Re-balancing authority in the abusive Church

Organisers had initially expected 200 to turn up at the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) meeting in Dublin this month. In fact over 1000 showed up.

The size of the crowd in part was a response to the recent silencing of Irish priests.

One of those silenced, Fr Tony Flannery, was part of the leadership team of the ACP. A second, Fr Brian D’Arcy, was a weekly columnist in tabloid newspaper,The Sunday World. It turned out that someone in the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith had been trawling through decades of the paper to check D’Arcy’s articles.

Two other stories provided a backdrop to the meeting. One was a TV program which revealed that in 1975 when he was a bishop’s secretary, Cardinal Sean Brady, now Primate of Ireland, was given the names of some boys abused by Fr Brendan Smyth during a canonical investigation, and failed to report this either to the parents or to the police. Smyth, the abuser being investigated, continued to prey on children for a further 18 years.

In fact the Cardinal had passed all the information up to his bishop and was devastated when he learnt that Smyth had not been stopped. He rejected calls for his resignation. Several commentators pointed out that had he called for a discussion on women priests the Vatican would have promptly given him his marching orders, as Bishop Morris in Australia found to his cost.

A second story concerned Fr Kevin Reynolds. RTE, the national broadcaster, had accused him in a program of fathering a child by an underage woman in Africa. Reynolds denied the charge and offered to take a paternity test in advance of the program. This was refused. Eventually, RTE was forced to publish an abject apology, pay an undisclosed sum for libel, and was subjected to a withering public report. Several staff resigned. Continue reading

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