22Jul Brendan Hoban on Enda Kenny’s Speech

When I read Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s speech in Dáil Éireann, I was reminded of Tony Blair’s comment about ‘the hand of history laid on his shoulder.’ Blair, who later regretted the perceived pretentiousness of the remark, could be pardoned for such a self-serving comment as the achievement of the peace deal in Northern Ireland was indeed a landmark in Irish history.
Enda Kenny’s speech was in the same mould. There was a feeling that a line in the sand was being drawn. There was a sense that a new clarity had emerged when a State, less than a century old, had finally spoken a truth that had been struggling to emerge for decades: that the attitude of the State to the Catholic Church in society would no longer be one of deference and obsequiousness and that the words ‘Irish’ and ‘Catholic’ would no longer be felt to be interchangeable, that the will of our sovereign, democratic republic had to be respected.
After almost a century when a State – inevitably dominated by the Catholic Church which represented the vast percentage of its people – struggled to find its way in a new and different world, with Kenny’s Dáil speech, there was a sense of arriving at a great clearance. We had come to a place, courtesy of the Cloyne Report and the shameful hinterland that preceded it, when the State felt that need to define itself, to set out clear boundaries, to proclaim – in a paraphrase of Parnell – that no Church has the right to set the boundaries of the Irish nation. A Rubicon moment indeed.
It was an object lesson in leadership. If it is the duty of a leader not just to point a way forward but to articulate the feelings of his people, Kenny rose mightily to the challenge. There was a conviction and a passion in his presentation, and a studied resilience that stopped just short of a distilled anger. Here was a man, a leader, a Taoiseach who would be heard on behalf of the Irish people. And his declared and unashamed perspective as that of a ‘faithful Catholic’ and ‘a practising Catholic’ gave his words all the more substance.
Kenny is right. That much needs to be said. As a Church we have lost our authority, our credibility, our right to regulate for ourselves the protection of children. And, it needs to be said too, that the almost symbiotic relationship between the Irish State and the Catholic Church has, despite much good being achieved over the years, diminished the effectiveness of both.
Kenny has also articulated another obvious truth about the Irish Catholic Church: that the domination of Rome is strangling the emergence of a people’s Church in Ireland.
This is something that the dogs in the street know but our religious leaders seem incapable of communicating to the Pope and Vatican authorities: that the Irish Catholic Church needs to assert the freedom to develop its own distinct life; that Irish Catholics know best what the Irish Catholic Church needs to do; and that the basis for all of this is to be found not in some revolutionary manual but in the documents of the Second Vatican Council.
Part of the problem is that the Irish Catholic Church has been effectively neutered by the over-control of Rome and the consequent obsequiousness of the carefully-chosen Irish bishops. Just as the Irish State needs to establish its credentials and own its own truth, the Irish Catholic Church needs to do the same.
As Catholics, we are not children who have to be told what’s good for us. We are adult Christians in the Catholic tradition, a conviction and a heritage we treasure, and every time Rome makes decisions for us that we should as adults be making for ourselves the Irish Catholic Church is diminished and the gospel message of Jesus Christ rendered ineffective.
So when bishops are appointed what we need is an appropriate consultation among the people not a furtive mock ‘consultation’ confined to a given elite. When someone in Rome decides that we need a Eucharistic Congress, that proposal needs to be discussed with the Irish Catholic people. When new translations of the Mass are being introduced, is it too much to expect that people and priests would have the opportunity to assess the changes before they are introduced?
Yes, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin is correct. There are cabals in the Irish Church and in the Vatican making it more difficult than it should be to focus on the protection of children. But Martin needs to go a bit further than that and name a wider truth.
He knows that there are cabals too in the Irish Church and in Rome actively undermining the teaching of the Second Vatican Council by refusing to allow, much less facilitate, a People’s Church. And Martin, to be logical too, needs to make it clear that the reason why the Irish Catholic Church has made such a mess of child protection is not because of the failures of a few convenient scapegoats but because lay people have been systematically excluded from positions of influence in the almost fifty years since the Second Vatican Council.
If parents, and especially mothers, were sitting around a table discussing the possibility of moving abusive priests to other parishes, it simply wouldn’t have happened. If parents were sitting with Bishop John Magee and Monsignor Denis O’Callaghan when they were making their decisions about child protection, the Cloyne Report would have been very different.
It’s always easy to demonise the few, but the ultimate responsibility for the present position of the Catholic Church in Ireland is with all those – popes, bishops, priests and people – who have conspired to block the emergence of a People’s Church in Ireland.
What we need is not a conspiracy of silence around the sustained ‘re-interpretation’ of Vatican Two but a simple acceptance that God chose a road-map in Vatican Two, and to our shame, like the guidelines in Cloyne, we took it on ourselves to ‘re-interpret’ the guidelines out of existence.
Archbishop Dermot Clifford took a very narrow, short-term view when he said the reasons why Cloyne made a mess of child protection was because Monsignor O’Callaghan thought he knew better than the bishops. No, the reason was that those who make the decisions in Rome and in the Irish Church, decided not to follow God’s guidelines in Vatican Two. Is there anyone in the Irish Church with the courage and clarity of Enda Kenny to say that now?
Probably not, which is why we’re now reaping the whirlwind.

11 Responses

  1. Eddie Finnegan

    Dear Frs Hoban, Flannery & Madden –

    Now that all Enda’s cheerleaders have had their three cheers on this site, in the Irish Times etc, why not stop serving up every item from the ACP menu on every media occasion? The force-feeding will give us indigestion or worse.

    Why not stop ‘demonising the many’ (and of course ‘many’ must always mean ‘all’ of us) who messed up Vatican II?

    Why not stop wishing for an ‘EndaKenny-moment of courage and clarity’ or for one paragon to personify it?

    The ACP has (?)500 members, or at least 500 who have turned up to at least one diocesan or regional meeting since this time last year. That may not be one in every parish but it should average out to three or four per deanery/pastoral area/cluster. It’s certainly a base to build upon.

    If anyone’s to breathe new life into what you call ‘God’s Guidelines’ or reintroduce that roadmap God chose through Vatican II to the remnant of God’s People, then surely your 500 should be the vanguard.

    But take the bishops (or some of them) with you. The quieter, low-key approach of the Clogher ACP (25th May meeting)- where the Association included their Bishop – suggests some useful pointers, minus any megaphone-diplomacy or bishop bashing: “We need to help our bishops to support us, and we have to help them to be Bishops.”

    That’s the sort of lead we mere laity could respond to – even with a ‘vox clara’ liturgy. That’s the only way a ‘People’s Church in Ireland’ has a snowball’s chance of ever (re)emerging.

  2. Catholicnewsbot


    Warns Against Breakdown in Church-State Relationships

    Permalink: http://www.zenit.org/article-33129?l=english

  3. Proinseas O'BEACHAIN

    As I read and heard An Taoiseach’s Dail speech, I saw and heard it as using a sledge hammer to the Pope and his Curia and to the entire hiearchy here because of the aggravated failures of Cloyne. It was the laity of the bishops’ own committee who reporteed the abuses there. The rest of the bishops apparently ovcer the years got the protections in place- it is only now that this Government is suggesting mandatory legally-binding reporting of abuse. That governs the whole island and every profession, not just Catholic clerics and employees. Most abuse is familial and every professional group has offenders. The Catholic Church’s structure allowed the cases to take on an exaggerated dimension- and of course one case was too much given the nature of the Church and the priests’ role. I think there was no justification in attacking “the Vatican” – which does not exist as such- when this Pope as head of the CDF when he got the responsibility from JP11, and as Pope has made giant strides in moving forward. He has been to Australia, the USA and the UK and humbly and publicly apologized for the harm done. Did Mr Kenny and his Ministers burn the bridge by dis-inviting him to the 2012 Eucharistic Congress.
    Every institution is made up of flawed sinful and also graced people. That goes for the Church also. Institutions are also slow to change and move, same for the Church. Look at the mess caused in Ireland from the economic meltdown and see the USA on the brink of economic collapse because of refusal to compromise re the deficit.

  4. Vincent Bourke

    Hi All, as a layperson I admire your bravery in calling for reform in the Church. It would seem to me that allowing women priests and making celibacy rules voluntary would go a long way to clearing out all the old repression and bringing a breath of fresh air back into the Church. Interestingly, I just found out yesterday that the Bible mention’s Peter’s wife (sorry, haven’t got the quotation to hand but mention’s Simon’s wife’s mother in some context and scholars, apparently accept that the first Pope was married.
    There is little prospect of Rome changing unless priests and bishops worldwide rebel (like the young people in the Arab world – use of the internet?) and refuse to obey rules they cannot accept in conscience. However, many must stand together to prevent Bishops being sacked and priests being sacked and evicted from their accomodation. It just requires a plan of concerted disobedience or a strike in which all stand together and refuse to accept ‘punishments’ or ‘dismissals’ – continuing to recognise the position of all rebelling bishops and priests until the Pope changes his mind – and, I can absolutely assure you, he will. Rome uses its Power freely, you rebels must stand up to it in an planned and organised way.
    Best wishes in your attempts to revert to how the Church was in the time of those who founded it.

  5. Vincent Bourke

    Sorry, apologies to all, I forgot this addendum to my post: The New York Times has a report about ‘rebellions’ (organised disobedience) by groups of up to 300 priests in the US, Austria, and Australia:


    in case that doesn’t turn in a link, go to http://www.nyt.com and search for this article:

    “In 3 Countries, Challenging the Vatican on Female Priests
    Published: July 22, 2011”

  6. Máire

    I agree completely with Brendan Hoban’s remarks, including his hope of reform as envisioned by Vatican II and far too long delayed.

    I would like to know whether the Irish bishops have responded or will respond to the Taoiseach’s speech. In one sense, the bishops should be gratified that Mr. Kenny held to account the papal nuncio’s 1997 letter that, in effect, directed the bishops not to follow the guidelines in their 1996 “Child Sexual Abuse: Framework for a Church Response” for reporting all allegations of sexual abuse to the civil authorities. I thought that the “Framework” document represented a praiseworthy attempt by the bishops to comply with details of canon law while cooperating with the state’s attempts to deal justly with child abuse allegations against clergy. Offering no details of any specific way that the bishops’ internal procedures conflicted with canon law, AB Storero’s letter left them no way forward. I’d expect that the Irish bishops might agree with the Taoiseach at least to that extent and then add any points of disagreement they have with his current understanding of the relationship between civil law and canon law.

  7. Eve

    All of this reminds me of a story told about Napoleon and the archbishop of Paris. Napoleon is said to have visited the archbishop to give him fair warning that he (Napoleon) was about to destroy the church once and for all. It is reported that the archbishop told the emperor that the bishops had been trying to destroy the church for nearly two thousand years. They had, of course, failed and he gave Napoleon fair warning the he too would fail.

  8. Joe O'Leary

    Congratulations, Brendan, on this zinger of a piece: https://catholicismpure.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/the-fearful-fathers-the-aftermath-of-the-cloyne-report/

  9. Michael Ryan

    I just hope that once the response from Rome arrives that Enda and the government,with the peoples’ support expel the Papal Nuncio from this country and leave us to heal. The people have lost their respect for Rome and we won’t regain it for a long time. We don’t need their guidance. God is closer to us in this time than he will ever be to these twisted people.

  10. Alice

    A lot of rash judgement and condemnation there Michael. As you judge, so you shall be judged. Remember that. There are a lot of good people in the Church both in Ireland, and in Rome, but one wouldn’t sense that from your comment.

  11. Emmet

    “The domination of Rome”

    That would be the canon law that wasn’t followed then?

    The Advice from Rome that wasn’t followed then?

    The cases that weren’t reported to Rome until 2009?

    If they [the Irish church in Cloyne] wouldn’t follow canon law as it stands then is it suppressing that they would infer whatever they wanted to hear from the nuncio’s letter?

    Having Ignored canon law is it really surprising that they ignored Rome again at the Rosses point meeting when they were told that “The Church, especially through its Pastors, should not in any way put an obstacle in the legitimate path of civil justice…while, at the same time she should move forward with her own canonical procedures.”(Rosses Point, Sligo, 11/12/1998)

    The Problem lies in the rot in the Irish Church which is now finally coming to the surface; It is no good looking to the failings of others in order to ignore the failings of ourselves [ourselves being the Church in Ireland]. Please be assured of my prayers for all priests (good, bad and indifferent) and for new good and faithful Bishops which I am sure we will now get from Rome.

    God Bless you

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