did his very best and that he would meet with any victim if they so wish. It is the usual claptrap senior clerics trot out when they have been found out. Should he not be talking about the financial compensation that will be paid to victims instead? Money will not bring an abuse survivor happiness, but if the Church is made to pay decent compensation to abuse victims the Church will have a more concentrated approach to weeding out paedophile priests. Some abuse victims may take Magee up on his offer to meet, but I do not see how their simply meeting Magee will do anything to protect future generations of children from child molesting priests.

    The suggestion by the politician sounds like a very good one to me, but the Vatican is not known for its generosity!

  • Comment number 2.

    From Mark Simpson's BBC report of July 20th;

    "In the past, it used to be said that the typical prosperous Irish family had "a bull in the field and a son in the church". Not any more. There is a shortage of priests."

    This shortage has been manifest for 20 or 30 years, and is symptomatic of a precipitous - but not irreversible - decline in the faith of ordinary Irish people over the same period, following a pattern which can be seen in numerous other western countries. Ireland was not in the eye of the storm of the 'sexual revolution', but it was buffeted by gales of fashionable and corrupting opinion from certain quarters of the media, often based in other countries, which shall remain nameless. In Cloyne we can see that procedures were not followed correctly, but in the circumstances is it any surprise that priests should have been reluctant to haul their brother priests before the secular authorities? This may be construed as "excusing" the behaviour of abusing priests, and those who sought to "cover them up", but i'm going to say it anyway. Loneliness was never written into the job description when priests were ordained, and very often i don't think they were prepared for this aspect of the life which they embarked upon. Here is the crucial contrast with the experience of priests in communist Poland, where the people held firm to their faith in conscious defiance of a hated alien ideology, imposed by the old colonial power, Russia. In fact, i would argue that Ireland has been exposed to an alien ideology, but it was transmitted by the more subtle means of television and other media.

    Finally i think it should never be forgotten, that for all the talk of concern for the welfare of children, many of the same people who are most vociferous in this regard would be the first to set about the kind of savage onslaught against life in the womb which we've experienced in Britain since 1967.

  • Comment number 3.

    2- "I would argue that Ireland has been exposed to an alien ideology"
    Yes Rome. Since the Pope had already issued a Papal Bull in 1155 to invade Ireland- as a means of ensuring reform by bringing the Irish Church more directly under the control of the Holy See- the 2 stage Norman invasion of Ireland of 1169 & 1171 clearly put Ireland under the Influence of an alien authority

  • Comment number 4.

    "Meanwhile, the Irish Catholic Church continues to count the financial cost of decades of mismanagement of abuse allegations."

    It might be useful to point out here that the Irish taxpayer is paying as much for the abuse as the church. Half of the € billion+ bill is being paid by the tax payer. And the church is not even paying its 50% share, so that measures had to be taken to get at least some money out of them.


  • Comment number 5.


    "In Cloyne we can see that procedures were not followed correctly".

    Do you think the fact that Bishop Magee himself was found to have indulged in inappropriate behaviour with a young man compromised his position in dealing with allegations against priests?

  • Comment number 6.


    You want my considered view on that so-called "inappropriate behaviour"? He embraced and either kissed or made the sign of the Cross on the forehead of a 17 year-old who was considering the priesthood. At the time of the incident this young man deemed Bishop Magee's actions to be merely "paternal", but he reviewed them in light of a later report critical of the diocese. There is nothing there. It is the Church scandal equivalent of the headline "Woman drops spaghetti in supermarket".

  • Comment number 7.


    There are some marked differences between the Magee incident and your spaghetti example.

    When Magee gave the young man a tight and protracted embrace he asked him if it "felt good". When the victim next met Magee there were more tight and protracted embraces.

    When the woman dropped her spaghetti did she declare her love for it and remark that she had dreamed about it?


  • Comment number 8.


    From the report;

    "Fr Bermingham [to whom the young man reported the allegation] noted that the Bishop was shocked at the interpretation placed on his actions."

    Since this "interpretation" had been "placed" retrospectively on his actions (the young man himself had seen nothing untoward at the time) i will reiterate - there is nothing there. You obviously want to find something. Shall we subject your motives to closer scrutiny, based on your post nos. 49 and 92 from the August 18th Open Thread?

  • Comment number 9.


    That Magee displayed shock at the interpretation of his behaviour is of no relevance. He did it. Perhaps the reason that only two Canonical trials took place in the 30 year period covered by the Murphy Report (a period of widespread clerical sexual abuse) was that when confronted with allegations of abuse the priests' shock was considered proof of their innocence!

    The comments of mine that you refer to concern abortion in Northern Ireland. I would simply rather debate the issue at hand, but if you prefer please free to comment on my motives based on those two comments.

  • Comment number 10.

    Pretending Magee is an abuser is a distraction. His failures are in leadership and management - he passed the issue on to someone else and then pretended it was dealt with.

    Of course if victims had gone to the police in the first place we wouldn't be having these endless and fruitless debates.

    As for Depury Tom Barry - a total clown. Perhaps after he gets "the Church" but not Catholics to pay up he can get "the Government" but not taxpayers to pay for all the State fiascos. https://www.irishcentral.com/story/roots/the_american_in_ireland/the-irish-catholic-churchs-fund-raising-is-not-the-business-of-politicians-128456848.html

  • Comment number 11.

    Christopher McCamley: (1) He did more than pretend it was dealt with, if you believe the Murphy report. He mislead the commission. (2) It's a bit rich to blame victims for not going to the police initially when the religious culture encouraged people to deal with these issues within the church. (3) He didn't sound like a clown on my show today. He sounded like a concerned, committed Catholic. Perhaps we'll make more progress if we avoid name-calling?

  • Comment number 12.

    (1)"Pretend" was intended to cover his misleading the Commission.
    (2) We've been told endlessly we can't use "the culture" to defend past behaviour. We're talking about people reporting in the last ten years. It is reasonable to wonder why victims were still not going to the police after all the news about cover ups etc. I just cannot understand it.
    (3) Haven't heard your show yet. Read what he wrote and he sounded like a clown - perhaps he's less clown like in person. His idea that the Vatican should auction its art to pay for compensation in Ireland is clownish. Firstly it can't be done - under Lateran Agreements with Italy the Vatican can't flog off treasures that are regarded as part of the patrimony of Rome. But more importantly, this attempt by Kenny and Co. to pass the blame and responsibility for Irish behaviour to the Vatican is disgraceful. Clownish is the least I could say about.

  • Comment number 13.

    Christopher, I still can't understand why you appear to be more understanding of the Vatican's role in this crisis than you are of a victim's inability to go to the police. The latter is well explained by many psychological studies into sexual abuse; the former still needs explaining.

    On the Lateran treaties. Please point me to the provision that explicitly prevents the Vatican selling off any artworks or other valuable treasures.

    Here's the text:

  • Comment number 14.

    I can understand all this happening years ago, all the talk of culture and power of the Church etc (but I still think the understanding should work both ways - if you report something to somebody other than the police I don't think you can come back later and complain that the people you told didn't tell the police - the culture was deal with things internally - that's what people expected and which contributed to the the ongoing problems) but within the last ten years. No. Makes no sense.

    Repeating that Vatican is responsible doesn't make it true. The Irish State had no mandatory reporting legislation. It continually refused to introduce this. This would certainly be more important in contributing to non-reporting than a letter from a Cardinal pointing out that there was no mandatory reporting or that the procedures, if used incorrectly, would allow a priest to appeal to Rome against procedures used.

    On the issue of compensation in general - why is it only victims of Church abuse who are to get compensation?

    It's Italian legislation, some from early last century and some under Unesco, that prevent them leaving the country.

  • Comment number 15.

    So it's not the Lateran treaties, but other EARLY agreements? Which would be overwritten by the Lateran treaties, right? Can you link to the agreement or legislation you have in mind. If you are right, it's an important point I'd like to cover. But I'm not aware of other authorities accepting a ban on the sale of Vatican art. that would be quite a limitation on Vatican sovereignty. The UK government can sell its art any time it likes. Why not the Vatican?

  • Comment number 16.

    William, thanks for giving me this Sunday off.

  • Comment number 17.

    The comedienne Sarah Silverman (her sister is a rabbi) has thought of something similar in this 3 minute youtube video.


    I'm not sure if the youtube link will be automatically deleted or not, but if you google her and the word Vatican you will find it. The video lacks intellectual rigour, but she's clearly ahead of the curve!

  • Comment number 18.

    While this wonderful gathering of young people in Madrid shows what a happy, innocent, fun-lovin Vatican we have, the following shows what they are really up to when they are not partying in Spain.


  • Comment number 19.

    Sorry I couldn't get back to this yesterday - something more important came up (Spurs getting beaten by City and Donegal losing to Dublin, tempered by the delight of Arsenal losing 8-2). But no, I'm hardly an expert in Italian law so can't link to legislation. I'm told it's from Vatican's general acceptance of Italian legislation and the likely furore if they tried to sell the Pieta - but in terms of sovereignty I presume they could if they really wanted to. Yes the UK can sell its stuff legally but couldn't politically.
    But really, that's not the issue - the issue is that the Holy See is not responsible for paying compensation - legally or morally. I remember several years ago saying when people began demanding compo (not victims but other people) that everyone would support it till they realised they'd have to pay it. Wait for the outcry if the Church starts trying to sell churches to pay for it. Actually not a bad idea. I know many parishes with multiple churches they can't close because of local upset - we could start selling those.
    Dermot Keogh has piece in IT today https://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2011/0829/1224303143657.html

  • Comment number 20.

    After Cloyne ... comes the diocese of Raphoe in Donegal. Other paedophile ring also discussed and interview with a victim of sexual abuse.


  • Comment number 21.

    Interesting - the headline says "clergy" but only one priest is mentioned and the story is about a man abused by a lay man and how the police refused to listen to him. Totally believable, particularly the way he was treated worse because he was an orphan - that seems to have been prevalent behaviour in Donegal.

  • Comment number 22.

    It is reassuring that the measures soon to be put in place in Ireland to safeguard children will "apply regardless of any internal rules of any religious grouping" and that priests who fail to report paedophiles could find themselves behind bars.

    A concern I have, however, is whether or not a priest will be obliged to inform the police should a fellow priest, for example, confess to him that he is a child molester without specifying the victim(s)? Or, what if a child admits in the confessional to being a victim of sex abuse without specifying the perpetrator?

    The priest interviewed in this story says that "priests will be prepared to go to jail rather than break the seal". With an attitude like this it is little wonder that the scourge of paedophilia has flourished within the Catholic Church.


  • Comment number 23.

    @22. newlach:
    "The priest interviewed in this story says that "priests will be prepared to go to jail rather than break the seal".

    There have been worse threats than jail:



  • Comment number 24.


    as Ireland does not have the death penalty your examples are not really relevant unless of course you mean beatification is worse than prison.

  • Comment number 25.

    newlach and mccamleyc @20, 21;

    That article, "Donegal clergy abused children for decades", in which "only one priest is mentioned and the story is about a man abused by a lay man", isn't the only twisted headline in today's Guardian. We also have "Abortion could be set back 25 years, says GPs' chief". This relates to government plans to strip abortion providers of their pregnancy counselling role, because of the clear conflict of interest. "Set back 25 years" is another way of saying "reduced"; all the Guardian's talk of concern for children is hollow. And amazingly, on the previous page one can see a picture of a pregnant pop-star, with the headline "Destiny: child - Beyonce reveals pregnancy".

  • Comment number 26.

    It's important that priests and bishops are very clear that they will not comply with any attempt to force them to break the seal of confession lest there be any doubt among the faithful. I suspect the legislation will make no specific reference to sacramental confession which would mean the common law and constitutional protection for the seal would remain in place until it's tested in court. But the vagueness has to be removed. We need bishops to be crystal clear that no matter what legislation is passed, the seal of the sacrement will be maintained.

  • Comment number 27.

    24.At 17:57 30th Aug 2011, Dave wrote:

    as Ireland does not have the death penalty your examples are not really relevant unless of course you mean beatification is worse than prison.
    The point was that the threat of jail pales before that of firing squads or torture & drowning used against priests who refused to break the Seal of Confession.
    I understand Ireland no longer has the death penalty.

  • Comment number 28.

    "Lest there be any doubt amongst the faithful."

    I think that if you were to ask the faithful, the vast majority would want people who abuse children to be reported.

    Confession/Reconciliation has been used for centuries as a way to control the Catholic population. Many now do not go.

    And a child going on his or her own into a box with a Catholic priest these days is unthinkable for many parents.

    The 'faithful' have been let down attrociously by many priests and most Bishops. The seal of confession is a "distraction."

  • Comment number 29.

    Once more the "Catholic" RJB shows his colours. If it's a distraction and nobody goes then there's no need for the government to try and interfere with the freedom of religion. If confession for children is so unthinkable, how come so many children make their first confession and holy communion every year?

  • Comment number 30.


    I understand what you are saying and I think that some priests might well feel the need to go to goal. If what mccamley says is true then some may well end up there.

    I have no problem with the catholic church holding to it's doctrine and making it crystal clear that they will. If that falls foul of the law of the land then they will have to take the consequences (similar to what some journalists have done to protect their sources). Child abuse is too important a matter for anyone to have a shield. Personally I don't think there should be any protection offered under the law for those who have information about crimes but do not go to the authorities.

    I agree with RJB though and I think that the public will have little sympathy for a priest who martyr's himself to protect a child abuser in fact many probably see the silence as accessory to the act especially if the silence allows the abuse to continue.

    However I don't see the rules being retrospective and if they come into force you would think that most abusers would not bother with confession (a good thing if it cuts them off from the crutch of absolution) so I don't see them having to expand the gaols.

    I think this is just a another shot across the Vatican's bows - letting it know who is boss in Ireland.

  • Comment number 31.

    "How come so many children make their first confession and holy communion every year?"

    A. Coz they dont get a say in it. Did your children?
    B. Coz their parents are into Shamanism.
    C. Coz their families like a party.

    The Catholic Church has thrived on promoting inappropriate guilt and shame in its people, and confession was one of the main ways of doing that.

    If you are genuinely sorry what you have done, make ammends (where appropriate) for what you did, make your peace with God and move on.

    Never heard Jesus demanding that children go to confession.

  • Comment number 32.

    29-"Once more the "Catholic" RJB shows his colours".
    He's a better advert for "catholicism" than most...

    Re 19- The Irish Times article- The final paragraph is a good summary of Keogh's thoughts & implies tacit approval of Enda Kenny's remarks

    In reviewing the history of the past 90 years on this island, why – confronted by such widespread child sexual abuse – were there so few “righteous gentiles” in church, State or society ready to stand up and speak out in the face of such an unspeakable, pervasive evil?

    There were some notable comments to the article as well- This one stood out for me
    They can continue to ponce around pretending they matter, they don't... One caveat, the churches, the physical infrastructure, already belong to the people of this country as they were paid for by ordinary people for whom they were to be kept in trust in that sense they cannot be used as collateral for anything. The clergy put a coach and four through the laws of the land. That coach always contained four people. A cardinal, a bishop, the taoiseach and the minister for justice. Ireland's "revolution" was scuppered almost at birth. The church was the main beneficiary of Ireland's fight for freedom. The Opulence, secrecy, rituals, costumes, and male dominance naturally made it a very attractive place for those that subsequently filled volume after volume of reports and inquiries into sadism and sexual abuse. In fact, if they hid at all, they were able to "hide" in plain sight. Ireland has never been a republic.
  • Comment number 33.

    RJB - I know you regularly accuse me of trying to throw you out of the Church, but really, do you have any Catholic beliefs at all?

    Dave - the reason it's vital that priests and bishops are clear that they will not break the seal regardless of legislation is so that sinners of any hue, including child molesters, can go to confession. They have rights too.

  • Comment number 34.


    I try to live my life by the teachings of Jesus Christ. Is there something more Catholic than that? What am I missing?

    Did your children have a choice about making their first holy communion? No. Didnt think so. There's your earlier question answered. It wasnt rocket science.

  • Comment number 35.


    They don't have the right to have their crimes hidden from the police but if priests decide that prison is their option then that is their choice. I still think the fact that the sanction is there might make some abusers think twice and I don't think there will be many cases.

    People have the right to manifest their religion but not hide from the law behind it.

    Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights

    "Article 9 provides a right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This includes the freedom to change a religion or belief, and to manifest a religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance, subject to certain restrictions that are "in accordance with law" and "necessary in a democratic society""

    Law is a higher authority than religion but as no one can be forced to speak you have the ability to break the law but there may be consequences as there is for anyone who breaks the law. This is not that an unusual situation where people have placed their own conscience above the law but risk the penalty.

  • Comment number 36.

    RJB, It's clear he wants you to live by "other" teachings. Jesus has been side-stepped. He wants you to recognise, not the primacy of Jesus Christ, but the primacy of the Roman Pontiff & canon law, & to recognise "the doctrine of the sedes apostolica which states that every Pope, as Peter’s successor, possesses the full authority granted to this position. This power, then, is inviolable on the grounds that it was established by God himself and so not bound to any individual. Pope Leo I (440-461), with the aid of Roman law, solidified this doctrine by making the bishop of Rome the legal heir of Peter". According to Leo, the apostle Peter continues to speak to the Christian community through his Papal successors. Jesus said "Upon this rock I will build my church"- It appears the Pope is listening to a rock rather than Jesus

  • Comment number 37.


    Would that be the same Peter Jesus called, "Satan"? The same one who was terrified to walk on the water, who denied he even knew Jesus, etc..

    I am prepared to give my loyalty to those who acknowledge their mistakes, who admit their cowardice and weaknesses.

    Surely the starting point for honesty and everything that flows from it.

    But I will never give assent to the people who presently run our Church while they cover up and do everything they can to point the finger at others, while they bully their own people and unashamedly flaunt the Gospel - the real pick and mix brigade.

    Thou art Peter has been catapulted into THE Gospel, while all the teachings of Jesus regarding love, service, humility, forgiveness are all relegated to meaningless platitudes.

    This Church intends to keep its power - not serve Christ or his people.

  • Comment number 38.

    Jackanory time again. Who invented the sacrament of confession but Jesus? Who gave the apostles the power to forgive sins but Jesus?

    My children are children so my wife and I make the choices for them. Your point was that parents wouldn't send their children to confession because of fear of abuse - I pointed out that they do every year and in large numbers.

  • Comment number 39.

    Sorry, MCC, Jesus didnt "invent" any sacrament. Where did you do your theology?

    And please stop twisting my words. I wrote "children going into a box on their own with a priest." As you well know, Confession for children these days is done in class groups, and normally on the altar in public, in full view of their parents, during a Reconciliation Service.

    And you are the one complaining about accurate reporting....

  • Comment number 40.

    Re children and confession, IMO:

    If a child has anything to confess, wouldn’t it be most healing and relieving for her to tell her parents? Childhood confession almost teaches indirectness between the parent and child. Instead, the church should focus on parenting and healing adults so that they can be better spouses and parents. Starting circa a decade ago, and/or in the usual indirect ways, is a bit late. But better late than never.

    I’ve always been bothered by the fact that Jesus didn’t talk about parenting or even family. He really didn’t, aside from him obeying his parents a couple of times. And to me, regardless of one’s nature, nurture from the parents is the beginning of it all for anyone. Even if Jesus had an idyllic childhood, wasn’t he was supposed to know everything? So why no comment, no teaching on child psychology and parenting? I’m sure children had as difficult a time growing up 2000 years ago. Aren’t we proof of that? Yet he didn’t address it at all. “Whoever causes one of these to stumble…” Sorry, that is not enough. Personally, I’ve received much more help in my life from sources written outside the Bible, and Christianity, than from books within it. But I guess everyone’s different, and many are satisfied, or so it seems.

    Also, coming clean with the person you hurt is what takes the load off. They can then forgive you (or not), and you can forgive yourself. The 12 steps of recovery have it right. (Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them.) IMO, a lot of what is confessed via the sacrament is like sharing, or spreading, a secret, and regardless of absolution, it’s held onto. It can continue to cause a lot of internal and external damage. I’m a witness to that.

  • Comment number 41.

    Well mine were in a box on Sunday evening, with a grill as required by canon law, designed to protect both priest and penitent from anything dodgy:

    Canon 964

    §1: The proper place to hear sacramental confessions is in a church or oratory.

    §2: The conference of bishops is to issue norms concerning the confessional, seeing to it that confessionals with a fixed grille between penitent and confessor are always located in an open area so that the faithful who wish to make use of them may do so freely.

    § 3: Confessions are not to be heard outside the confessional without a just cause.

  • Comment number 42.

    In our parish we have lines at the confessional before every weekend Mass & very long lines for Penance services during Lent.For the Penance service there are several priests to handle the larger number of folks wishing to receive the sacrament.Confessions are heard both in the confessional & at other locations within the church.
    I've never heard of any parents in our parish being concerned with their child going to Confession.

  • Comment number 43.


    "I’ve always been bothered by the fact that Jesus didn’t talk about parenting or even family. He really didn’t, aside from him obeying his parents a couple of times."

    "Even if Jesus had an idyllic childhood, wasn’t he was supposed to know everything? So why no comment, no teaching on child psychology and parenting?"

    You're probably better off not listening to jesus when it comes to family relationships. In Matthew 10:35 he says

    "For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."

    And his dad let him be nailed to a cross for stuff that other people did. He has to be among the very worst people to look at when it comes to family relationships.

  • Comment number 44.

    On the subject of the seal of Confession-have you all watched this Alfred Hitchcock film?

    I Confess (1953)


  • Comment number 45.

    43. PeterKlaver,

    Well, Matt 10:35 was a successful prophecy.


    As to what I wrote: on the flip-side, I have received some helpful bits of suggestions from a few priests (but I am choosey about them), in the confessional and out, even though I knew they didn’t have a full comprehension of the issue. I was comforted.

    I brace against probably being descended from the deferring-to-men plough-users, but this one was a good advisor:

    “Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them – every day begin the task anew.” -Saint Francis de Sales

  • Comment number 46.

    44. mscracker,

    Yes, I like Monty Clift, and Hitch! ...And Karl Malden-? Okay, I need to see it again.

    Have you all heard about the priest who said:

    Hearing nuns’ confessions is like being pelted with popcorn.

  • Comment number 47.


    The quote was actually from a priest hearing his own mother's confession. But maybe she was a nun too.

    Good point about confession possibly causing damage to the child/parent relationship. But probably too subtle for the catholic parents on here.

  • Comment number 48.

    The busiest the NCR blog has been for a while. The posts might give an an sight to people who are not RC what is going on in that church at the moment.


  • Comment number 49.

    I think the popcorn quote is Fulton Sheen on nuns - no priest would refer to his mother's confession. Good film, I Confess - must show it at the St Genesius Film Club - timely.

  • Comment number 50.

    RJB, How does the Vatican force a publication to run an article in a Theology publication, unedited & without peer review? If theologians are stripped of their frontier spirit, forced to tow a party line, it's a suffocating blow to the liberality of a living, breathing church & its ability to adapt once this current Vatican leadership dies off.
    In the article this was pretty key- "John Thiel, president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, said he regrets the Vatican interventions, calling them “misguided” on several fronts.

    “First, it wrongly assumes that the journal’s readership of professional theologians is incapable of making its own professional judgments about theological positions. Second, it seems to conflate theology and doctrine, wrongly thinking that theology’s task is the repetition of doctrine.”

    These are some of the comments that stood out for me-

    It is time for Catholic Theologians to divorce themselves from the pressures of the Vatican. To do less would push them away from studying and writing about truth. The idea that the Vatican has infallible control over theology (also science, medicine, history and philosophy) is preposterous and is only further imploding the Roman institution from within.

    It is clear you click your heels, lock step with the Vatican. Perhaps you will be named the next pope and can call the shots.
    Open your eyes and look around once and a while and you will notice truth is not owned by the Vatican. Truth is not owned by anyone. To let yourself be controlled by a small group of self proclaimed demigods is to altogether lose responsibility for your own soul.

    I know a former priest from Slowakia. The reason why he became a catholic priest was his admiration for a catholic priest who was an opponent of the communist regime; he then went to Rome to study; the reason why he gave up his priesthood was that he realized that the vatican regime was pretty similar to the communist one in being totalitarian; he found out that he had only changed clothes...

    This comment articulates the struggle of competing loyalties between church & truth
    You raise a strong point about appropriate resistance to Vatican pressure, and reestablishing the "sensus fidelium" (sense of the faithful) in the hierarchy's minds. But perhaps to help clarify why theologians haven't taken that route, as someone currently pursuing her second graduate degree in Catholic theology, it might help to realize the price individual theologians inevitably pay for public dissent. You may note that Fr. Charles Curran, mentioned in the article, teaches at a Methodist university--he's been forbidden from teaching at Catholic institutions. Most of us who have dedicated years of our lives to learning about Catholic theology have the desire to share it in a Catholic setting, or with other Catholics.
    As much as we hate the warts on our church, we love it also. It's difficult to break from an institution when you've seen it do tremendous deeds of justice and mercy, in addition to its many failings.
    What you ask may indeed come to pass. But what you ask is hard
  • Comment number 51.


    "No priest would refer to his mother's confession." This one certainly did. He gave a series of talks in the 80's which were recorded on tapes and distributed around parishes.

    In one talk he was describing the relationship between priests and their parents and light-heartedly referred to hearing his mum's confession describing it as like being, "stoned with popcorn."

    A small point but it is indicative that truth does actually reside outwith the space between your ears, no matter how much you wish it didnt.


    The following was a speech given by South Africa's Bishop Dowling. It really hits a few nails on the head and goes some way to explain the mindset of these bastions of orthodoxy.

    Vatican II was really the Church laying its hands on the plough and there really is no going back. Karl Rahner once stated that "It has been a tremendous gift of our times to be given a critical distance from the cross of Jesus Christ..."

    i.e. All the experience of study, prayer, reflection, human experience, knowledge - which we didnt have then - but have now, is actually a gift to be used to take the Church into the times which lie ahead.

    Instead, these cowardly people have thrown this knowledge and wealth of experience down the toilet. They have chosen to bury their talents and just pretend that the world isnt there. That's their decision. But they really shouldnt demand the rest of us to follow suit. Nor shall we leave simply because we are not impressed with men in dresses.


  • Comment number 52.

    49.At 00:47 1st Sep 2011, mccamleyc wrote:
    "I think the popcorn quote is Fulton Sheen on nuns - no priest would refer to his mother's confession. Good film, I Confess - must show it at the St Genesius Film Club - timely."
    Have you seen this movie?:

    "The Reluctant Saint"
    The Story of St. Joseph of Cupertino


    One of my favorite films.Maximillian Schell is great.The actress who plays his mom is a hoot.The film has a great message about humility & simplicity in faith.I loved it & so did my kids.

  • Comment number 53.

    This is what comes up online for that quote:

    "Hearing nuns' confessions is like being stoned to death with popcorn."
    -- Fulton J. Sheen

    I'd be interested to know what other Catholic posters believe about the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

  • Comment number 54.

    43. PeterKlaver,

    “And his dad let him be nailed to a cross for stuff that other people did.”

    I’ve been thinking about this. Jesus was grown by then, so he was responsible for his own actions, and the consequences.

    His dad could’ve appealed to the courts. Maybe he did. ;-)

    “He has to be among the very worst people to look at when it comes to family relationships.”

    When you say “He,” do you mean God or Jesus? Either way I have to agree with you there.

    Re popcorn quote:

    Oh yes, that’s correct. It would’ve been “stoned to death,” not “pelted.”

  • Comment number 55.

    So RJB, any chance you'll admit it was Fulton Sheen?

  • Comment number 56.

    Mscracker, here's an article about nuns from a right wing British media outlet

  • Comment number 57.


    Fulton Sheen made the quote about nuns!! We're talking about priests mums here, nun-like as they no doubt are.

  • Comment number 58.

    Excellent piece of balanced, investigative journalism there! Made me smile.

  • Comment number 59.

    His story hardly fitted the headline - should have been "Man recalls liking most of the nuns who looked after him while a few slapped him the same as in every other school in the country shock". I suspect the real pain for this man is that his family couldn't look after him and he felt abandoned by them.

  • Comment number 60.

    Yep, its all the fault of these tragic youngsters who just made it all up.


    Boston's list of guilty sexually abusing priests.

    ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY NINE OF THEM (with another 22 creditably accused undergoing trial.)

    And these are the 'church' figures. The real figure is higher.
    Minimalize that, MCC.

  • Comment number 61.

    I didn't say he made anything up - I said the headline didn't match the story the man had to tell.

    As for Boston, don't have to minimalise anything - between 4 and 6% of priests have had accusations made against them. The end.

  • Comment number 62.

    Is ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY NINE too big a figure for your wee fingers to type? 4% sounds quite acceptable really.

    You have minimalised the issue from day one.

  • Comment number 63.

    Mcc, at the very least you could say the experience of being born into this religious culture has left him jittery & neurotic. What are the effects on a nations health?
    A point you continually seem to miss about Catholicism & abuse is this- even if abuse is reflected in society as a whole & has done so for millenia, there are now safeguards & ways to combat this- in law - in today's society. The contentious issue being that Catholic Institutions still want to act with impunity as if these safeguards don't apply to them- That they are above the law- That they answer to a 'higher law'. Well, if you accept the Catholic Church running a parallel system of law & justice, then it's no different from millions of Muslims in the UK & Ireland having an expectation Sharia Law mirrors their religious community

  • Comment number 64.

    Actually Ryan you couldn't really be more wrong. There is no organisation in this country with as developed a child protection policy as the Catholic Church. As I've said many, many times on this site, go ahead, apply the civil law - bring in the police, DPP, courts, let them do their jobs. And what happens - the hundreds of accusations turn into a very small number of convictions, not because of conspiracy but because the law is applied. In the civil law you can't prosecute a priest who is dead for something he may have done thirty years ago. You can't prosecute a nun for slapping a child at school thirty years ago. Civil law - bring it on.

  • Comment number 65.

    64- Civil law - bring it on
    Catholic Confession stands like a bouncer at the door on that one. The man in the cupboard says God has 'forgiven' their sins- why would the weak, cowardly abuser of the vulnerable feel they need to face 'human' law when they've already 'answered' to God

  • Comment number 66.

    As I said, that's what we have police for.

  • Comment number 67.

    The response of the Holy See to the nonsensical speech of Kenny has been released. Calm, measured, factual, truthful. https://press.catholica.va/news_services/bulletin/news/27974.php?index=27974&lang=en#TEXT OF THE RESPONSE

  • Comment number 68.

    To quote an article on the BBC site, relating to the Vatican response, its concluding paragraphs put Enda Kenny's comments in an understandable light

    It discovered that, contrary to repeated assertions on its part, the Diocese of Cloyne did not implement the procedures set out in the Church protocols for dealing with allegations of child sex-abuse. It said the greatest failure was that no complaints, except one in 1996, were reported to the health authorities until 2008.

    It said the disturbing findings were compounded by the fact that the commission found that the Vatican's response to the Church guidelines was entirely unhelpful and gave comfort and support to those who dissented from the guidelines. It said this was "wholly unacceptable"

    Mcc 66- It could be said a forward thinking Church- which puts the welfare of the people it serves before its own interests- would save alot of tax payers money, police time & court time by enforcing a culture of zero tolerance towards perpetrators of abuse
  • Comment number 69.

    For those who view The Vatican with a more critical eye than MCC:

    In 1997, Papal Nuncio to Ireland, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos wrote a letter to the Irish Bishops warning them that their 1996 guidelines on clergy sexual abuse of children - and in particular their comments about mandatory reporting of abuser priests - could conflict with Canon Law.

    This letter was at the centre of the Cloyne Report and Enda Kenny's speech. (Anyone who would like to see the falsehood of MCC's claims about that speech need only look it up on Youtube - it was demonstrably "measured and calm.")

    In 2001, this same Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, wrote to a French Bishop praising him for covering up for an abusing priest, telling him that his brother Bishops would look on him as a hero. He further explained that JPII knew of the letter and had urged him to send it.


    The Vatican has claimed that the letter Hoyos sent to the Irish Bishops was in no way advising them to keep quiet about abuse. It would appear - given Hoyos' list of previous - that the Irish Government and the Cloyne investigators, were perfectly correct in their mistrust of the Vatican. It is there in black and white for anyone to read. Those who cover up for abusers are heroes and are "protecting their sons."

    The Vatican response is exactly what was to be expected. It wasnt anything to do with us, it was those who were running the diocese of Cloyne. However, the speed of the response - unprecedented - would indicate that the Vatican takes the Cloyne Report and Enda Kenny's speech very seriously and as a PR disaster for them.

    How do you like them facts and truths, MCC? Calm and measured enough for you?

    And incidentally, Hoyos was the same Cardinal who was supposed to be the main celebrant at the Tridentine Mass in Washington last year - complete with Cappa Magna - but who was forced to pull out at the last minute, such was the public outcry about him.

    One of the beautiful things about the 'new media' is that information is now accessible to the masses. People can actually 'string things together.' MCC and Theophane will gladly take issue with any single matter, an article in a newspaper, an expressed opinion, a single incident... But when the bigger picture emerges, cover up after cover up, their minimalising of one of the worst episodes in Roman Catholic history, deserves pity.

    What was said in the dark is now scrutinized in the light.

    Castrillon Hoyos did do one important thing though. When he was

  • Comment number 70.

    Telegraph blogger Damian Thompson's run of form continues with his latest post, in which he writes;

    "...one country enjoyed hearing the Irish PM play to the Church-hating gallery, and that was China. The English-language subsidiary of the People’s Daily has seized on Kenny’s remarks as justification for China’s cruel harassment of loyal Roman Catholics, many of whom have to worship in secret. Nice one, Mr Kenny: your grandstanding oratory has done nothing to help Irish abuse victims, but it’s made life a little bit harder for some of the bravest Christians in the world."

  • Comment number 71.


    called to account for his 'hero' comment, he stated that the letter was sent with the full approval of JPII. It was an appeal for the Cardinals to back him. They dumped him. He committed a Cardinal error. Unlike Cardinal Law, he didnt keep his mouth shut.

    These are the people MCC and Theo 'admire.'

  • Comment number 72.


    You have justified the torture and persecution of children. Born ones!!

    "Loyal Roman Catholics". Would you like to explain what those are?

    The Vatican is presently on a purge to shut down any dissenting voices within its ranks. I think even you would acknowledge that.

    Why is China so wrong and the Vatican so right?

    Do you support free speech or not, for some or for everyone?

  • Comment number 73.

    Theophane (@ 70) -

    Oh I get it!

    If anyone dares to criticise the Catholic Church, then they must understand that by doing so they are aiding and abetting the persecution of Christians.

    I've heard of manipulation, but this just about takes the biscuit!

    Why not actually apportion blame for persecution where it truly lies, and that is with the Chinese regime and not with Enda Kenny?

    Ridiculous argument, Theophane. In fact, it's worse than that, it's egregious.

    I'm disgusted.

  • Comment number 74.

    RJB wrote "In 1997, Papal Nuncio to Ireland, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos wrote a letter to the Irish Bishops".

    RJB you can't even get the most basic information correct. You're aquaintance with the truth is somewhat limited. When was Cardinal Hoyos appointed nuncio to Ireland?

    Hoyos has precisely nothing to do with any of this. Readers of this blog - go and read the Vatican response, not someone elses interpretation of it - go read it.

    Logica - the Chinese authorities specifically quoted Kenny in support of their persecution of the Catholic Church in China - it's not an argument, it's a fact

  • Comment number 75.

    My apologies, MCC, he wasnt as lowly as Papal ProNuncio. He was merely the Head of the Congregation for the Clergy!!

    Eh, doesnt that make your position even weaker?

  • Comment number 76.

    mccamleyc (@ 74) -

    Logica - the Chinese authorities specifically quoted Kenny in support of their persecution of the Catholic Church in China - it's not an argument, it's a fact

    So what?

    Are you suggesting that people should remain silent on certain issues, for fear that a brutal regime will abuse and exploit their words, with the result that innocent people will be hurt?

    I notice that Thompson did not criticise China for cynically exploiting Kenny's words (after all, Kenny made no comment about the situation in China, nor did he encourage the persecution of Christians there). But he blamed Kenny for endangering the wellbeing of Christians in China! How extraordinary.

    Suppose you wrote something on this blog that was taken by some nefarious character as justification for oppressing someone else? Are you willing to accept moral responsibility for that evil person's behaviour? If you are, then I suggest that you don't take the risk of writing any more, because someone out there could be hurt by the use or abuse of your words, and the blood will be on your head. And if you are not prepared to take that responsibility, then you should be agreeing with my criticism of Damian Thompson.

    Thompson's argument is utterly irresponsible, and, in my view, seriously libellous. To accuse an innocent man (Kenny) of a serious crime for which he is manifestly not responsible - is something that I can only describe with adjectives that I fear may not gain the moderator's approval.

    Let's put it this way: if I were Enda Kenny, I'd be on to my lawyer now.
  • Comment number 77.

    On China and the Vatican Richard McGregor writes:

    "It is no coincidence that the Vatican is one of the few states with which China has been unable to establish diplomatic ties...The Party guards the command of its catechism as zealously and self-righteously as the Vatican defends its authority over the faith."

    Someone joked: '"We have the propaganda department and you have the evangelicals. We have the organisation [personnel] department and you have the College of Cardinals"'. When asked what the difference was by a Vatican official the Chinese interlocutor answered '"You are God and we are the devil!"'


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