13Dec Bishop Dermot O’ Mahony R.I.P.

Bishop Dermot O’ Mahony

Bishop Dermot O’Mahony died on 10 December, aged 80, following serious illness for many years. He was ordained a priest in 1960, and then studied canon law in Rome for four years. He was ordained bishop in 1975. He resigned as Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin in 1996 on health grounds, but continued to work as his health permitted.

He chaired the Irish Bishops’ Commission for Justice and Peace during the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland, and during the hunger strikes at the Maze prison. Among other work, he served on the Irish Pilgrimage Trust which arranged pilgrimages to Lourdes for children. When a group of strikers was invited by Archbishop Desmond Tutu on a fact-finding mission to South Africa, but were refused entry in Johannesburg, Dermot O’Mahony was among those who greeted them on their arrival at Dublin airport.

He was the subject of severe criticism in 2009 in the Murphy report into sexual abuse of children in Dublin diocese, accused of serious failures in handling of allegations of abuse. This is the focus of some newspaper headlines since his death, rather than the service he gave to the people of Dublin diocese. “Bishop criticised in abuse inquiry dies” is the heading of a report by Sarah MacDonald in the Irish Independent on 12 December.

At the time of the Murphy report, Dermot O’Mahony raised questions about its findings. “Bishop O’Mahony accused of questioning validity of Murphy report”, reported the Irish Examiner on 29 January 2010, almost as if it were a crime to do so. At the time, nobody in the media or public life voiced any questions about the report. To do so brought about condemnation.

I believe that there was serious substance to his criticisms. This is supported by Fergal Sweeney in his “Commissions of Investigation & Procedural Fairness: A Legal Review of the 2004 Act”, published in 2013, for the Association of Catholic Priests. Fergal Sweeney is an Irish barrister, and former judge of the Hong Kong District Court. He concluded his review by writing:

“I have been unable to get a fair reading of [the case of the clerics who appeared before the Murphy Commission] because the Murphy Report lacks nuance, balance and any understanding of the historical and sociological context in which these events took place. Further, the very nature of the Commission of Investigations Act 2004 precluded fair procedures to those clerics who were called to account for themselves…

“From the legal perspective it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that insofar as the Catholic clerics who were called to testify were concerned, the practices and procedures of the Murphy Commission fell far short of meeting the concerns of the Law Reform Commission and more importantly, of natural and Constitutional justice.”

I documented many of the failings of the Commission in regard to the historical and sociological context in my book “Unheard Story: Dublin Archdiocese and the Murphy Report”, also in 2013.

While there have been strong objections to the Review by Fergal Sweeney and to the contents of my book, these seem to be grounded on an argument that it is not in any way permissible to question the Report, rather than by addressing the substance of the contents of the two publications.

We have had validation of comments of Fergal Sweeney about fairness of procedures in that names have been ordered to be removed from the report of the Moriarty tribunal, and, currently, that the Oireachtas investigation into the banking crisis has recognised that it is precluded from assigning blame to named individuals in its report. One can, however, understand the reluctance of any of those named in the Murphy Report to initiate legal steps to have their names removed from the report, although such move would seem to me to be fully justified and likely to succeed.

The vital importance of historical perspective has been recognised in the case of the Commission to inquire into Mother and Baby Homes by the appointment to the Commission of a person qualified in that area.

The public, the organs of State, and the media who have a responsibility to present a fuller understanding of the matters involved have failed utterly so far to recognise the failings of the Murphy Report.

Dermot O’Mahony felt deeply a sense of responsibility for how he handled allegations of abuse. On 27 October 2009, four weeks prior to the release of the Murphy Report, he sent this statement to the press office of Dublin diocese: “I profoundly regret that any action or inaction of mine should have contributed to the suffering of even a single child. I want to apologise for my failures from the bottom of my heart.” For whatever reason, this statement was not made public, leading to a perception that he did not express any remorse or apology.

Did he make mistakes in his handling of allegations? Yes, as judged by the understanding we have today of many dimensions of the matter: the serious and long-lasting effects on so many who were abused; how difficult it can be to deal with those who sexually abuse children; the best procedures to be followed in dealing with allegations; and many other aspects. However, by the understanding and knowledge of the 1970s and 1980s, not just in the church, but in society, including law, psychiatry and sociology, in Ireland and elsewhere, the steps taken can be more readily appreciated, although today recognised as gravely deficient.

Dermot O’Mahony felt very deeply the pain of being excluded following the Murphy Report from pastoral and liturgical life in the diocese he had served. Sadly, he died before the full wider context of how diocesan personnel handled allegations has become part of public consciousness.

The funeral will be received at St Anne’s Church, Shankill, Co Dublin, on Monday 14 December at 6.30pm. Funeral Mass the following day at 12 noon. Burial is in Shanganah Cemetery in Shankill.

Pádraig McCarthy

13 Dec 2015

19 Responses

  1. Bernard Whelan

    This article repeats excuse which is trotted out regularly for the failings both of the institutional church, and of individual bishops and other clerics in their disastrous covering-up of child abuse over so many decades, namely that the effect of their behaviour was not understood. This begs two questions:
    Firstly, why did the institutional Church and its bishops (who claim to be the successors of the apostles) develop and maintain such a degree of deafness to Christ’s unequivocal condemnation of such behaviour (Matthew 18, 6 –7)? For example, in his recent memoirs Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor tells us that in his dealings with the Michael Hill affair, the care of the priests of his diocese was at the forefront of his mind. While the admission is to be welcomed, it does nothing to explain why the Cardinal, and so many of his brother bishops, have been oblivious to Christ’s words on the subject, the meaning of which is plain for all to see and does not require any subtle exercise in hermeneutics.
    Secondly, what was the role of the Holy Spirit throughout this affair? Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor didn’t say whether he ever prayed for guidance, nor in the many revelations that have been made in recent years concerning the abuse of children and its toleration have I seen any reference to other Bishops seeking guidance through their prayers. It is legitimate to ask: Did any of them seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit when faced with the problem of dealing with abusive priests, or did they imagine that they could cope perfectly adequately without divine help? If they did pray for guidance, what guidance was offered? And to what extent was it followed? In his encyclical Humanae Vitae Pope Paul VI claimed three times that his teaching had the guidance of the Holy Spirit, yet on a matter of infinitely greater importance than artificial contraception, it seems that the Holy Spirit had nothing whatever to say to our pastors. In the absence to satisfactory answers to these concerns, Pope Paul’s claims for the magisterium have to be relegated to the sphere of wishful thinking.

  2. Margaret Lee

    I am disappointed that Sarah McDonald could only focus on the Murphy Report’s account of bishop Dermot O’Mahony. Is it possible that she did dwell on some good aspects of this man’s life but that the Irish Independent did it’s own editing? I am aware that on occasions Ms. McDonald submitted articles to this newspaper which were ignored but, obviously, an opportunity to rehash dirt was irresistible. As I say, I am disappointed in Sarah McDonald, but not in the Irish Independent because I don’t have any expectations of this news outlet.
    It is refreshing to read an account of Bishop O’Mahony’s funeral in the Irish Times. There was a sense of satisfaction in hearing a priest, and even a Bishop expressing their views truthfully and not hiding behind cliches. I cannot but wonder what “kind words” were spoken by Archbishop Martin on the evening of the removal of the remains to the Church. I suspect some pious claptrap. Meanwhile, I am grateful to Fr. Tim Murphy and Bishop Eamon Walsh for finding their voices.

  3. Tony Flannery

    I never met, nor had I any dealing with, Bishop Dermot O’Mahony. Until the Murphy Report anything I ever heard about him was positive – a warm, gentle, caring man who was a shining light in a Church that could often be harsh and judgmental.

    I was part of the ACP sponsored study and critique of the Murphy Report by retired judge Fergal Sweeney. That convinced me that there were serious faults with the work of Yvonne Murphy on this occasion, and also with the legislation underpinning the Commission of Investigation. Recent experience has shown up the frailty of that legislation, and also that the only reason it worked so smoothly and efficiently in the case of the Dublin diocese was that the bishops and senior clergy made no effort to assert their rights to natural justice. I know they did this so that no more pain would be caused to those who had suffered at the hands of priests, but they got no acknowledgement for this; indeed they were vilified from all sides, including by the Archbishop of Dublin. I sometimes wonder if their had been a “Denis O’Brien type” among them, would they have been better off!!

    I also found it disturbing that neither the media nor the Archbishop were in any way open to the findings of Fergal Sweeney’s report. Minds were closed, and people just did not want to know.

    So, reading in this morning’s paper the account of the funeral Mass for Bishop O’Mahony gave me a lift. I know that Tim Murphy was a close friend of his for many years, and that Tim was extremely upset by the way Dermot was treated in the Murphy report, and even more so by the Archbishop. I was glad that he got the opportunity to have his say, and that he said it so well. Tim, I am so pleased for you that you could do your bit to set the record straight.
    I was also glad to see what Bishop Eamon Walsh said about their being a serious lack of equity in the way Dermot was treated.

    May he rest in peace, and enjoy the reward of his goodness. And I hope that in time a sense of balance will come to this whole sorry saga, and that history will treat all sides more fairly, and help to bring about a belated healing of the many layers of hurt.

  4. Padraig McCarthy

    A recording of the Funeral Mass can be seen (I don’t know for how long) at http://www.churchservices.tv/shankill/archive/recordings/VbYqlBWbNK
    Opening hymn starts at about 2 mins. Introductory words by Dermot’s brother Gerry at 7 mins. Tim Murphy’s homily starts at 28:30. Words of Bishop Éamonn Walsh before the final commendation are at 1:15:00.

  5. Patrick T. Darcy

    I read Sarah McDonald’s article in the Irish Independent about Bishop Dermot O’Mahony’s passing and totally agree with the criticisms directed at her. Her only focus is the bishop’s response to the abuse scandal, while providing nothing about the man’s goodness and the positive pastoral contributions which he made in his ministry as priest and bishop. That is irresponsible on her part.

    Although there may be legitimate criticism of the methodology used in the Murphy Report and the criticism that Archbishop Martin was not open to the Fergal Sweeney’s report, it is clear that the conclusions of the Report were based on facts found in the documents provided by the archdiocese.

    Bishop O’Mahony based his criticism of Archbishop Duirmuid Martin on the fact that the archbishop was out of the archdiocese for 31 years and “had no idea how traumatic it was for those of us who had to deal with allegations without protocols or guidelines in the matter of child sex abuse.” The fact that the archbishop was out of the country for 31 years is irrelevant. What protocols or guidelines were needed to know that a priest who rapes an innocent child anally or vaginally does not belong in ministry? How could superiors justify moving an abuser priest from parish to parish, or in some cases, out of the country, knowing that the priest has violated countless innocent children and would continue to abuse? How does Bishop O’Mahony’s trauma compare to the trauma suffered by children?

    The arguments that Fr. Pádraig McCarthy and bishops have used to justify the action taken by bishops in the past are patently excuses. Bishops, they argue, made “mistakes” and their response to the crisis should be seen in historical perspective, given the knowledge and understanding of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Seen in that perspective, Fr. McCarthy would lead us to believe that “the steps taken can be more readily appreciated.” How can anyone “appreciate” the steps taken by the bishops when they resulted in the abandonment of innocent children? It is obscene to use that word. Although it is clear that there was little understanding of pedophilia, the rape of a child, whether in 1940, 1955, or today, to quote Archbishop Martin, “was, is, and will always be a sin and a crime.” The key word is crime.

    Bishop O’Mahony and bishops did not make mistakes; they made conscious decisions to protect priests and the church and to throw innocent children to the wolves. Fr. McCarthy and bishops would want us to believe that today we now know—as apparently we didn’t know in the past– that abuse would have serious and long-term effects on the children who were abused.

    Is this the so-called “learning curve?” Children, after all, are resilient; well, apparently, no one told the children. A child is sexually abused by a person in whom he/she places trust. In many cases children were threatened if they revealed their abuse; in some cases, priests told the children that their parents knew and approved. In many cases when children were abused and told their parents, they were not believed and were punished for saying something so horrible about a “man of God.”

    Who in their right mind would not realize that their abuse would result in a loss of innocence and a loss of faith? Trust goes “out of the door.” The pain continues into adulthood: fear of entering into relationships; turning to drugs and alcohol to ease the pain; and with some survivors, taking their lives.
    Those who say that they didn’t know that such abuse would have long-term effects on children are lying, naïve, and stupid. The problem is that bishops and their defenders have never put themselves in “the child’s shoes.” Their perception was and is totally focused on protecting the abuser and the church’s good name.

    Although this comment has gone on too long, I want to say something about Archbishop Martin. I admire the man. When bishops in my country hired high-priced lawyers to stonewall turning over diocesan documents to lawful authorities, the archbishop readily gave 70,000 documents to the Murphy commission. When bishops in my country argued against the objective findings of Grand Juries’ reports (grand juries are part of our legal establishment), the archbishop accept the conclusions of the Murphy Report without trying to defend the indefensible. When bishops refused to meet with survivors, Archbishop Martin made that a priority.

    May Bishop O’Mahony rest in peace.

  6. Padraig McCarthy

    Remarks at funeral of Bishop Dermot O’Mahony.

    The ACP initiated a review of the Murphy Report. It is not a rejection of the Report, which helped highlight the injustice of the abuse of children. The review, as outlined above, shows evidence of serious fault lines in both the legislation underlying the Murphy Report and in the operation of the Commission. No official action resulted. Righting one injustice should not result in further injustice. The brief summaries below tells an important story.
    Gerry O’Mahony:
    Gerry, Dermot’s brother, spoke at the start of the celebration. He welcomed those present, especially family members, members of the ordination class, Dermot’s long-time secretary Bernie, Papal Nuncio, etc. He gave a brief synopsis of the life and spirituality of Dermot, and some of his service in Dublin diocese and nationally: pilgrimage to Lourdes with children, Justice and Peace Commission, PAX Christi, gift of comforting those in distress. Also his interest in rugby and in Dublin football.
    Gerry then went on to say that he had a promise to Dermot to fulfil. In 2009 Dermot sent a letter to the diocese around the time of the Murphy Report on the handling of allegations of child abuse in Dublin diocese. He wrote: “I profoundly regret that any action or inaction of mine should have contributed to the suffering of even a single child. I want to apologise for my failures from the bottom of my heart.” Notwithstanding this, Dermot had assured the archbishop of his support. This statement was not released, leading to the perception that Dermot had never expressed sorrow or regret. This haunted him to the end of his life.
    Gerry expressed appreciation of the reception of the funeral the previous evening by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.
    Homily:
    Fr Tim Murphy in his homily also spoke of Dermot and his work, including the New Ireland Forum, Pax Christi, and the hunger strike in Long Kesh. Tim spoke of their friendship which enabled them to speak the truth regardless of the cost. He contrasted some of the “mountain-top experiences” in Dermot’s life with the events surrounding the Murphy Report, which Dermot found personally devastating. Dermot made it clear that he did not equate his suffering with that of the children who had been abused.
    The first reading from the prophet Micah had spoken of how we must act justly, love tenderly, and walk humble with our God. This described the mindset of Dermot; to say that Dermot was involved in a cover-up is laughable. Dermot had at heart bringing healing and salvation to the victims of crime, and also to those who were responsible for the crimes. This is what got Dermot into hot water. To be accused of having no love or care was the deepest cut. Being excluded from his parish at Christmas hurt greatly. Now in this Christmas season, Dermot has found a welcome to his church.
    The second reading from the first letter of John expressed a theology and spirituality of a life of love. We know we cannot love at no cost. Tim referred to a writer who experienced before an icon in Jerusalem the realisation: “Now you know what it is to be a man; now you know what it is to give everything.” Dermot experienced this. His health problems began long before 2009. Tim posed the question: how much of Dermot’s great physical pain was caused by the psychological pain of being wronged and scapegoated? The support of friends strengthened him, with the hope that one day a better understanding will emerge.
    The reading from the gospel according to Matthew reflected Dermot’s conviction that the whole law and the prophets, and canon law itself, are subservient to the law of love we find in Jesus. Tim recalled how Dermot had quoted the book of Job: “The Lord gave; the Lord took away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” The Responsorial Psalm also embodied Dermot’s faith, even though the peace he longed for was still unattained at the time of his death: “O Lord (Yahweh), I know you are near: you are always by my side.”
    Bishop Éamon Walsh:
    Before the Prayers of Commendation, Éamon conveyed the sympathy of many, and spoke of Dermot’s great integrity. Although scapegoated when society ignored the principle of equity to hear the other side, “audi alteram partem”, the goodness found in Dermot’s life cannot be destroyed. When he was accused, he remained silent, knowing that to speak would only cause greater pain to those who had suffered. Dermot showed integrity and courage. As we do the same, Dermot’s goodness will live on.

  7. Sean O'Conaill

    Pádraig McCarthy writes:

    “Did he (Bishop O’Mahony) make mistakes in his handling of allegations? Yes, as judged by the understanding we have today of many dimensions of the matter: the serious and long-lasting effects on so many who were abused; how difficult it can be to deal with those who sexually abuse children; the best procedures to be followed in dealing with allegations; and many other aspects. However, by the understanding and knowledge of the 1970s and 1980s, not just in the church, but in society, including law, psychiatry and sociology, in Ireland and elsewhere, the steps taken can be more readily appreciated, although today recognised as gravely deficient.”

    Who were those in the external professions of e.g. law, psychiatry and sociology who advised the Dublin bishops that whatever measures might be taken to protect children from clerical abusers, recourse to criminal investigation and possible prosecution must not be one of those measures?

    In none of the ACP-sponsored defences of those found wanting by the Murphy report have I seen a frank recognition that those concerned were ever consciously acting within that constraint – and that this constraint was NOT imposed upon them by the prevailing secular wisdom of the time. There has instead been a clear repudiation of the following declaration by the Irish Bishops Conference in December 2009:

    “We are shamed by the extent to which child sexual abuse was covered up in the Archdiocese of Dublin and recognise that this indicates a culture that was widespread in the Church. The avoidance of scandal, the preservation of the reputations of individuals and of the Church, took precedence over the safety and welfare of children.”

    How can the ACP fulfil its intention of church reform if instead of endorsing this honest acknowledgement of what happened it remains forever in the barren land of denial?

    As for the accusation of ‘scapegoating’, if we are to retain the force of this term it must surely be reserved for the practice whereby persons A offload the blame for their own misdeeds upon person or persons B, who had either no or minimal part in those misdeeds. To make it mean instead ‘to hold person B accountable for what person B has or hasn’t done’ is not only to bankrupt a most important term, but to imply also that the process of making anyone publicly accountable for anything is necessarily unjust.

    In light of a tide of other appalling failures of leadership, responsibility and accountability in Ireland, is that really where the ACP wants to go?

    I have no difficulty in believing that Bishop O’Mahony was both a memorable Christian AND seriously at fault as found by the Murphy report. Why should anyone need to repudiate the latter to believe the former? A bad system made good people behave badly. Can’t we move on now please?

  8. Kevin Walters

    Patrick T. Darcy @5
    The clarity of your Post bears witness to the TRUTH and all those who serve the Truth will surely hear your voice.
    Unaccountable self-serving men wearing the mantle of Jesus Christ sacrificed innocent children on the altar of self-interest (- Protection) under the disguise of obedience to the institutional Church, this continuing putrid oozing scab on the face God Holy Church on earth is still been held in place by those same arrogant self-serving clerics under the disguise CLERICALISM (a policy of maintaining or increasing the power of a religious hierarchy) As virtual no one from the Pope down will accept responsibility with regards to the abuse crisis cover up and acknowledge its historical culture within the Church. Rather than accept collective guilty, some it seems even want to garb themselves in self-pitying righteousness, they would do well to look to and praise a man of true integrity Bishop Moriarty a man who held the bright lamp of truth above his intellect and came to the only conclusion possible and then embraced in humility, his own failings in regards to this scandal, if only all our Bishops/Sheppard’s would do the same and remove this scab they have placed on the face of their and our Lord and master Jesus Christ but for them to do so they would have to confront, their own failings.
    http://www.kandle.ie/bishop-moriarty-resignation/
    Will our Shepherds lead by accepting the collective guilt of this scandal for permitting their consciences to be lulled into a state of inertia by putting self-interest first under the disguise of obedience to the institutional church.
    We need a Priesthood that walks in simplicity of thought (Heart/honesty) as Jesus taught.
    Please consider reading my article below in conjunction with this Post
    http://www.v2catholic.com/background/2015/08/2015-08-15the-web-of-clericalism.htm
    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  9. brendan butler

    Only one Bishop – Bishop Moriarity -accepted full personal responsibility for not fulfilling his duty to stop the continued criminal sexual abuse of children while he was eleven years as Auxiliary Bishop of the archdiocese of Dublin from 1991 to 2002.
    In his statement of resignation in December 2009 he wrote ‘The truth is that the long struggle of survivors to be heard and respected by church authorities has revealed a culture within the Church that many would simply describe as unchristian. I accept that from the time I became an Auxiliary Bishop, I should have challenged the prevailing culture. ‘
    These words came from the heart

  10. Padraig McCarthy

    Re Seán O Conaill @7:
    “Who were those in the external professions of e.g. law, psychiatry and sociology who advised the Dublin bishops that whatever measures might be taken to protect children from clerical abusers, recourse to criminal investigation and possible prosecution must not be one of those measures?”
    It seems I have not made myself sufficiently clear. The point is not whether they gave such advice, but that those professions too were working with the knowledge of the day. Those who advised the diocese have questions to answer about the state of their own understanding at the time.

    The declaration by the bishops’ conference in December 2009:
    In the aftermath of the Murphy Report, it seems clear that the bishops’ conference simply accepted without question what the Report judged, as also did the media at large. This too was my first reaction, until I began to examine the Report more closely. I know Seán does not agree, but I am convinced, as I wrote in “Unheard Story”, that there are serious faults in the Report. Initially there were two issues: the charge that there was no “learning curve”, and the question of whether the majority of Dublin clergy turned a blind eye. Many more problems have since emerged. It may seem arrogant to make such a claim, but until those matters are addressed, there is a question over the judgments of the Commission.

    “Scapegoating”: I agree that it is perhaps not an accurate use of the original meaning of the word. It is accurate insofar as the Commission address only how diocesan officials handled allegations; there has been no similar examination of handling of allegations by any other institution. It is a matter for the whole of society, not just church officials.

    “I have no difficulty in believing that Bishop O’Mahony was both a memorable Christian AND seriously at fault as found by the Murphy report.”
    I have no difficulty in believing that any individual could be both. In the matter of the Murphy Report, however, its conclusions in regard to the guilt of named persons are unsafe. For example, in Chapter 6 of my book I examined in detail the particular case in Chapter 20 of the Report. The Report is accurate in its account of the abuse. There are however so many errors in its assessment of the handling of the case that its damning conclusion is clearly unwarranted, and that by the very evidence that the Report itself recounts.

    “Can’t we move on now please?” I’m all in favour of this; but to do so it is vital that we not treat the Murphy Report as infallible. As I point out in Chapter 3 of my book, even Supreme Court decisions can be revisited in certain circumstances. The report of a Commission of Investigation has a far lower status than a Supreme Court decision. So far there is no indication of any willingness on the part of the government to revisit the Murphy Report. It may well be that we must wait 30 years for historians to do so. If that be so, in the meantime the reputations of people like Dermot O’Mahony remain seriously destroyed, and most, if not all, are likely to have gone to their graves also. It is a tragedy that, in trying to right one injustice, we run the risk of perpetrating further injustice. This is what the ACP wants addressed. It may appear to some to be an “appalling vista” to contemplate this, as was said of another controversial case. It is however vital that it be addressed.

  11. Rory Connor

    I refer to Patrick T Darcy’s comments on Bishop Dermot O’Mahony and especially on Archbishop Diarmuid Martin (“I admire the man”). I certainly do not share his admiration for the Archbishop!

    My website http://www.irishsalem.com is about false allegations of child abuse – and one theme is the response (or lack of it) of Bishops and Religious Superiors to malicious attacks on the Catholic Church. I have an article on Archbishop D. Martin that includes the following:
    http://www.irishsalem.com/individuals/Politicians%20and%20Others/archbishop-martin/index.php

    “The Archbishop and Auxiliary Bishops of Dublin

    “The most egregious example is the Archbishop’s treatment of retired auxiliary Bishop Dermot O’Mahony. The Archbishop removed Bishop O’Mahony from his position as director of the archdiocese’s pilgrimage to Lourdes on the basis that “I regret that you did not express any public clarification or remorse or apology” (letter dated 2 December 2009). However Bishop O’Mahony had sent a statement to the Archbishop’s Director of Communications Annette O’Donnell on 27 October 2009 which concluded : “I profoundly regret that any action or inaction of mine should have contributed to the suffering of even a single child. I want to apologise for my failures from the bottom of my heart”. The statement was not published by the Communications Office but Annette O’Donnell confirmed that the Archbishop had seen it. He made no apology to Dermot O’Mahony and indeed continued to criticise him.

    “In November 2009 the Archbishop invited the Bishop of Galway Martin Drennan who had previously been an auxiliary Bishop of Dublin to “consider his position” after the publication of the Murphy Report. While the Report mentions Bishop Drennan, it makes no criticism whatsoever of his conduct! In order to consolidate his status as a media hero, does the Archbishop want to hand the media as many heads as possible on a platter?”

    On a related point, I heard that other members of the hierarchy subsequently referred to Bishop Drennan as the “patron saint of the Auxiliary Bishops” because of the way he stood up to the Archbishop and declined to resign!

  12. Paddy Ferry

    You know every time I see or hear mention of the Fergal Sweeney critique of the Murphy Commission my heart sinks. I have always thought this was a serious error of judgement on the part of the ACP and I am so disappointed that the death of Bishop Dermot O’Mahony has occasioned yet another round of debate and publicity on something that we really should simply let lie. I should say that I have no doubt that Dermot O’Mahony was a good and decent man and may God rest his soul.
    I think the bottom line in all of this is the fact that most reasonable people would regard whatever lack of proper legal process occurred during the work of Yvonne Murphy’s commission as being of little or no significance in comparison to the horror of the rape of innocent, defenseless children. Archbishop Martin was correct to say that it is “always a sin and a crime.” Infact, it is surely one of the most heinous crimes imaginable. I agree completely with Sean has said and with Brendan Butler’s comment on Bishop Moriarity. And, I completely concur with Sean’s final plea ” Can we now please move on”, otherwise I fear this could well become a permanent stain on the reputation of the ACP.

  13. Joe O'Leary

    Padraig writes: ““Scapegoating”: I agree that it is perhaps not an accurate use of the original meaning of the word.”

    But if what Rory subsequently wrote is correct, then Bp O’Mahony was the victim of a classic scapegoating operation.

    I agree that “let us move on” is not good enough. Many priests in Ireland seem to have been treated very unfairly. Would it be worth it to take up Abp Martin’s challenge and seek redress in court?

    This would not be self-serving clericalism, but a wholesome reaction against the trashing of reputations left, right, and centre in our media-driven society. It could thus be a service to the common good.

  14. Anne

    Is it possible that some clergy still don’t get it. The abuse scandal has damaged the credibility of the church so much that I doubt if it will ever fully recover from it. And they are concerned that the illustrious careers of some of their members will be tainted . A small price to pay for the failures of leadership in the church I would think. “It would be better if a millstone be tied around your neck and be dragged down to the depths of the sea than to give scandal to little children”

  15. Joe O'Leary

    Lots of men have been pushed to the edge of the abyss by false accusations of child abuse, or by vicious handling of suspicions as in the case of Cliff Richard, to take a well-known example. The attitudes behind this are not of help to anyone. In the USA a mother was imprisoned for letting her 4 year old child out alone. Why did the neighbors not bring the child home? Because they were afraid of being suspected of child molestation… Prejudice and hysteria are a huge public problem and are damaging to children too. And that gospel quote like all others is meant to be applied to the reader, not used as a stone to cast at others.

  16. Nuala O'Driscoll

    Joe O’Leary @ 13.
    Be careful what you wish for. By going down the legal redress road like the Pharisees and the Sadducees you might just get what you wish for. But at the risk of recrucifying the victims who suffered both at the hands of abusers and the cover up by those in authority in the Church, and hammering another nail in the coffin of the Holy Roman Catholic Church in Ireland.

  17. Padraig McCarthy

    @ 13 Joe OLeary.
    Thanks, Joe, for getting me to clarify my own thinking!
    In classical scapegoating, a goat (known to be entirely innocent) was chosen and banished, carrying in symbolic mode the acknowledged sins of the people.
    In the Dublin situation, there has been little acknowledgment in this context that child abuse is a wide societal problem. By investigating only the diocese, it is made to seem as if the problem is synonymous with the church. Those who carried out the horrific abuse are indeed responsible. Many of those who had responsibility for handling allegations at the time are declared guilty and made to carry the whole societal failure in responding to abuse, without regard to social and historical context. They are not recognised to be innocent symbolic “scapegoats”, but are declared guilty by a flawed process. The investigation by the Murphy Commission did indeed bring to attention the horrific abuse, but the work of the Commission on the handling of allegations is so flawed that its judgments are unsafe, and yet those named and shamed are made to bear the burden of being condemned retrospectively for their handling of allegations.
    As Fergal Sweeney wrote in his Review (at 4.11): “Does that mean that each of the clerics who appeared before the Murphy Commission and is ‘named’ in their report was guilty of those faults? … I have no idea. I have been unable to get a fair reading of their case because the Murphy Report lacks nuance, balance and any understanding of the historical and sociological context.”
    There are similarities with classic scapegoating, and there are also significant differences.

  18. Anne

    Joe@15. A wonderful priest personally known to me was falsely accused and sadly took his own life so I understand fully that good decent men are been tainted unjustly.
    I also knew a priest who was a notorious abuser he also took his own life rather than admit his crimes ( several of his victims also committed sucide).
    All of these tragedies can be laid at the door of the disastrous mismanagement of those in authority in the church on this issue. It is a sad fact that the situation the church finds itself in today is largely of its own making.

  19. Joe O'Leary

    “By going down the legal redress road like the Pharisees and the Sadducees…” Well, the alternative might be unjust imprisonment or the like. See this: http://ncronline.org/news/accountability/appeals-court-vacates-philadelphia-monsignors-conviction-orders-new-trial

    I note that Fr Shawn Ratigan is serving a sentence of 50 years for taking lewd photos of little girls. Hysteria over pedophiles has scrapped any concern with proportionality in sentencing, let alone rehabilitation. There needs to be a rational critique of this, and I think that Fergal Sweeney and Padraig McCarthy have taken a small step in the right direction here.


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