03Jun Editorial from the Wexford People

Harsh policy will unfairly ruin priests’ reputations

Wednesday June 01 2011

FOR decades the Church authorities allowed the lives of countless young people to be destroyed because they ignored the problem of child abusers in their ranks. Indeed, in some instances they did worse than that by actively covering up for the abusers.

Church authorities are desperately trying to regain some of their moral authority and have been in overdrive mode in terms of attempting to create a new image for themselves. This has involved a whole range of reporting measures and an element of transparency which is welcome.

It also involves a very strict and instant policy in dealing with priests against whom allegations are made. Essentially what this involves is the public character assassination of a priest against whom any allegation is made.

In an absolute reversal of natural justice the priest is presumed guilty, removed from his post and left to fight to clear his name with his identity catapulted straight to the centre of public attention.

Even if the allegation has little or no substance or indeed is utterly false, the priest still suffers the public humiliation of having to step down from his post while battling to clear his name. Of course, once news that an allegation has been made enters the public arena the task of restoring one’s reputation, regardless of the validity or otherwise of the original allegation, is virtually impossible.

This Church policy which is being implemented by the authorities is as wrong and damaging to ordinary priests as the previous cover-up policy was for the victim of abuse. There is no doubt that with the exposure of wrongdoing through various costly tribunals and as a result of the actions of some very brave people, the scandalous conduct of not only the abusers but their superiors has left the Church itself a badly damaged institution.

But the new strict policy is reckless in the extreme and must hang as a dark shadow over every single priest in the Diocese who could wake up any morning to hear that they have to leave their post because of some historical, unsubstantiated allegation being made against them.

No one is suggesting that suspected abusers should be left in a position which would facilitate them in committing more offences but this is a complex issue and a degree of examination and testing of allegations should surely be a basic requirement before an individual’s character is sacrificed.

It is time to consign this crazy and brutal policy to the bin before even more lives are scarred.

3 Responses

  1. shane

    Well done to the Wexford People for taking on the dogmas of the all-powerful sex abuse lobby. The abuse scandals have been blown totally out of proportion (and personally I wouldn’t be surprised if well over half the accusations were false, exaggerated and/or lies). The SAVI report shows that clergy account for just a small fraction of abusers (almost all of the abuse took place decades ago), but the media focus on sex abuse is almost wholly on priests and religious: http://www.thepost.ie/archives/2003/1207/clergy-just-tiny-fraction-of-abusers-315403517.html

    The HSE belives that 200 children died in state care between 2000-2010 (Sunday Business Post, 23 May 2010). David Quinn reported that Mary Harney ruled out a State inquiry into the deaths of children in the care of the HSE because “it would take a considerable amount of time and it would cost an enormous amount of money.” If the media are genuinely concerned about the welfare of children, why are they so silent about this? Or are they just cowards who like an easy target?

  2. Gerard Flynn

    There is no doubt about it. Mud sticks.
    In the 1980s, an Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs gave a public address to people who were campaigning for justice for the Birmingham Six. He dealt publicly with the issue of British tabloids’ running outrageous headlines about the people involved, and those associated with them. He said, that even if the allegations proved to be false, that those who ran the headlines were satisfied that points had been scored, even if they were subsequently forced to pay compensation for libel.

    Thankfully, we have moved away from those tense days and there are good relations between Ireland and the UK. But the moral is the same. Once a person’s good name has been damaged, it’s very difficult to restore it.

    One child who has been abused is one too many. However, we do not solve an injustice by committing another one.

  3. Lee Cahill

    The editorial of the Wexford People is to be commended for its courage. Is there any reason why the ACP has not made this statement itself? I mean, in its directness and simplicity, this editorial is as healthy a mix of Ghandi and Jesus (His Gospel)as is so much needed at the moment. It holds back nothing from the immensity of horror in the perpetrating of crimes of child abuse: nor of coverups by us in our Church. But its forthrightness in presenting the horrible lacuna – still an albatross hanging on our necks – of the wreckage of reputation on the priest, innocent of an allegation of abuse made against him…… here in Wexford is a “Voice” that I would hope will also be found expressed openly by our ACP. The Wexford People may have, healthily, unlocked a hitherto very bolted door.