posted on Jul, 26 2009 @ 10:28 AM
After Ryan, one of the more disturbing by-products is that Religious have been made scapegoats
By D Vincent Twomey
Friday June 19 2009
Another by-product is the way politicians and secular commentators are using the present outrage to promote their own agenda
The media, including the Irish Independent, gave full coverage to my reference to the perpetrators of abuse in Catholic-run institutions as the
"dregs of society" (in fact I added "of a certain kind"). This was when I took part in a lively debate on Radio Ulster about an article I had
written. I regret very much this slip of the tongue, which has, understandably, caused offence. What was not reported was what I added almost
immediately: "Don't forget, there were many other thousands of Religious who were doing extraordinary good work looking after the sick and educating
a country that had been abandoned by [the British] government for 200 years."
The original article, together with the subsequent radio discussion, was an initial attempt to understand how such evil could become endemic in the
institutions mentioned in the Ryan report and be tolerated by the society of the time.
Writing for a Catholic readership, I asked myself: What was it in traditional Irish Catholicism that might have contributed to such a situation? I was
not trying to find excuses for the evil that occurred, nor was I trying to blame any particular class or group, nor was I trying to minimise the evil
by blaming a few bad apples.
That said, I was shocked and saddened to hear that many Religious understood what I said as questioning the integrity of their own vocation and
casting slurs on their own families. Nothing could be further from my mind. One Sister, aged 87, wrote to inform me that what I had said and written
about the Sisters was "horrendous, a form of verbal and emotional abuse". If this is how what I said (or how it was reported) came across, then I am
deeply sorry.To those I offended, I apologise unreservedly and ask their forgiveness.
One of the more disturbing by-products of the Ryan report is the way Religious have been singled out for blame. By making them scapegoats, public
attention has been sidetracked from the role of politicians, doctors, judges, gardai, child welfare inspectors, etc who set up, approved, and filled
these state institutions (and then used the Religious to staff them). The result has been the blackening of the name of all Religious. These were the
men and women who sacrificed their lives to Christ to serve the youth and the sick with selfless devotion. The debt Ireland owes them is enormous.
It is worth recalling that the Irish State not only failed to institute adequate inspections, but it rejected all criticism, such as that of Frank
Duff, founder of the Legion of Mary.
Another one who cried "stop" was the Roscommon-born priest, Fr Edward Flanagan, founder of Boys Town in the USA, to care for orphans and children
abandoned by their parents or taken into state custody. His motto was: "There is no such thing as a bad boy." In 1946, after visiting some of the
industrial schools in Ireland, he gave a public lecture in Cork. He condemned these institutions as "a scandal, un-Christlike, and wrong". He
accused his audience, in effect, of collaboration in the evil done. Ireland's penal institutions, he said, were "a disgrace to the nation".
During a debate in the Dail, the minister for justice at the time, Gerald Boland, dismissed these criticisms as "so exaggerated that I did not think
people would attach any importance to them". After this authoritative judgment, silence prevailed -- including, it seems, that of the journalists of
the day. Another by-product is the way politicians and secular commentators are using the present outrage to promote their own agenda.
This can, in the long run, only cause further devastation to Irish society. This is so because it is based on the assumption that the problems of
society can be solved by no other means than greater state intervention and more stringent regulations. The final result can only be a police state
marked by red tape, distrust and fear.
I am a product of traditional Irish Catholicism. I know and appreciate its greatness, seen especially, but not only, in the centuries of service given
by the religious congregations. I am grateful for the education dedicated Religious gave to me and countless others. But I also know that, as a
culture, it was, like all things human, flawed.
I am convinced that, if we are to come to terms with the past and its sins, if we are to move forward as a society and as a Church, then we must
continue to ask as dispassionately as possible: what went wrong in our culture that allowed such child abuse to occur on such a vast scale?
Equally important is the question: how can we start a process of healing for all who have suffered directly or, in the aftermath, indirectly?
The Irish nation was never more in need of the kind of self-sacrifice -- and creativity -- that was the source of the real greatness of traditional
Irish Catholicism. If you doubt this, then remember what happened to our health service, when the State took over from the Religious.
Rev Dr D Vincent Twomey SVD is Professor Emeritus of Moral Theology, Maynooth
- D Vincent Twomey
21-06-09, 04:03 PM