Church of one billion is a victim of mob mentality

DESPITE the grossly unjust generalisations being made by some in response to the Ryan report, it is crazy to speak of the Catholic church as a corporate entity being responsible for these outrages.

There was no comparable systemic abuse in other non-English speaking parts of the church, so why should all Catholics be tarnished with the one brush? There was much less abuse over the same period in Northern Ireland where the institutions were properly regulated by the state.

Half of the church speaks Spanish and even in Spain under Franco, with the unhealthily close relationship between church and state, there was nothing comparable to what happened in Ireland, Britain, the US, Canada, Australia, or even South Africa, all heavily Irish-influenced parts of the worldwide Catholic church. The only connection between a hermit in the Egyptian desert and an Iraqi deacon or a Carthusian monk in the Alps and a missionary nun in a Peruvian forest is that they believe the same doctrines.

It makes far more sense to analyse this phenomenon — including its systemic aspects — as an Irish and Irish-influenced one rather than a Catholic one. It may not be accurate... it may be unjust... but there is at least more evidence. Individuals are responsible for these heinous crimes, the individuals who committed them, the individuals who facilitated them, the individuals who ignored them and the individuals who created the very system which enabled it to happen.

It comes down to individual responsibility. Those who are not responsible and not guilty and those who do not deserve opprobrium are those who did none of the above. Which I guess is the vast majority of Catholics in the world.

The abusers came dressed in Catholic clothes but their actions are diametrically opposed to everything the church teaches. Being Catholic didn’t make them abusers. They were abusers who happened to be Catholic; their actions and lives, though, betrayed everything about the Catholic faith.

Philip Jenkins, an Episcopalian professor of history and religious studies, who studied this issue for more than 20 years, said the Catholic clergy were no more — in fact, less — likely to abuse than other denominations or indeed those of no denomination.

He stated that approximately .02% of Catholic clergy and religious were involved in abuse and that it had nothing at all to do with celibacy. No priest ordained in the past 20 years in Ireland has been convicted of abuse, approximately the length of time since psychological profiling was brought in. Those who have much guilt, though, are the church and state authorities who enabled the abuse, but again these are individuals.

Unless you want to treat a body, the church, which is the one billion Catholics who are its members, like an individual and ascribe a personal quality of moral goodness or badness to it, then it is ludicrous to say the church is “evil”. Does Catholic teaching, which proclaims an ethic of selfless love and care, magically cause some members of the church to do the opposite while causing others to follow its counsels gloriously, or could it be that the former just abused their free will and followed their own perverted instincts within the context of the Catholic church?

Those in the baying mob who make no distinction between the innocent and guilty and rave about “the Catholic Church” are committing a grave injustice. It’s this same mob mentality and group-think which enabled these monstrous injustices to be committed in the first place.

Michael O’Driscoll

Menloe House



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