There are times in your life when you begin questioning things that remained unquestionable and out of reach as you grew up, and I had one of those moments on going into Mass on Sunday morning.
I met an old friend and we chatted about the usual day to day issues, but I found myself saying to him that of late I found myself questioning the reasons which has been the cornerstone of me attending Mass since childhood.
Over the years you’d find the odd excuse not to go to Mass on a Sunday morning, but in the main that was what you did, as your father, mother and grandparents did before you. What is it all about is the big question I ask myself now? There have been so many of those chosen to preach the gospel of the Church to us in the priesthood role, who have abused and destroyed the lives of so many children who were made objects of sexual gratification, that it is hard to quantify.
Who could imagine that church buildings or individual wearers of the cloth could instil so much fear and loathing in the lives of so many? And how in the name of God could the rape and mental torture of children go on without being noticed year on year, or more to the point be ignored year after year?
I have followed the investigative story highlighted in the Tirconail Tribune for the past number of weeks, and it has sent shivers down my spine because I thought that a conclusion had been brought on all the cases of sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy who had obvious paedophile tendencies. As a parent I can only imagine the hurt, anger and hopelessness that parents felt when they were told by their sons or daughters that they were abused by a trusted priest?
You cannot make the assumption that all priests are child abusers, that would be completely wrong, as the majority who have chosen this path in life work hard in looking after their parishioners and offering guidance and support whenever it is needed.
Ireland has changed so much in the last 30 to 40 years, that it is almost unrecognisable in all walks of life, to what it was when my generation was growing up and the Church is no exception. In almost all Sunday Masses or services throughout the island of Ireland, where once the church would be packed to overflowing, it is now down to being quarter full, unless at Christmas or the graveyard Mass when people make an effort to attend.
The vast majority of young people no longer go to Mass, and it is very hard to expect them to, because of the litany of abuse cases that are still being uncovered. This rot from within is directly down to individual priests who used their power and standing in the community to further their own nefarious needs. The cover-ups and visits to families to discourage them from taking any legal action when a case came to the point of no longer being ignored is despicable, and there are some retired along with serving priests and bishops who have a case to answer as has been pointed out by the editor of the Tirconail Tribune.
I’d be telling a lie if I said that I wasn’t struggling with my religious beliefs, and how many more are in the same boat, doing their best to keep it afloat, to navigate us safely into the next life.
It can be truthfully said that some unfortunate children suffer sexual abuse by their closest protectors: parents, family members, teachers, neighbours etc but it is unexplainable when those who preach God’s teachings and tell us how we should morally live our lives, actually use the sanctity of gods domain to brutalise and transgress in the most evil fashion.
The Fr Greene case lifted the lid on an undercurrent of abuse that people were to a degree ignorant of up until then, perhaps that’s the wrong terminology to use in the circumstance because I remember my mother telling me when I was a wee boy to stay away from a certain person because he was a bad man, without explaining the ins or outs of why he was deemed to be a bad man. But in later life I understood what she meant. When those individual priests that preyed on the innocence of children had open access to schools where they could pick and chose their victims, it is unbelievable how this could have gone on without being noticed. Did they exert so much power and influence over teachers that they turned a blind eye to what they suspected might be going on?
Looking back, it is easy to draw conclusions and say why didn’t teachers, parents or the children themselves say something? In some instances, children did tell parents but were hushed up due to the fear and shame that would result if it became public.
For all Church goers there is a lot to ponder, and the longer the truth is denied to victims and the wider community, the longer it will take the Church to sprout new growth among the youngsters of today who need more leadership and spiritual guidance than ever before. They say that it is never to late to forgive but somehow, I don’t think that I will be able to provide an answer to that in my lifetime.
Dún na nGall