Monday, July 18, 2011

The Cloyne Report

Here we go again. This time it’s the release of the Cloyne Report, the latest in a series of official reports delineating the scope of the child abuse scandal in Ireland, its perpetration over decades by priests, brothers and nuns, and its cover up by bishops and the Vatican. The revelations go on and on as Ireland wakes from a long dark sleep.

This is not to suggest that there were not during that time many good men and women within the professed orders working unselfishly on behalf of the faithful while pursuing their own spirituality. But there was something rotten at the core of the Church in Ireland -- and in Rome -- that undercut all the good.

What darkened the Irish Church for so long was the power of an entrenched theocracy, as represented, for example, by the reactionary archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid, who ruled Catholic Ireland with an iron fist from 1940 to 1971. For McQuaid and others in the Irish hierarchy, the only source of truth was Holy Mother Church. Scientific humanism, secular democracy and feminism were archevils of the modern world. Better for the faithful to be poor, ignorant and endlessly pregnant than burn in hell. And woe betide any Irish Catholic, lay or religious, who got out of line; the hammer of orthodoxy came down with swift force.

A paternalistic, misogynistic, and homophobic hierarchy, obsessed with sex as sin. Addicted, too, to pomp and power, the dressing up as Renaissance princes and the kissing of rings.

The Irish economic boom of recent decades and the devastating child abuse revelations have put paid to all that. When the dam of religious oppression broke it was as if centuries of suppressed joy, creativity and spirituality were released. The hierarchy of the Irish Church are now in bunker mode, and science and technology are in the ascendancy.

With intellectual freedom and prosperity came a cultural renaissance too. The arts and literature flourish as never before. I watched it all happen. When I first visited Dublin nearly forty years ago, it was a grey, gloomy, littered city. Today it is colorful, joyous and smart. This country, for all its current economic difficulties, is a showcase for the virtues of secular, scientific multiculturalism.

(In the 1960 photo above: Dr. Charles Heerey, Mgr. Alfred O'Rahilly, Cardinal D'Alton, President of Ireland Eamon de Valera, Dr. John Charles McQuaid, and Frank Duff, the founder of the Legion of Mary.)