Saturday, 28 November 2009

A Response to the Murphy Report

It is the eve of Advent Sunday as I put these thoughts together – A day on which we are called upon to ‘cast away the works of darkness and to put on the armour of light’. It could hardly be more appropriate in the aftermath of the Murphy Report which is surely a tale of darkness and depravity almost unparalleled in our nation’s history. We must indeed cast away these ‘works of darkness’ but that is not enough; we must ‘put on the armour of light’, i.e. we must do whatever needs to be done to protect the most vulnerable from those who would prey on them and those despicable individuals who would cover their sordid tracks.

So where do we start?
Starting at the top, we should expel the Papal Nuncio who along with his colleagues in the Vatican, including the Pope and his predecessors has demonstrated absolute contempt for the legal authorities of this State. They have actively frustrated and subverted the criminal investigation of clerical child abuse through non-cooperation and non-disclosure. This has undoubtedly delayed the uncovering of abusers and meant that many more young vulnerable lives have been damaged and in some cases destroyed. If any other nation’s representatives had facilitated this we would have no qualms about sending them packing. Our actions now will demonstrate whether this state has truly broken free from the shackles of the Vatican.

Anyone named in the report, be they cardinal, bishop, priest or lay, garda or civilian, should be investigated and where evidence of criminal behaviour or neglect is found they must be prosecuted, not for the sake of revenge, but for justice, in particular justice for those who paid the ultimate price at the hands of these vile abusers.

The ‘formation’ of priests will have to be investigated – If there is something inherent in it that has bred so many abusive clergy then that needs to be identified and challenged. My own church, the Church of Ireland, part of the Anglican Communion is not immune to clerical child abuse but it is far less prevalent and has been at broadly similar levels to that in society as a whole. I have a strong suspicion that the high incidence in the Roman Catholic church is not unrelated to compulsory celibacy – Whether these deviant individuals are attracted to a boys only club with access to vulnerable children or perhaps that the repression of sexuality within the priesthood leads to such twisted manifestations of sexual behaviour I am not sure – I suspect both are factors. This is not an excuse however – There is no excuse for this abominable crime.
In the light of what has happened the church can no longer simply say they are forbidden to talk about priestly celibacy! If this discipline contributes in any way to the situation it is certainly not of God. Historically it was not primarily theological but pragmatic reasons that led to the discipline of compulsory celibacy in the Roman Church and it only became universal in the 12th Century. It may need a radical rethink!

Similarly if there is something in that same formation that supports and reinforces the culture of silence that has sheltered abusers then that too needs to be determined. If the concept of ‘Mental Reservation’, used by Cardinal Connell to justify lying about abusers to civil authorities, is as mainstream in so called Catholic Moral Theology as it now appears one would have to wonder just how moral that theology is. It seems to me that morality has been supplanted by a perverted legalism that is not so much immoral as amoral.

Up till now I have been reluctant to comment on this issue in a sister church – As a convinced and committed ecumenist, which I still am, I did not want to be seen to be point scoring, but this is to serious to hold back for fear of jeopardising friendships. The deliberate and systematic cover up is inexcusable and a complete betrayal of children and the Gospel – Incidentally I think the disconnect is not remotely as prevalent on the ground among the parish clergy – The problem seems to be at higher levels where some bishops have not only let down children but also the vast majority of clergy who were not abusers and now find themselves tarred with the same brush.

We are very lucky in this diocese of Killaloe where I am based to have a Roman Catholic bishop of the stature of Bishop Willie Walsh who has consistently represented the marginalised and put them first – He understands that the role of the church is on the margins not dominating and controlling society. Christianity and power don’t mix! That is another lesson that all the churches, my own included have to take on board. We are called to be ‘not of this world’ which does not mean that we are above the law and a law onto ourselves but rather that we are called to minister to those who this world would hurt and destroy. Ironically in a selfish attempt to hold onto a power that should never have been held by the church, some have destroyed those who they were entrusted to protect. I can only hope and pray that this is truly the end of this tragic chapter in our nation’s history – firstly for the sake of children who of their nature remain vulnerable regardless of child protection policies, and secondly for a church which set free from its bondage to power could do so much more good among those who have been marginalised in so many ways in our world today.

This post referenced in Irish Times today in article by Patsy McGarry: HERE

And also on RTE Drivetime 30/11/09 HERE approx 55 mins in from beginning of show

Nuncio responds Here


t.stokka said...

While I am no evangelical, I cannot help but think of a story I heard about Billy Graham refusing even to ride in an elevator alone with a woman lest false accusation or real temptation cause him to betray God's honor.
I teach 6th grade World Cultures, and I frequently tell my students that you can tell a great deal about a country or even an institution's values by how the weakest and most vulnerable--ussually the very young, the very old, animals, and/or ousiders--- are treated. While it certainly is disgraceful that these things happened at all, the real horror is the prolonged length of time that these abuses occurred because those with the power to stop it, perpetuated it with a conspiracy of silence. Sacrilege destroying sacrament.

t stokka said...

My vacation is almost up so I shalln't be leaving so many and so immediate comments on your blog. I know it can get old, but I've really enjoyed it, and I you've also introduced me to some other really good blogs. Thank you Tracie Stokka

Póló said...


A brave and considered post.

I can understand your reluctance as an ecumenist not to burn bridges but this abomination is in a class of its own. It is also very important to have a positive, life enhancing, view from a sister church.

As you say, it raises the question of the future shape of the RC ministry, and of a theology which openly permits lying as long as it is in the supposed interest of the church. The poor martyrs, so honoured by the church, must be turning in their graves.

Other issues, such as the temporal power and possessions of the church, which were supposed to have been sorted out centuries ago, must be revisited. Your pointing up their role in imposed celibacy is worthwhile. There is no theological justification for that, nor for the exclusion of married or women clergy.

The issue of personal responsibility and the primacy of conscience is another issue the RC church must face. The traditional view of the "informed conscience", which was basically the conscience of Rome despite protestations to the contrary, must give way to a proper interpretation based firmly on the good faith of the individual and without outside "interference".

Your call for civil law to take its course, to be pursued vigorously, should also be heeded. That is putting it up to the State which has been involved in diversionary tactics since the publication of the report.

Thank you for a sane post in a mad mad world.

Stephen Neill said...

Tracie - Thanks so much - I do enjoy the exchange with you - Like the Billy Graham story too. Stay in touch

Póló - I do appreciate your comments - As you detect I am not out to dance on any graves but I am so angry that I had to let it out and there has been enough suppression all round on this issue. :-)

Pumpkin said...

My only fear is that the civil authorities of the state don't have the liathróidí to go in and arrest the various parties or to demand Cardinal Connell's extradition.

That is the only action to show that this country is growing up and out from the shadow of the RC church and becoming a mature member of the nations of the world.

Ireland has to take it's head from the sand now.

John Mullen said...

Dear Stephen,

I read about your blog in this mornings Irish Times and while I agree in principle with your comments I would warn about raising sectarian tendencies amoungst my own (Roman Catholic) community.

All christians, and non-christians are horrified about the abuse of trust and power by members of my church. It is beyond any words of mine to describe the shock, anger and dispair that exists amoungst the RC community as they try to cope with this scandal.

It is my information that Pope Benedict has been strict on this matter and it is bizarre that his vatican officials have not co-operated with this necessary inquiry. However to "expel" the Papal Nuncio and the use of the term "shackels of the vatican" are words that may lead to entrenchment by members of my my church and may hurt many decent catholics who are appaled by what has been revealed.

I hope you take my comments in the spirit that they are given,

God bless

John Mullen

Joc Sanders said...

In all this let's not forget our lay Roman Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ. Their pain and anger is palpable at the way so many clergy and their church as an institution have betrayed their faith.

They need our support I think - the support of Christians of other denominations - as they seek ways to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and build the kingdom of God he proclaimed.

Let us pray for them and comfort them.

agreed said...

Expel the Papal nuncio. Absolutely correct.

If this was any other nation, behaving as they did towards our children, raping and abusing them and then covering it up; in that case we would not feel in any way odd about expelling an ambassador who behaved with such appalling arrogance as to blithely ignore the correspondence from a state-appointed investigation into the abuse.

It sickens me.

I'm neither RC nor Anglican/COI, by the way.

Stephen Neill said...

Joc - Amen
I think the best way to support them (after the children and other victims who must be the priority) is to make sure it does not happen again - That is the whole purpose of my comment on the issue

Stephen Neill said...

John - As an old and good friend I know you surely understand that it gave me NO pleasure to openly critisize a sister church, many of the priests and religious of whom helped to foster and support my own vocation. I do of course take your comments in a spirit of friendship and genuine concern that this does not become a source of inter-Nicene strife. I don't doubt for a moment the genuine pain that is felt in your Church at the moment. However I remain unimpressed by the behaviour of the Vatican and its representatives. Pope Benedict is no shrinking violet and if he felt strongly enough about this he would have made sure that ALL information pertaining to child abuse was surrendered to our lawful authorities. He cannot hide behind the Nuncio and others. My words are strong because I still don't believe that there is a genuine desire to open up FULLY (Still some mental reservation perhaps) to the authorities - this has been demonstrated in Boston and elsewhere as well as Ireland. While this is the case there is always the chance that another abuser will slip through the net. And while my comments will inevitably cause pain to some, that regret is trumped every time by the rights of those who were raped and buggered and whose abuse was either covered up or not taken seriously enough by some who are still in office. Sorry friend but I stand over everything I have said.
Love to meet for coffee sometime and talk about anything but this.

Anonymous said...

John Mullen expressed exactly how I feel. I read the piece in the IT and listened to you on Drivetime.This is turning into quite an annus horribilis for us all. On top of feeling dreadful for the victims I also thought a lot about the pain which must be borne in silence by the siblings, nieces, nephews and maybe even parents of the perpetrators. This must be the ultimate grief for them. I also had a little thought at the back of my mind that those of another persuasion, particularly in the north, might be feeling something even akin to glee. We told you so. Those papishes. This is deeply depressing.A letter in the IT today suggested that we all turn Protestant. Someone always writes a letter suggesting we should ask the British to take us back whenever the economy suffers a downturn.
Rev. Neill, some of us heartily wish for change regarding celibacy, women priests etc and have long regretted that Vatican II changed all the things we treasured, the Latin, the poetic language of the scriptures, the Gregorian chant etc but refused to budge on these other issues.However, I doubt that priestly 'formation' is the same today as it was in the old days. We must not be disheartened. We have to hang on in there.For the sake of Jesus who scarcely gets a mention these days. Less of the faith of our fathers and more of the faith of our mothers will see us through. Our eighteenth century ancestors were stoic in tough times.
After the Ryan report I met an octogenarian nun so deeply distressed by the findings that she could not sleep. She was taking on herself the guilt of others. We must not forget such people, trendy as it may now seem to boast that one has no time for the church anymore.
Polo talks about church possessions. Should we sell the Pieta to a Russian oligarch? Turn Santa Maria Maggiore into a disco?

Anonymous said...

" always an intrinsically evil act. Graver still is the rape of children by parents (incest) or those responsible for the education of children entrusted to them." CCC

I like every other right thinking Catholic in the world finds it sick.
If people who are leaders are culpable, they should step down.

Priest's being free to Marry won't fix the problem for 2 reasons,

1/ They are allowed marry, they can write to Rome and hang up the boots.

2/In the majority of cases the abusers are homosexual, it stands to reason because most of the victims are boys.

I know this is not very PC. But it is the truth.

'He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone...go and sin no more.' J.C. John 8:7-8

Alan Rice

D said...

I'd expel the American ambassador, I think,long before I'd ask any Italian to leave(after all the President of the US is a supporter of virtual infanticide i.e. partial birth abortion)...No, I wouldn't go blamimg the Italians. We messed this one up all on our own and it is all the people of Ireland who need to look into their hearts and take responsibility for it.

Irish Reformer said...

I agree with the thrust of what you say particularly 'so called Catholic Moral Theology as it now appears one would have to wonder just how moral that theology is'. However I fail to understand how that church can be regarded as Christian in the true sense 'God is a spirit and they that worship Him must worship in Spirit and in Truth' John 4 v 24. It is indeed strange that you would continue to countenance ecumenism regarding Rome as 'a sister church'. was the sacrifice of the Reformers in vain ? Certainly not yet the Roman church through the dark ages as today has corrupted the true gospel of sovereign Grace. The eternal God has therefore given us one Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ. All others are counterfeit. Knowing much of the work of Irish Church Missions in far flung corners of this island, evangelising Roman Catholics i fear that such is what is most needed today. We rejoice in God's hand upon the preaching of His word because 'The entrance of Thy Word bringeth Light' Psalm 119 v 130

Anonymous said...

Its so refreshing and important to hear a person speak with such honesty about this subject, I heard you on the radio this evening and totally agree with all of your points, fair play , you are a man of honesty

Philip Doyle

Unknown said...

I couldn't agree with you more on the expelling of the Nuncio. (I'd had the same thought on reading Friday's IT). I also spent some time in a novitiate of an RC religious order in the early 90's and was shocked at the the ratio of gay/straight. Not one to usually post or write on issues in society I felt I couldn't not write to Bishop Donal Murray. Here's an extract of my note to him

"Unfortunately a chain is only as strong as it's weakest link. Therefore while you remain in office the work Ms Walsh [child protection officer for Limerick diocese] and her team do is completely undermined. In particular the case of Peter McCloskey must hang like an elephant in the room when you hold meetings on child protection.

Unfortunately I'm aware of the damage abuse can cause. I'm quite sure that this damage must be significantly compounded when real affirmative christian action is not taken by those in positions of authority when their complaints are not properly dealt with. I believe that you are telling the truth when you say you took action in every case brought to your attention. Unfortunately I also believe that you are using "mental reservation" in that claim.

I really want my children to hear the message of Jesus but am finding it increasingly difficult to bring them to a catholic church. That is the legacy you and your colleagues have left behind. With each passing year my admiration for Eamon Casey rises. He did something wrong that impacted principally those very close to him and resigned. Yet your, and your colleagues, inaction devastated families that you were meant to pastorally care for and refuse to resign.

Can I ask you to re remember why you joined the priesthood? Would you not be better serving a small community as a priest than continuing on as a bishop with your current level of credibility?

I appreciate that my knowledge of the issues that have come up in the Murphy report are not as detailed as yours. However your closeness to the details may be preventing you from "seeing the wood from the trees".

I'm not normally one to write protest letters or such the like but my anger in this case has made me feel doing nothing would only mirror your inactivity and therefore make me in some way complicit.

Yours Sincerely - (I couldn't possibly say "Yours Faithfully" as we seem at this stage to belong to a different faith). Paul

Twenty Major said...

We are very lucky in this diocese of Killaloe where I am based to have a Roman Catholic bishop of the stature of Bishop Willie Walsh who has consistently represented the marginalised and put them first

The same Willie Walsh who defended Donal Murray today? And who said "I’m quite uncomfortable with this kind of public trial. I’d have to ask: is it about healing of survivors or is it about some sort of desire that we need to get a head on a plate?"

The desire of the catholic church to obfuscate and ensure the spotlight is on anyone but them is mind-boggling. The attempts to try and focus on the 'survivors' so those responsible are not made accountable for their actions are so transparent.

I agree with the vast majority of your post and perhaps in your dealings with Walsh you know a better man but he has not covered himself in glory in this matter.

Stephen Neill said...

Alan - The equation of abusers with homosexuality is a myth and a cruel one at that - born of homophobia usually. A convenient scapegoat but not a correct one.

D - If only some of these men who helped cover up the abuse of children showed the same passion for life after birth as before it! Being Pro-Life is about more than 9 months!

Irish Reformer - your words represent the gratuitous sectarianism I despise and which I sought to avoid in my post

Philip - Thank you so much for your generous words

Irish Reformer said...

You need to face the reality of what the Bible speaks of as the Harlot of Babylon in Revelation 17.

Stephen Neill said...

Twenty - Yes I was very disappointed to hear +WW today - It was a huge surprise as it contradicts all my experience of the man who I know quite well. His comments were quite bizarre and seemed to focus on the bishops rather than the survivors who must surely be the priority in all of this. I live and learn!

Stephen Neill said...

Irish Reformer - I am not a Biblical fundamentalist and even if I were I would not make that equation!

Myautobiography said...

Dedicated to every abused adult (where-ever) whose childhood was stolen & to pray there is never another child who becomes another token of this horrible crime.

“The Story of me and Many More, A Child after the before”
I am the sky- whose cloak will not blue
I am the sea- whose tide will not turn
I am the moon- whose silver will not hue
I am the sun- whose orange will not burn
I am the day- whose light will not bright
I am the night- whose darkness will not light
I am the tree- whose root is dead
I am the flower- without a head
I am the fish- whose fins will not breathe
I am the bird- who will not eat seed

I am the scab- that just will not heal
I am the neural- that just cannot feel
I am a smile - that remains frozen
I am a choice- that was never chosen
I am a year — without a season
I am a reason - without a reason
I am a whisper - that cannot vibrate
I am a scream - that cannot migrate
I am a prison - whose cell will not open
I am the cell - where space is so choking

I am a house - that has no foundation
I am a country - without a nation
I am the hell - that is in my centre
I am the heaven — that has no banter
I am Christmas - without its infant
I am a gift box - without its present
I am the present — that is now past
I am the past - that is now present
I am a heart - without a soul
I am the secret - never told

I was lost - and still not found
I was frightened - no solace around
I am a curse - no man can swear
I am the abused - no one was there
I done no crime -1 served a dictum
I done no wrong — I am a victim
I was the wrong - that was never right
I was defenceless -1 could not fight
I was that child - who was un-nurtured
I am the man- that still is tortured

(To the Lucky ones who escaped this ordeal)
I am a child abused- a man confused
Just one of many- that were used
To you all - who escaped this ordeal?
If you were I -that is how it would feel?

I was a Child once like many more
Then someone came and closed that Door
Since then I just gave up hoping
That it would ever again open
With a Title I didn’t choose
And when I became that abused child
That was the last day of my “Life”…!!!
Oh yes, to others it seemed like I had life
But inside, I was never really ever, “Alive”!

I somehow still believe there is a God
But ask over & over "Where the Hell he was"?
When I was a child being "Abused"!
Like so many others being "Abused"!

Written by an anonymous victim? 2009

Irish Reformer said...

If you have knowledge of the Protestant Reformers such as Ridley and Latimer you will know where I come from. I hold the inspiration and inerrancy of Holy Scripture.

I note that you did not answer my challenge about ICM evangelising Roman Catholics. This is the message of the Gospel surely - true repentance and faith. Psalm 118 v 8

Twenty Major said...

His comments were quite bizarre and seemed to focus on the bishops rather than the survivors who must surely be the priority in all of this.

Wait till you see Bertie Ahern's comments tomorrow.

Myautobiography said...

I also heard you on "Drivetime" I admire you for understanding a lot more than the Catholic Church or Religious Institution's of the state. I fell at one of these institutions gates (Artane's) & then after I was handed my fate...of being a victim of their sins & all this going on while they were preaching religion & telling me how God was (Great) & teaching me the "Our Father" the Hail Mary" & the "Glory Be to the Father, the Son, & the Holy Ghost". Oh how, they were the sinners most...that Satan laughed along with as they carried their evil deeds out & then day after day they prayed, we the (children) prayed along with them & in between the abuse went on & on & on and all in the name of "Religion & to the Glee of Satan" & on the "Vatican's Watch"!

Anonymous said...

I was raised a catholic but never want to set foot inside a catholic church again. I feel lost as I have no spiritual place to go. This country is in one big sorry mess.

Stephen Neill said...

Sullyball - thank you for sharing your profound and obviously heartfelt correspondence - Well said!

Myautobiography - that was one of the most distressing and moving things I have ever read - thank you and I pray you find peace of heart

Irish Reformer - Life is too short to indulge in sectarianism - ICM is in my opinion deeply sectarian and I deplore my churches association with them

Twenty - tell me you are joking - PLEASE!

Myautobiography - again your post communicates something of the horror which I will never fully understand but I hope I will never treat it lightly

Irish Reformer said...

Life is too short if you fail to preach the gospel that ALL men need to turn from sin in Repentance and faith unto the Lord Jesus Christ. You clearly have identified yourself with the Liberal and ecumenical - surely this reveals your narrowness in theology etc ?

Póló said...

Very fine and balanced interview on Drive Time.

The Nuncio (Irish Times) sounded like a very bad impression of Pontius Pilate. At least you flushed him out. Full marks.

Keep up the good work. You have the cred and the credo.

Irish Reformer said...

My advice to Anonymous of 1st Dec, you need to realise that Salvation is not in a church but in the Lord Jesus Christ. Read in Matthew ch 9
of the Pharisees. They were no better than the publicans and sinners. You need to hear the gospel, the living word of God. If you live in Dublin, i commend to you Arann Reformed Baptist Church which meets in St Johns GAA club at Ballinteer every Sunday at 11am.

Pageturners said...

It's untrammeled power, I think, not celibacy, that allowed the rape of children.

The world is full of celibate people who don't rape children. Sex doesn't of itself have a marvellously disinfecting effect on the desire to rape - most child rapes are by married members of the children's families.

May I say how much I admire you for standing up and saying unequivocally that Ireland must turn against those who oversaw the abusers and did everything to assist them.

Stephen Neill said...

Irish Reformer - 'Liberal' 'Ecumenical' but not narrow I hope - I believe in scandalous Grace - Not sure it would fit in your black and white world

Póló - Thanks again friend :)

Pageturners - I agree re Power and the clinging thereto - still not convinced that ENFORCED celibacy is not an issue. Thanks for your very kind remarks

Pastor Nigel Owens said...


Whilst I myself am an evangelical Christian, I would like to thank you for your courageous and, in my opinion, quite compelling comments regarding the papal nuncio. I sincerely commend what you have done. My congregation and I will be praying for you.

Whilst I am no longer a member of the Church of Ireland, I did grow up within it and, even prior to when I was saved, I did have a genuine love for the old Book of Commmon Prayer with its rich Cramnerian theology.

During my time as a child and a young person within the Church of Ireland, I met a few very good evangelical clergymen who, under God, influenced me greatly for Christ. One of those men was Rev. Eddie Coulter who now (to the best of my knowledge) runs ICM.

Allow me to say that ICM are not sectarian - to call them so is to suppose that Catholicism and Protestantism are different 'sects' of the same religion.

The sad fact is that they are not two sects of one religion - they are two entirely different religions altogether (one, classically speaking and at best, believes in semi-pelagianism and the other, classically speaking, believes in salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone).

Like the RC theologians at the Council of Trent, classic Protestant evangelicals like Archbishop Hammond and others involved with the ICM correctly understood that one of those 'gospels' outlined above was a false gospel and therefore deserving of God's anathema (see John 14 and Gal 1).

The sad fact is that when, at Trent, the Roman church placed their anathema upon the true evangelical gospel, they were unfortunately placing the anathema of God upon themselves.

Therefore it is, at best, inaccurate to dismiss Protestant opposition to Romanism as 'sectarianism'. Historically speaking, your church wouldn't even exist were it not for those evangelicals who refused to bow the knee to Roman Catholicism.

The ICM are true Anglicans who, unlike many other Church of Ireland clergymen, have remained faithful to ordination commitments concerning the Articles and Canon Law.

The blood of godly evangelical Anglican clergymen, bishops and archbishops who opposed Romanism and sealed their testimony with their own blood when they were burnt at the stake by the Church of the Antichrist (while crowds of RCs gathered round and shouted 'bigot') confirm the honourable place that groups like ICM ought to have within the Anglican world.

Whilst I myself have been led to the position that evangelicals ought to 'come out' of those denominations who have gone into apostasy (2nd Cor 6), people like ICM, Reform Ireland, the Church Society and the Protestant Reformation Society have my fullest respect in that they have sought to remain faithful to the Bible, Canon Law and the Articles.

All too often today, legitimate evangelical concerns about Romanism are routinely dismissed as 'sectarian' or 'bigotry'. This kind of behaviour is little more than a far too convenient way of sweeping important doctrinal matters under the carpet in an effort to close down the discussion. It is somewhat similar to the modern day tactic of crying 'hate' every time someone mildly disagrees with the prevailing 'new orthodoxy' in matters of sexual ethics. We live in a weird society where 'bigotry' and 'sectarianism' and 'hate' exist purely in the eye of the beholder.

Sorry for rambling on a bit. The Lord richly bless you Stephen. I deeply respect the stand you have taken - this is something which everyone on this island, from evangelical Protestants to devout Roman Catholics, should be able to stand shoulder to shoulder on.

As I said earlier, we'll be praying for you and if you are ever up in Ballymoney please look me up, it would be an honour to meet up with you.

Stephen Neill said...

Nigel - While I disagree fundamentally with most of what you say I don't doubt your sincerity and am saddened by what I read. I thank you for your prayers regardless, as I like all of us am in need of them.
Re Ballymoney - Quite possibly - spent many a holiday there - My mother grew up there and my grandparents and aunt are buried there.
Small world

Pumpkin said...

These messages into my inbox have been very interesting to say the least.

I think that we must not suffer from the typical Irish procrastination and make some quick decisions.

The nuncio's comments are not helpful and sound like he is trying to pass the buck a bit?

Ian said...

It seems most unfortunate that what was a number of interesting comments on an issue most important to our society appears to have been hijacked by a number of people intent on rehearsing the same old intra-anglican strife.

Pastor Nigel Owens - I take no pleasure in criticising people personally. However, terms such as "Romanism" are explicitly sectarian and derogatory. We can surely engage in academic and theologial debate without recourse to silly name calling. These are terms intrinsically linked with bigotry, so why use them? It only serves to diminish any valid points which you might make.

This discussion should be about victims. Victims of a corrupted institution and a complictly idle State. Abuse is not limited to the Catholic Church nor is it limited to Churches generally. This abuse was not perpetrated by Christians nor was it perpetrated by those with an actual Catholic faith. As stated above, we members of the Protestant community should seek to support, as best we can, victims in our society, but also those good members of the Catholic Church who must feel utter betrayal and hurt at this moment. That said, it is quite time that members of the Catholic Church said enough was enough, and call for major institutional reform so that priests are held accountable to our State and to their congregations.

Unknown said...

I am bemused by your stance on the child sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church. I had assumed that the deafening silence of the Reformed Churches in this country had to do with the fact that no church has an unblemished record in this area. You say that your own church, the Church of Ireland ‘is not immune to clerical child abuse but it is far less prevalent and has been at broadly similar levels to that in society as a whole’. How many Church of Ireland clerics have been accused of sexual offences in relation to children? How many have been convicted? How did the Church of Ireland authorities deal with complaints? And what about the Anglican Communion generally? I would have thought that the record of the Anglican Churches in Canada and Australia in relation to child abuse and child protection are every bit as bad as the record of the Roman Catholic Church in those countries. Anglican Archbishop Ian George of Adelaide had to resign in 2004 for failing to deal with complaints in his diocese. Archbishop Peter Hollingworth had to resign as Governor-General (de facto Head of State) of Australia in 2003 because of controversy surrounding the way he dealt with complaints when he was Archbishop of Brisbane. In 2004 the Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn publicly apologised to people cared for in church-run institutions. A few years ago, the Anglican Church of Canada faced the possibility of bankruptcy because of the many claims against it for physical and sexual abuse of children. In the United States, Episcopalian Bishop Charles E. Benninson of Pennyslvania was deposed by a church court in 2008 for failing to take action while his brother, also a priest, engaged in sexual relationships with minors. I could go on and on.
I wholeheartedly agree that mandatory celibacy for the majority of priests in the Roman Catholic Church should be examined. But I am not convinced that there is such a substantial connection between celibacy and child abuse as you seem to suggest and I am confirmed in this view by the fact that many of the Anglican priests and clergy of other Reformed Churches convicted of abuse are married as indeed are many, if not most , paedophiles generally.

Irish Reformer said...

I agree with you Nigel. Indeed I wonder which Gospel it is that Stephen preaches because the apostle Paul speaks of 'another gospel' ? Paul certainly saw this issue in black and white but then perhaps Stephen's gospel is a politically correct one which blows with the wind. Not so the everlasting Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ !

Stephen Neill said...

Nigel and Irish Reformer - Ian is right -I am being far too tolerant of sectarian biggots - kindly go and spew your hate elsewhere - future posts will be deleted as this is about the protection of children not your sectarian hobbyhorses!

John Mullen said...


Thanks for your decision with regard to anti-RC bloggers. This is what I was afraid of. Having said that there are many interesting comments on this blog.

God bless


Anonymous said...

Finally a chance to air my view.

Why are people being asked should Bishop Murphy resign?

Why are they not instead asking should he be arrested for perverting the course of justice?


Ian said...

Mark, as I understand it, from reading of the papers today, there is an evidence issue in relation to many of the priests in who are implicated in the Murphy Report. Such a situation is very difficult to understand given the depravity of what has gone on. However, the laws of evidence to exist for good reason so I would not be one to jump in calling for immediate reform of such laws. The fact that the evidence is not there, is a further poor reflection on the State and its authorities though - the Gardaí on the whole were not interested in allegations of abuse so they were never properly investigated in a manner which could be brought to court.

I think it is right that the Bishop resign and I think it abhorrant that some of these people might hide behind the notion of "I was not convicted of anything" as a reason for remaining in office. I am struck by a conversation I once had regarding church membership where someone stated, it is harder to be a member of a church than it is to be a Christian. That is of course just a funny anecdote but it demonstrates that it is reasonable that additional rules be placed in certain circumstances for one to align themselves with a particular club, or anything else. Surely the Catholic Church and its members would wish that their organisation would reflect a morality greater than the strict letter of the law - which is a mechanism for the avoidance of injustice (when it works) rather than an impetus for good - which is what we should demand of religious leaders.

Olive Waldron said...

Firstly, thank you Stephen. I am just another Irish person who has been left reeling in horror at this report. You have shown me there is something we can do.

I now realise that my childhood in Ireland in the eighties was truly a charmed one. Knowing the hellish reality of what many of my contemporaries suffered I feel I owe them something. We cannot let this pass us by!

Everything you have said makes perfect sense to me. People like you are the only hope we have to change Ireland. It is obvious that the people whose wishes should finally be listened to are the victims. In the institution of the Catholic church the buck stops in Rome - as it said in today's IT editorial. They look the other way. We have to show them that comforting those who mourn their lost childhoods is our priority. That is one of the eight rules a real Christian lives by. At least it's somewhere to start.

Historically I believe you and I belonged to two different churches. Reading what you have written and hearing your radio interview I believe we belong to the same church. Let's leave history behind us with all its spectres.

Ireland isn't a bad old country if it could just cop itself on!

We might still have a future. I think we still have hope.


Stephen Neill said...

Ian - You hit the nail on the head - this evasive legalism which seems to have taken the place of a moral conscience is at the core of the problem

Olive - Firstly Thanks! I like you think there will be better days and part of that will be building bridges across the traditional religious divides - I am certainly happy to begin again - some of our common heritage is rich and vibrant - other parts are just evil! Incidentally some of that evil comes from the Protestant tradition as we saw in some vile sectarian comments earlier today on this blog. This is a time for discernment and opportunity.
Good to talk

Stephen Neill said...

John - As you suggested there were those who sought to hijack this issue - very sad! thank you for your wise counsel.

Pastor Defessus said...

Hi Stephen. You have certainly stirred up the debate and thank you for doing so! I disagree with your suggestion of expelling the nuncio as I feel that would let the real culprits off the hook. This is an Irish problem and it needs to be solved here. I think the only way for our bishops to retrieve any shred of credibility is for them to accept collective responsibility for the sins of some of their number and for them ALL to resign en masse... but chance would be a fine thing. I say this as a priest who is thoroughly disillusioned with the response of our bishops. Listening to Marie Collins on the radio this afternoon was heart-breaking. They just don't get it.

Twenty Major said...

Bertie's comments about the bishops:

I mean it’s difficult for them all. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I mean they are all saying different things as far as I can see. Some of them are saying they are going to wait and see the priests in the diocese. Others are saying they will wait to see what the public will say. Over the next week or so, we will see where it goes. Most of the focus seems to be on the man in Limerick. A lot of the others are old and effectively retired anyway.

Vince said...

Many think that this is a problem of the Catholic Church. And yes this is where the tumor has made itself visible over this past week or so. But this Cancer has been around for a very long time.
There are no high horses, no noses blocked with clove pocked oranges. This measures us in the same way as when we looked out and watched our neighbours die of starvation 170 years ago.

Stephen Neill said...

Pastor Defessus - I fully understand your point and certainly I don't want to distract attention from the bishops' corporate responsibility - I wouldn't go as far as to demand wholesale resignations but I am devestated by Bishop WW Killaloe who has let himself down badly.
Re Marie Collins - I heard it - it was utterly devestating.

Stephen Neill said...

Vince agreed - none of us is innocent - we all suspected but how many of us acted? I think however that the current issue is the systemic cover-up

Stephen Neill said...

Twenty - Mild for Bertie - He must be loosing faith ;-)

Stephen Neill said...

You rightly point out that the Roman Catholic Church is not unique in the area of child abuse - no dispute there! The issue however is the cover up and the systemic nature of same at the highest level
Re Celibacy and paedophelia - may be more than one cause of

Anonymous said...

You all need to catch a grip of what Rome has done to society in the Republic of Ireland where even the Garda protected the evildoers.

No Christian worth his salt would wish to align with such a system unreformed and unregenerate.

Olive said...

I agree wholeheartedly with Pastor Defessus but I also think that the Nuncio should be expelled. We need to make that statement at an international level. To stand up and prove to Marie Collins and the rest of the survivors of abuse that we are on their side. To show that we are not a nation of Berties.

It was hearing Marie on the radio today that made me post here. You are the only person so far who has suggested taking steps to show we are serious about this.

It is incredible that the survivors should STILL feel that the bishops interests are being put before theirs.

The hopeful aspect is that we can act together. The caller that impressed me this afternoon was the lady who was actively protesting by no longer taking part in parish life. Although you could tell it pained her to stop working for her community she knew that if everyone did this the message would get through.

The message has to get through.

Olive said...

I agree wholeheartedly with Pastor Defessus but I also think that the Nuncio should be expelled. We need to make that statement at an international level. To stand up and prove to Marie Collins and the rest of the survivors of abuse that we are on their side. To show that we are not a nation of Berties.

It was hearing Marie on the radio today that made me post here. You are the only person so far who has suggested taking steps to show we are serious about this.

It is incredible that the survivors should STILL feel that the bishops interests are being put before theirs.

The hopeful aspect is that we can act together. The caller that impressed me this afternoon was the lady who was actively protesting by no longer taking part in parish life. Although you could tell it pained her to stop working for her community she knew that if everyone did this the message would get through.

The message has to get through.

Pumpkin said...

I wholly support the explusion of the nuncio in this respect. We need to do certain things here, and the timing will be crucial

(1) Any bishop found to have colluded or hidden information out to have a file on him sent to the DPP
(2) All current RC bishops need to announce publicly their co-operation with the gardaí on this - hand over files/documents on any suspect cases in their diocese - this is not limited to Dublin
(3) The Papal representative in Dublin should be expelled. Diplomatic relations with the Vatican should be severed until such time as the people's trust in that theocratic state as someone with the best interests of the people of this country is restored
(4) All cardinals, bishops and priests found wanting or colluding need to be either arrested or questioned by the gardaí and charged with aiding and abetting the aggravated sexual assault of minors or the actual offence wherein that applies
(5) The same should apply for all members of the gardaí or any other person who colluded with the clergy - whether or not they have retired. This was down to a devastating abuse of power - absolute power corrupts absolutely.

This has damaged our international standing beyond belief. I have spoken with friends of mine overseas, who are horrified with yet another Irish Catholic priest sex scandal. The structures of society will crumble unless we take decisive action on this - removal of all faith based control of schools, arrest of those clergy who wronged us, serious - and I mean significant - amounts of compensation from the churches and religious bodies for their wrongs, a national centre for reconciliation and remembrance, a complete audit of all dioceses and churches in the state and a rooting out of all potential nasty secrets.

What is galling is that this information has to be teased out of the clergy - for this they deserve our contempt. For Cardinal Connell to say such statements as we never said that we complied in full, but just in part, is disingenuous and callous. The loss, shock, hurt and communal suffering caused is nothing short of a dictatorship and it is time for a revolution of sorts in this country, for the nation to take it's ostrich out of the sand and to stand up, say, we know what is wrong, let us fix it and jail those who wronged us, or hid the wrongs of others.

Vince said...

I grant what you say, it is a systems issue. But while it is only seen as that it will never expand to what is far more important.
All over Europe peoples define themselves Greeks French Germans Swiss even Andorans by those within the borders. We, here have different markers. And until it matters not one iota but that Irish people can close into a fist to defend each other against all comers then we are not a State but simply a collection of tribes. Where we can be exploited like the Romans exploited Gaul.

Micheál said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Stephen Neill said...

Micheál - Your post deleted as it is sectarian! As I posted earlier all sectarian posts will be deleted.
I have said some strong things but I do hope I have not inadvertently promoted gratuitous sectarianism. I believe it is my right to call for the expulsion of the Nuncio as he is a representative to the Irish State as well as the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. Calling for the expulsion of the Roman Catholic Church is not on my agenda - indeed some priests, religious and lay people of that church were instrumental in my own vocation.

Pastor Defessus said...

Stephen I appreciate your efforts not to allow this become a sectarian issue. For this reason I strongly suggest that you remove yourself as an admin on the Facebook "Expel the Irish Papal Nuncio" group. While there are some reasoned contributions to that group, it has largely degenerated into a hate-filled anti-Catholic rant. On a different note, I was happy to hear Diarmaid Martin call on the bishops who are criticised in the report to go.

Stephen Neill said...

Pastor Defessus - thanks for the heads up - I did sign up but not as an admin! Bizarre - will check it out straight away

Stephen Neill said...

Pastor Defessus - I have requested deletion of my status and will leave group if it doesn't happen - Thanks again.

Oh and yes - Archbishop Martin is showing real moral courage - he seems to be a lonely man in his efforts but I applaud him and will do publically given half a chance

Stephen Neill said...

Alan's post deleted as despite protestations to the contrary it was homophobic

Thompson said...

"Calling for the expulsion of the Roman Catholic Church is not on my agenda"

It may not be on your agenda (rather ominiously worded) but would you agree with expelling the Roman Catholic Church, outlawing it or at least the state breaking some of the Irish Church's connections with Rome?

Do you believe that Catholics who fully adhere to established church teaching on civil allegiance (see here: are a fifth column in the state?

Do you think the government should concern itself with regulating the Church's religious practices or perhaps outlawing or changing some of its current structures?

Anonymous said...

"I have a strong suspicion that the high incidence in the Roman Catholic church is not unrelated to compulsory celibacy"


I have friends that are not married and try to live Christian Chastity and celibacy. In saying that "compulsory celibacy" had a part to play, you are discriminating against Celibate/Chaste people. They have no more of a chance of commiting sexual abuse of minors.


Stephen Neill said...

Alan - the key word is compulsory! Not comparing like with like. Voluntary celibacy is a very different matter.

Póló said...


The extent of your influence is amazing.


Anonymous said...

All celibacy is compulsory if one does not wish to marry (in reference to my friends). As I said if these Priests who committed these crimes wanted, they could have stepped down at any time and married or they could have got married in the first place. I felt attracted to the Priesthood but I knew I was to marry, so I married. It is a free choice. I'll never look back.

Stephen Neill said...

Comments now moderated due to repeated postings by sectarian lunatics! Apologies for inconvenience!

Póló said...


You are entirely correct to delete biblical spam.

In your place I would also delete the traces as they are very distracting for the bona fide reader.

There is also a (no doubt sinful) pleasure in zapping some of that stuff.


Stephen Neill said...

Póló Sinful or not - no regrets :-)

Stephen Neill said...

Got rid of all the spam and even managed to delete one of my own comments! ;)

Póló said...

Self sacrifice is surely part of the Christian tradition.

Well done.

Ian said...


Your point ignores the possibility of one feeling a vocational call to preach within the Catholic Church but also an urge to enter a relationship. This issue naturally does not arise for those who voluntarily wish to remain celibate, but it is a stretch to make the assumption that this applies to the whole body of the Catholic ministry.

It is in my opinion that a Church should have room for such people in their ministry (as they should for women). It is my further view that the ministry of that Church is likely diminished by a refusal to admit such people and the repression of people who enter the ministry and thereafter feel and urge to enter a relation whilst maintaining their vocation is an unhealthy mix.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments Ian,

I hope to join the Deaconate when I'm 35yrs old. I am ministering in the Church and I take a full role in the Church as a lay person. I take your points. My only objection was the link made between celibacy and these sickening crimes. This teaching of the Church could change in the future, until then I'm happy to accept my role and live totally for Christ.

Also thanks Stephen for the robust debate.

Slán agus beannacht

Catherine said...

This has been most enlightening to read all the posts - brought quite a few bigots out of the woodwork by the look of all the deleted comments you had to deal with. I too found the whole report so reprehensible as to be incredible and yet that there was some out there defensively protesting innocence through ignorance and that Bishop Drennan still hasn't had the guts to see why he has to resign beggars belief. I joined the Facebook group calling for the papal nuncio's expulsion as I think his position is untenable. That the pope's comment/condemnation won't come about till lent is inexcusable. I have been so angered by everything I read about the Murphy findings yet am not too surprised, specially after the Ryan report and this one was well flagged. Hadn't time to blog about it, but I did blog about the Ryan report back in May. That was another shocking indictment of the abuse of power. I do agree that the celibacy has a lot to do with it - enforced as it is. I know of some priests who have become Anglican clerics so they can marry and have a normal life, and it is such hypocrisy of the RC church to accept Anglicans who leave the CoI because they don't want women priests or probably have some other doctrinal issue with their church and yet deny marriage to their own clergy. I went to mass on Christmas Eve and a wedding mass after Christmas but both were so hollow in the wake of all that's been disclosed - it is really the elephant in the corner and the (RC)clergy have lost all moral authority in my eyes. Having been raised in a trad RC home I am just disgusted with all the hypocrisy and am amazed that you got grief for expressing an opinion - people getting defensive over the indefensible.hubby comes from a Dutch reformed background and doesn't get the cultural hold the church has in Ireland.
This is a good debate and shows how extremism at either end of the scale - fundamentalist evangelical or catholic - can be so dangerous and divisive.

Stephen Neill said...

Catherine - Re the acceptance of Anglican clergy - I agree - pure hypocrisy - I do feel however that the clergy on the ground are being let down by those at the highest levels - There are so many good priests who are being marred by the cynical machinations of their 'leaders'