Friday, July 22, 2011

An historic moment

I had no intention of adding to my posts of Monday and Tuesday about the Cloyne Report on sexual abuse of children in Ireland and its cover up by Church authorities. But then something happened on Wednesday of an unprecedented nature that provokes comment.

The Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny, in an almost empty Dail (Parliament), without prior announcement and with quiet determination, delivered a short speech that made banner headlines in the Thursday Irish press. In short, it was a declaration of independence from Rome.

It was striking for it forthrightness.

The Cloyne Report was crucial, said Kenny, "because for the first time in Ireland, a report into child sexual abuse exposes an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic -- as little as three years ago, not three decades ago. And in doing so, the Cloyne Report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism -- the narcissism -- that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day. The rape and torture of children were downplayed or 'managed' to uphold instead the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and reputation."

Kenny's language is unsparing, and this from a practicing Catholic who loves his church.

Ireland is not Rome, said Kenny. "Nor is it industrial school or Magdalene Ireland, where the swish of a soutane smothered conscience and humanity and the swing of a thurible ruled the Irish Catholic world."

Kenny called out the Pope by name. In his concluding remarks, he quoted Cardinal Josef Ratzinger [the current Pope Benedict}: 'Standards of conduct appropriate to civil society or the workings of a democracy cannot be purely and simply applied to the church.' Then Kenny continued: "As the Holy See prepares its considered response to the Cloynes Report, as Taoiseach, I am making it absolutely clear, that when it comes to the protection of children of this State, the standards of conduct which the church deems appropriate to itself, cannot and will not, be applied to the workings of democracy and civil society in this republic. Not purely, or simply, or otherwise."

Kenny's speech seems to be applauded by the great majority of Irish Catholics. It is deemed a watershed.

It took 400 years for Ireland to throw off British political rule. It took another century to rid itself of spiritually stultifying rule from Rome.